Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A memoir to Sharada

For those of you who haven't read my novel, Wayne Liquorman is an old friend I met at Ramesh Balsekar's Satsangs / talks. I subscribe to his newsletter.

This is a letter he has written, a letter that allowed my eyes to water for Sharadama.

Hello my loves,

About a week before I reached Mumbai for Guru Purnima, I received the sad news that Ramesh's wonderful wife, Sharda had died quietly and peacefully in their home. What I will always remember about Sharda Balsekar is her hands. They exist, frozen in my memory, fingertips and thumbtip gathered into a point, suspended over a plate of puri batata, as if sprinkling magic, fairy dust. And it WAS a sort of magic, fairy dust...if you can call love, magic, fairy dust. Because that is exactly the ingredient that transformed those mundane components into something truly sublime. Sharda's love infused everything and everyone she touched, transforming us and enriching us.

Sharda lived in my home and I lived in hers. For twenty-one years our paths crossed yearly, sometimes briefly, sometimes for months. She was always the epitome of graciousness and subtlety. She was both interesting and interested. She had the ability to make me feel as if I had her complete attention.

Another image that will remain fixed in my mind is of her standing high on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, sipping giddily from a glass of champagne, the helicopter that had brought us there standing ready in the background. Her eyes sparkled like the wine and I could see that in that moment she was truly, truly happy, almost like a little girl who had been granted a forbidden pleasure.

More than anything...Sharda cared. She cared for her family and for mine. She cared for me and for all us who were graced with a little of her time here on Earth.

I loved her.

I shall miss her.

With love,

Monday, July 27, 2009

need a place to stay in Yehlanka, Bangalore?

I am a grasshopper since birth, I ought to be good at this. On an average, I have moved house once every year. Mostly through different cities, towns. Sometimes back to the same city, town. :) I am a pro at spotting 'to-let' signs on houses. I can pack a house in two days flat. I know the rates of trucks per kilometer. I never cry when I leave a house (though I make it a point to sweep it clean after the truck is loaded).

I feel quite high during the transition time of no roof. In fact, I love that suspended feeling. It is why I shift in the first place. Fear faced is fear overcome.

After I come to a new place, I adjust pretty fast. I catch the red cylendered fellow before my gas runs out. I can even survive the few days of off-line time. My creativity knows no bounds as I keep changing and rearranging the house till I feel too tired to move a book.

I ought to be a pro at this life style choice of moving in and moving out.

For the first time, I am angry with my landlord. He is making it difficult for me to shift out.

Before I move out, he tells me, I have to do the following tasks:

1. Find him a new tenant (where else will he give us back the deposit money from, he says. No, he cannot go to the agent himself, because then he will have to pay him.)

2. Get the house painted. (No, he cannot help me find a painter. Not even if I pay him.)

He tells me this is part of the contract. Now I am wondering if this is a Banglorean trait, or this uncle specializes in this brand of laziness.

Anyway, if any of you know anyone who wants a spacious, two bedroomed ground floored place in Yehlanka New Town, Bangalore without paying brokerage, do get in touch.

Apart from the above quirk, Uncle is quite a non-interfering sort most of the time. He will make sure your water tank is full, he will only yell if your water tank (the one above) is overflowing.

Just bring with you a painter and its a deal.

Or friends please tell me where all to post my plea on the net. I am lazy too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Creative use of creative writing

It was Pavan's day today. We started with getting up late, then Alu Paranthas for breakfast, and then home made Pani puri for lunch!

Since morning, he didn't say even once, 'Take this off!'

In the evening when we sat down to study, I asked him to open his rough notebook and write an essay on the happy and the sad things that happened this week.

His teacher has told me to overlook his spellings, just let him write whatever he wants. An alternative way to learn a language by letting him do creative writing. So he asked me the spelling of almost all the words and I patiently repeated them, letter by letter.

'In last week I was happy in Swami Nithyanandas ashram. I was happy when we played under the water and the water was falling from a great height. I also liked to play under the banyan tree and when I met swamiji he was very kind. When the swami touched me on the forehead and I closed my eyes.'

This took about twenty five minutes. Then he couldn't think of what to write about the sad part.
'I felt sad when we didn't go to Esteem Mall last week.' he said.

'But we had Pizza at Domino's didn't we?' I reminded him.

'Yes.' he agreed that the purpose of Esteem Mall was partly fulfilled.

'Try to remember.' I prodded.

'No, Ai, there is nothing sad that happened last week.' he said.

'I want that in writing.' I said, looking the other way so he couldn't see the smile on my face.

'I did not feel sad about anything last week.' he wrote.

Honest to God, children are so so sweet.

I am pasting below Pavan's favorite song, from his favorite movie, Fanaa.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

half grown teeth also bite

hard, and they can even leave marks on the skin. I am talking of my eight year old angel. After a long time, the little fellow screamed, cried, hit me and bit me. Thank God his front teeth are still half grown, or he would surely have drawn blood.

Yup, he had a reason. We were at the dentist and the doc put an awful contraption inside his mouth and cemented it to his teeth. Something about correcting his lower jaw. Something which Pavan will thank me later in life for, for he will get a girlfriend, he might even become a star. ;)

'Take it off! Take it off!' Pavadu screams, oblivious to everyone looking.

'Get him out of here. You can come back after an hour to pay up. But please take him out. He will calm down after an hour.'

An hour? Oh God. How will I mange him all alone for an hour in this state? (Papa is out of town. And I have forgotten my cell at home.)

'Take it off now! Ai! I will take it out with a knife! I will!' he screams, hitting me again and again, tears streaming down his face.

'And don't let him pull it out. Mothers have suggested to me that I use Fewikwik because they are fed up with coming again and again for a re fit.' The doc has the nerve to joke with me at a time like this.

I hold his hand to prevent him from pulling it out and he bites, and I scream louder than him. Momentarily shocked, both of us make a hasty exit. Another half hour of crying ensues outside the doctor's clinic.

'I am not going with this thing in my mouth. Tell that doctor to take this off. It hurts. Its awful. My teeth are covered up. I cant swallow. I cant eat.'

'Look, I don't like this contraption too. It looks quite yukky. Tell you what. Lets go to a restaurant, and we will order a pavbhaji (his favorite). If you can eat it, good. If you cant eat it, then I will myself tell the doctor to take it off. You think I can take it if my child cant eat? Hmm? You think I will allow anyone to stop you from eating?'

He is a fairly logical boy and he saw the reasoning. Besides, he was hungry.

After two pavbhaji's (ok, so I ate from his plate), the desision to 'take it off' is postponed till tomorrow. He is not going to school till we either get this doctor to take it off, or we go elsewhere.

On the way back, he got a toy plane, a movie CD, a new sweater, and lots of kisses.

And me? I get to listen and see the charming Ghulam Ali to sooth my frayed nerves. Wonder if his mom ever bore his bite marks?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

a soft prison for women

This is an email, a forward that I am forwarding by way of blog. Before you read further, here is joke:

Q. What is the most important instruction a fat woman always gives a tailor?
A. Make it lose.

Bra and health

Do you wear bra for the whole day and even at home?

I think we should go bra-free after reading this article.
It' s a message for our health.

For years, a lot of articles with regards to the causes of breast
cancer point to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise as the major links to
this disease which happens to be the biggest killer among women during
these last two decades.

Perhaps the most convincing article I have ever read with regards to this matter is one which links breast cancer to the wearing of bras.

In the Bra and Breast Cancer Study in the United States , It was discovered that women with breast cancer had a history of sporting tighter and longer bra-wearing than did the women who had not (yet) developed the disease.
In fact, virtually the entire cancer group wore bras over 12 hours.
When a woman wears a tight bra, she subjects her breasts to pressure,
closing off the lymphatic pathway from the breast to the nodes.
This causes fluid built-up swelling, tenderness and cyst formation.
Toxins must be flushed out via the lymphatic.
However, a bra-constricted breast cannot adequately perform this
cleansing process, resulting in toxin accumulation in the breast.
Truthfully, bras are creating droopy, weak breasts......the breast
relies on the bras for artificial support; the body loses its ability
to support the breast by itself.
This is why many women feel uncomfortable without the bra.
What is the solution to breast cancer then?
And definately sleep without them.
There is a remarkable success rate for recovery from fibrocystic
breast disease within 10 days to two weeks of going bra-free.
Many women have tried going bra-less and recorded a miraculous
improvement in their health!

Bra burning is no longer a feminist issue... It is now a battle
between life and death.

Sweet feedback to a writing workshop

After the first creative writing workshop, I got the students to write their feedback. When the second workshop got over, I forgot. But a couple of days later, I got a thankyou note from an MBA student, who wore blue nail polish and somehow brought in a dragonfly in all her exercises.

Dear Manju

Thank you for the workshop I have realized my dream, I want to become a writer that’s what am going to do.

Will send you my first story shortly ..


Dragonfly :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

mountain comma

As the bus nears Tiruvannamalai, I turn deaf to my co-passengers and start straining my eyes, to look at the mountain.

The conductor will not sit down. And the glass is so dirty. And my friends keep on talking. Even spiritual talk can get so taxing at times. They know I am crazy about this mountain. They should realize that this is a special moment and leave me alone. Now another stupid fellow is standing right between me and the mountain.

I get up and go sit next to the driver. A young fellow is sitting there, watching me with an amused expression.

But who cares, for I ...finally ... see the Mountain. His head is shining in the sunlight and He yells a big Hello at me. He flickers out of sight quickly and I join my hands in pranaam.

'That is not the Mountain.' my neighbor says.

'Ofcourse it is. It is Arunachala.' I retort.

'Arunachala is ten kilometers away. Its the next mountain.' he says, gesticulating with his hands.

'Arunachala is next,' he says again.

'Listen, you. I have a blog called Mountain comma. Even right now, the head picture on my blog is the exact same view, from Bangalore road. I have written a book because I yearned for this damn fellow. I know the mountain when I see it.' I retort.

'Maybe you have a blog, maybe you have a book, but this aint the mountain. Arunachala is next. You coming to Tiruvannamalai first time?'

'No.' I cant contain the fury. 'You first time.' I say.

'No, Maa, my native place. Tiruvannamali my native place.'

'Really? Ok, but this is Arunachala.'

'No, Maa, Arunachala next mountain.'

I look again, as the mountain swishes back into sight. The same curve, the same creek, the same color, the same heart beat going dhuk dhuk, the breath going deep into the belly, the same tears stinging my eyes, there is absolutely no mistake.

'This might be your native place, but Arunachala is my father. So shut up.' I tell him.

The mountain, my very own mountain, endless and without a frame, is now to the left of the road. Luckily, the seat behind is empty. I go sit there and let my heart fly out of the window, and look at the mountain and look at the mountain and look at the mountain.

One young fellow in the bus is laughing. One fat woman is crying. And the driver is honking his horn as the bus moves closer to Arunachala.

Edited to add: On the bus back to Bangalore, a day later, Grasshopper sheds more tears as the Mountain ditches her for the nth time. And then, as she opens a book gifted to her by the good old friend who told her she never walked on the path, she reads these words:

Ashru (Tears):
518. Tears are one of the principle offerings in the worship of God.

-----Cloudburst of thousand suns
(Being English rendering of Sri Sri Omkar Sahastra Vaani)

Monday, July 13, 2009

a bitter sweet letter to an author,

when read again and again, becomes beautifully true to the seeker. This letter was a response of someone I deeply respect, to my novel, A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage.

Dear Manju,

Jai Guru!

There are two levels at which I would like to look at this book. The spiritual and literary. At the spiritual level, the book leaves much to be desired. Its honesty, though an admirable virtue of form, does not transcend to the content. In fact, a kind of fictitious honesty, assertive of individual opinion or personal manifestation, in matters spiritual, I have come to think, is quite undesirable. It sets a bad precedent. The might of personal conviction/ interpretation has been defeating the scriptural wisdom for centuries, because anything literal made to seem true goes down as literal truth.

The seeker in your book, as a character, succeeds beautifully; it’s the person named Gopika I mean. But the path is flawed and the culmination reached is both shallow and pretentious. The quest angle which is central to any pilgrimage or journey lacks the sheer fire and force.

There is no progress in the character of the protagonist, a seeker of “something” and it remains that way— vague, nebulous and untruly mystical even at the end of the book. Nothing is found, there’s no discovery. There is nothing in the book to root Gopika’s feelings or imaginations in reality. This seems rather whimsical.

First half of the book creates a pure and charming background for what is to follow by way of great journey, but our hopes are belied. We have nevertheless the consolation of reading an interesting story at yet another (that is, mundane) level.

I have a healthy disregard for what I call wayside spiritual romance (contrasted with plain and serious practice as taught in your favourite Gospel), a misdemeanour committed even by those who can tell wheat from chaff. It is a product of indulgence to which I too have been prone. But my regret is not that you wished it, my regret is that you landed into it quite inadvertently. You wished to relate the great event inside, but what you have on paper is a motley collection of events and no true spiritual journey. The events pretend but don’t actually belong in a concrete Big Picture.

Somehow, the mix does not become. Ramesh or Ramana does not mix with the weighing machine chap. Or other sidereal romances in the name of spirituality. This indiscriminate mixing is a great handicap. There are such pure and fine and elevating moments in the book to be followed or interfered by the truly banal. This is not to take away the charm of many genuine things you have portrayed. There are a few observations which make a mark. The profound relation between a baby and God for instance! Few sentences do well as to be quotable! Congratulations!

The book raises ideals: Arunachala, Raman Maharshi, Ramesh, Ramakrishna, Buddha and so on. The passion, with which you have painted these, could well kindle healthy curiosity in the readers for these hallowed personages. But you mix these with some foreigners whose authenticity is questionable and indistinct. Though these could have served as interesting props, their elevating in your tale to chief dramatis personae results in an unfortunate and unwarranted dilution of the marvellous candidness with which you set out to explore the world of the spirit. The bona fide is mixed with the stray; this may be the way of the eager beaver but not of a sadhak proper.

There will be some moderns, if a few, who will get interested in spirituality because of your book. You do them a great favour. We hope they will find light on the path to drive their journey to more robust destiny.

The skill with which firmly entrench the characters in their local contexts is noteworthy. Rain in Bombay, locals, wet pavements, dandiya, Salman Khan sans shirt. You are very good at this.

There are many things in your book which struck a familiar chord in me, especially from the standpoint of what I have written. The fascination you have for Arunachala for instance, I had for Ganga at one time. The mystical reverence you have for the weighing machine Baba, I had for a Sai devotee. The germ is identical, but our denouements differ sharply. Perhaps, because I have been a Sanatanist and maybe a stuck-up old timer.

Now let me come to the true appreciation. How did you manage to write such a superbly lucid, astonishingly fluent narrative? Not a single compound sentence! What a triumph! Don’t blame it on the Muse in entirety; take some credit for the breakthrough style. It’s such an easy read that one does not realize you have finished reading the book. What Gulzar and Sandhu write on the cover bears a true testimony to this.

I also hand it to you for your literary unpretentiousness, your absolute lack of forced erudition of which at least thousand and one writers are a victim. Call it the mark of an excellent story-teller or simplicity of a true genius and accept it graciously. Please stick to this lucidity in all your future endeavours.

Your sense of visual is fantastic. Many descriptions in words are startlingly visual, a gift you can surely work on and enrich. You are not preachy, you are pithy. And it works!

There is something else of good worth in your writing and it is the integrity that consists in safeguarding oneself against pointless elaboration. You practice economy of words with great finesse. It’s evident you could have made more pages than hundred and seventy one, but you didn’t because you are not dealing in mushrooms like the whole host of ostentatious authors of all times. A Camus or a Hesse alone can practice such precision writing because they are masters; others give in to the accretive mode of verbal annexation, both deliberate and undeliberate.

If you can practice the economy you have demonstrated so well in form, also in content, ruthlessly pruning the worthless substance, you shall be a master.

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book.


(Raj is an old friend, he is the person in my life who inspired me to write, and to seek what to write. He continues to inspire and to guide. After a couple of days of this letter, I received another one. )


Jai Guru!

I wanted to congratulate you for choosing the subject of seeking for your novel. It's a great thing to attempt. But this mail is about your style.To write your style away as “breezy”, “easy reading” and “effortless” would amount to arbitrary compromising of what is of great merit in your writing. A gift that is so prominent that it hails from every page. Another of my friend to whom I recommended AGP vouches for it. In my earlier mail I tried to allude to simplicity of a true genius, but I am still working at defining what it is. I know for sure that this kind of gift of simplicity is the same thing as profundity. Your writing has soul. It’s a soulful writing, shorn of literary trappings or flourishes, in which the writers like me are so wont to indulge. Ekaantik or one-pointed text is what it is perhaps. Something more direct, formulaic and aphoristic like language used in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. I suspect this is much more than an act of minimalism or advertising abridgement. Here is a distillation as it were, which is so difficult to practice but you have managed so well. I, for one, often meander and ramble, like many authors.

It’s not to show our erudition or enjoy flourish like George Bernard Shaw that we are so excessive in our literary expression; it’s that our minds have not reached that full-grown ease and simplicity which is soul-like. Sahaja, as simple as new-born, saha jaayate iti sahaja. You have already gotten there; finding a relevant story is a lesser, though not an unimportant mission, if you want to make a mark. The author’s fundamental artistic proficiency lies in the style and form and you have it. Thank God for this great gift. It’s just a matter of writing more and more and finding better stories to tell. Let not literature ever take a backseat in your life. I wish you the very best!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grasshopper in Deccan Herald

Hopping towards the truth
Veena Pradeep

For a book that traces a spiritual journey, The Grasshopper's Pilgrimage is surprisingly light.

The grasshopper’s pilgrimage
Manjushree Abhinav
Rupa & Co, 2009,
pp 171, Rs 150

It takes the readers gently along its path without subjecting them to heavy sermonising or hard-core philosophising.

Reflective, evocative, humourous and very, very readable, that is The Grasshopper's Pilgrimage, as it follows beautiful young Gopika through her inward journey to find that irresistible, intangible something that can set her at peace. She seeks this elusive thing - call it truth, God, her own inner self or peace - in holy books, gurus, ashrams, sermons, mountains, road-side babas and meditation. Numerous jobs are lost on the way and her family's very sanity is threatened as Gopika traverses various physical and emotional landscapes in her spiritual quest. It does not help that her family is atheist and both sets of grandparents one-time revolutionaries. This makes her an unlikely seeker and her journey even lonelier.

Those who've trodden Gopika's path, those who've wondered at the purpose of life, sought truth or God at sometime in their lives will immediately take to this largely autobiographical book. Gopika learns from one of her gurus that she, indeed the whole of humanity, is but a mere screw in the universe's great machinery - a screw without a will of one's own. Haven't we all at sometime or the other felt this way?

From Kolkota to Mumbai to Thiruvannamalai and guru to guru she hops like a grasshopper in search of a spiritual high. In Thiruvannamalai she finds peace in spite of the crowd, as her guru had promised. There is a lilting, uplifting feeling of oneness with the writer as the mountain Arunachala beckons and she is drawn towards it like a lover.

She finds her bliss in doing a pradakshina around Arunachala or watching him tower into the clouds, and we have no reason to disbelieve her.

This Gopika who seeks the divine through the rigorous emptying of her mind in the Vipassana technique or in the overwhelming presence of Arunachala, the one who leads a hippie life in Thiruvannamalai for sometime (rolling chapattis by night in exchange for boarding and lodging, and painting the mountain by day) is also a Gopika lay readers can identify with. For, like them, she has her share of confusions, heartaches and doubts. You can find it in the way she seeks love or in desperation even thinks of settling down in an arranged marriage. There is nothing uppity about Gopika, no sense of superiority deludes her just because she is on a lofty spiritual quest. Even the language Manjushree Abhinav employs is the unpretentious, simple, everyday kind. It is a quiet voice that flows for the reader to lap up with ease.

Another point that the lay reader will find endearing is that her spiritual quest is not the sacrificing, punishing kind. She seeks the truth rooted in the ordinary. Neither does her quest take her away from her family. She returns to them every time, even discovering a friend in her grandmother. That brings her spiritual tryst to the everyday level and therefore anyone who reads it will find a bit of Gopika in themselves. Read this book for it will touch your soul in a way a heavy, practical spiritual guide never will.

Spirited Caravans: re-imagining Bangalore’s outdoors

I am making alu chat for the opening today, so do come. This is my husband, Prayas's s pet project.

Spirited Caravans: re-imagining Bangalore’s outdoors @ Protospace from 12-20 July 09



From 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., 12th to 20th July, 2009

As unknown, invisible people, is it possible for us to imagine the city in a way, which is less alienating and fragmented? The exhibition looks at the role mobile spaces can play in doing this.

A showcase of design proposals for a mobile cultural space sent by artists and architects form around the world in response to an invitation extended by CitySpinning in January 2009. This process was initiated to understand some ways of using the existing infrastructure in the city in parasitic and symbiotic ways for a decentralized cultural program which is in the midst of where people live, work and play. As part of this process a mobile cultural space called the DOT is being designed.

Spirited Caravans is curated by Prayas Abhinav at CitySpinning [] and designed by Meeta Jain from MapBee []. Supported by Qessencedesigns.

A preview of the exhibition will be on view for the think-tank participants. The public opening of the exhibition is on the 12th of July at 4:00 p.m.


Does the city move or do you move around in the city? Maybe, its both. Our cities have become spaces which exude an impersonal, dry and functional energy. To feel at home here, we try to own a patch here and there to hide away, to console ourselves.

This glass, concrete and trash city in the process of becoming, has amassed an infrastructure, a grid which thinks its going to be there forever. Building possibilities which parasitically draws on this to create pockets of parallel realities, has been an interest shared by many people and groups throughout history (gypsies, street performers, circuses, melas). This exhibition proposes some ways of creating these parallel realities. These ways acknowledge the histories of this process but still position them in the world as it as now, with us being the way we are.invite221

The exhibition has fantasies, fictions and journalistic accounts of seeing the city grow out of its indifference and comfortably wear her neighbourhoods as if they were something specific, the people living there having real names, motivations, dreams and aspirations which can be mapped. Spirited Caravans sees the city in a mood which is celebratory, uninhibited, musical and new (but old at the same time).

It is a good chance for cynics of all descriptions to forever lose their cynicism within clouds of possibility. It will give all of us ideas and energy to act upon them as well as maybe unshackle our imaginations from the city map, which reduces everything to a line and dot to actually be one of the dots and change the map forever in our memory.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to comment on aspects of the proposals, annotate in the margin, doodle on the side to guide and contribute to our design process.

Spirited Caravans features design proposals by:

  • Amrita Ravimohan & Ekta Idnany [Mumbai, India],
  • Azeer Attari & Dominic Anthony [Mumbai, India],
  • Benoît Maubrey [Brück, Germany],
  • Elina Moreau Braunstein [Sydney,Australia],
  • Harry Westbrook & Nash Colundular [London, UK],
  • Heron-Mazy Studio (J.P. Maruszczak & Roger Connah Asst: Ryan Manning) [USA],
  • Jelena Grujic and Lea Skrinjar [Novi Sad & Belgrade, Serbia],
  • Jimini Hignett [Amsterdam, The Netherlands],
  • Joao Caria Lopes [Lisbon, Portugal],
  • Joseph Choma [New York, USA],
  • Miguel Valério [Amsterdam, The Netherlands],
  • Nick Tobier (EverydayPlaces) [Detroit & Ann Arbor, USA],
  • Petar Bojovic & Slobodan Krsmanovic [Belgrade, Serbia],
  • Shyamanta Shekhar, Harshavardhan, Srinivas, Sujay Kuncham, Vishnuvardhan [India],
  • Stewart Hicks & Allison Newmeyer [Illinois, USA]


Protospace Bangalore
No. 6 MR Garden, 2nd cross KEB Layout,
Sanjay Nagar,
Bangalore 560094



Monday, July 6, 2009

Creative writing workshop, July

The next Creative writing workshop is scheduled for July 18th and 19th, a weekend.

Timing: 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday 18th July
and 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday, 19th July.

Fees: Rs. 2,000/
(Discount available for students.)

Venue: Times of India, 1st floor, MG road, Bangalore.

Eligibility: Preferably over 18yrs old and a love for writing or reading or both.

Author's profile :

I am a recently published novelist of A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage. This book should be available in most of the Crosswords and Landmarks. You can read reviews of this book on this blog. Just type the title in the search box.

I am also a film maker. I was trained at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in Film Editing. I have made several documentary films, and taught the various aspects of film making at NID (National Institute of Design), Ahemedabad and also at the FTII. I have conducted a creative writing workshop at the Srishti School of Art and Design last year.

I write for the creative outlet, deep fulfillment and clarity of mind that sometimes comes as a gift with a good session of writing.

Course Content of the writing workshop :

day 1 :-

Why do we write? Because we need to tell the story.
As toddlers, we were all creative with the use of words. The neighbor who had a dog was bowwow. The little boy who played cricket was katakata. The kite which flew in the sky was whoosh.
When we started pre-school, our talents grew to huge proportions. We came back home and told granny, 'Today I climbed a duck. Tomorrow our teacher is going to die. So school will be closed.'
And then the devil struck. We were given a pencil and a rubber and asked to memorize spellings and all the love for words and thoughts was lost with the wind.

This workshop will erase whatever scars our education inflicted on our imagination.
We will write and read out and no one will laugh.

We shall begin with an exercise, a ritual for overcoming the writers block, or to get started. Participants will be given blank papers, with a manageable word limit. Lap tops will not be needed.

We shall do more exercises to stretch the mind and work the writing muscle.

The class will read out a couple of their favorite short stories and we will analyze the story-line and compare it to the structure. Then we will work on a short story structure. To begin with, we will write a short story with a straight narrative, and then we will play with the structure.

Those who have a story in mind will write their on their own. Others can follow a guideline.

Completing this story will be the home work for the day.

day 2 :-

Everyone has a novel inside. Lets write ours. How does one write a novel? The masala formula. Or, the nine rasas.

The kind of education we have had, the information overload, the media inputs, have made intellectual zombies out of us. We think with our brains, not with our minds.

Which is why, the first step is to become aware of what 'rasa' one goes through when writing something. Writing is a lonely job. Words have to become alive, they have to gain the power, a power more intense than a human ear, a sense of fulfillment more satisfying than an orgasm.

Where do novels come from? What is the essence of the novel?

Characterization: The back bone of a good novel. Class will read out the characters and discuss their difficulties in creating an imaginary human being from words.

Exercises: Two different approaches to creating your character.

The purpose of all these exercises will be for all the participants to complete a short story.

And to fuel the love of writing towards a natural and intense discipline of sitting with a pen and paper.

Call me at 9945192862 for registering.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Structure of Tom and Jerry

'Hello,' said an unknown number. It had to be a creative writing inquiry.
'Yes? Manjushree here.' I replied.
'We are a school. We were wondering if you could do a one day creative writing workshop for us?'

I fell for it. And planned an elaborate lecture on the structure of Sleeping beauty. Then I felt sorry for the boys, so I started thinking of Harry Potter. And wondered again at the amazingly repetitive patterns in which all best selling writers think.

The moment I entered the classroom, however, I realized that I had missed an important detail. Ninety percent of the kids were wearing chaddis, ribbons and pins with their kerchiefs tied on their frocks. In other words, they were mostly below seven. Creative writing workshop for under sevens? What on earth had I walked into? What kind of super ambitious school was this?

But I didn't have much time to rant. I had to get into the action. Without thinking, these are a few of the things I said:

All of you are creative writers. When you go back home and tell your moms what happened in school, it is not the truth. It is a story. It is a story in which you yourself are the hero or heroine.

It is this same impulse which drives adults to write novels. I wrote a novel in which I myself became the heroine. I wrote because I wanted people to notice me, to acknowledge me.

When I was a kid I used to lie a lot. I had to lie so that I could express the truth inside me. The truth was that I needed attention. So it is perfectly ok to lie, to get your mother's or father's attention. All children deserve attention.

Now tell me some lies. Make a story in which you are the central character and tell a lot of lies about yourself.'

I don't think the school will invite me again, but the kids and I had a gala time cooking up ridiculously far fetched stories. It was amazing how their innermost desires and fears were revealed in their imaginations.

And I wondered how they got the truth out of me.