Saturday, April 17, 2010


If there is any place I love other than my home, it is the hotel. I have stayed in the most splendid and the most sordid of them, but there is something common in them: they have let me be. A friend's home may be as warm as your own, but still it's a friend's home, not yours. You can't laze around naked, unless the chemistry between you and your friend is such that you are better off without clothes; you have to eat what everybody else eats and when everybody else eats; and, above all, you can't be aloof whenever you want to be.

But a hotel room, as long as you are paying for it, is your tiny little kingdom. You don't have to lift your little finger: everything is at your beck and call. For a writer, there can't be a better place than a hotel to transform an idea into a manuscript, provided he has sufficient money (and leave, in case he is employed) to put himself up in a small, clean hotel, not necessarily fancy, in an exotic town. Paulo Coelho, as far as I know, lives in a hotel. He has two rooms to himself: in one he lives and in the other he writes. But then, he is Paulo Coelho: the royalties from The Alchemist alone must be sufficient enough to take care of the basic rent.

You don't really have to be a Paulo Coelho in order to afford a hotel where you can write in peace. In towns like, say, Kannur in Kerala or Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, you can get a fairly decent, airconditioned room for Rs 500 a day. Add another Rs 300 for food and drinks, which means you are spending only Rs 800 a day. And considering that a decent book can be written in a span of six weeks -- well, Evelyn Waugh took only that long -- you spend less than Rs 35,000 to turn in a manuscript. In the bargain, you also get to check out a new town.

The hotel can be a home but the home cannot be a hotel. When at home, the constant doorbells keep reminding you that you exist. But in a hotel, the choice is yours whether to declare if you are still alive. Home is where you are bound by responsibilities and commitments, but staying in a hotel is like being in a relationship with no strings attached: you can depart or return at your will. No one questions you, neither are you obliged to explain anything.

What can be a better way of starting the day: you get out of the bed and pull back the curtains and look out at a new town. You then call room service for tea or coffee, and over coffee, read the newspaper. If you have run out of cigarettes to give you company for coffee, you can always ask the waiter to get you a pack. And then the breakfast, which is always very special in a hotel, considering the choices you are offered. After a good breakfast, you can easily clock 2,000 words by lunchtime, when you order a beer and write another 1,000 words till the food, of your whim, is brought in by the waiter.

Whether you write after lunch or take a nap, the decision is purely yours -- there are no doorbells to answer or appointments to be kept. Around five in the evening, you take a walk around the town which you are now getting familiar with, treat yourself to some street food and return to the hotel by seven. You shower if you feel like, watch TV for a while and then order your drinks over phone. You sit down to write again, clocking another 2,000 words before it strikes you that you must eat something now. You don't have to go through your kitchen or fridge shelves to decide what's for dinner: there's a telephone within your arm's reach. And so the day ends, with you having done 5,000 words. Multiply that by 42, which is the equivalent of six weeks, and you have 2.5 lakh words to show for!

Considering that a regular book contains only 60,000 to one lakh words, you can perhaps take it a little easy and treat yourself to little pleasures of life that are best savoured in the privacy of a hotel room. But make sure you don't fall below 2,000 words a day.

So easy, isn't it? But then.


janani sampath said...

now, I wonder what made you write on hotel. I mean, no one thinks so much about a hotel......but that's ur forte.....:) nice read...

Paresh Palicha said...

You make it feel like writers' heaven. We have heard stories scriptwriters going into hiding (even being inaccessible to family members) while writing a new story.

I think one has to become disciplined writer (churning out optimum quantity of words per day) before spending on such luxuries.

Anonymous said...

But then??