Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

I'll be grateful if you...

Oct 31, 2016

READER: You suffer reading the book 'The Days of Abandonment' by Elena Ferrante

“Women without love lose the light in their eyes, women without love die while they are still alive. “ - Elena Ferrante in her book 'The Days of Abandonment'

Now that I guess will give you a little idea what kind of suffering the book painted as our Sans Serif Book club members plunged into reading after equally powerful reading of '"The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand last month. Over a period of time, our Book Club has matured into a serious group of passionate and discerning readers. That was quite evident, when we discussed  with great passion, ‘The Days of Abandonment’ by Elena Ferrante on 27th Oct, at probably the most aesthetic environment of Apparao Galleries. Every one had a perspective to share. We all could relate to ‘The Days of Abandonment’ by Elena Ferrante (link leads to Europa Website of the Author) since each one of us have our own share of pain and difficulties in life.
Let me begin with some of the common underlying thoughts of our members. Most of us agreed that the manner of  the dog ‘Otto’ death was something that we could not digest as well as to the idea of 'how can a mother let her own sick child be sick without being able to get to a doctor'.  Well the author did gave a reason why Olga could not, but I don’t want to give the details here as it is a review, however here is something that I can quote from the book...

“Now I associated it with Otto’s death and it no longer moved me. I discovered that it had become like the memory of the odor of an old man who on a bus, has rubbed off on us the desires of his dying flesh.” - Elena Ferrante
Sans Serif Book Club Member's discussing the book
Another thing that stood out from every one’s comment that it was quite difficult to empathise with the situation where Olga, however she was depressed, was not able to open the lock of the door, over such a long period of time.

Having said that, to give credit to Author’s exquisite prose for most of us, it was quite painful to read the book as the raw emotions were sprinkled across the 'almost blood stained' pages Ferrante wrote on.

“In those long hours I was sentinel of grief, keeping watch along with a crowd of dead words.” - Elena Ferrante

I am sure whoever the Author - Elena Ferrante (It's a pseudonym) is and where ever she is, she must be having goose pimples, as we kept remembering her words, talking about her for almost a month and specially so on 27th Oct.
Listening to Prema Ma'am's thoughts about the book...
Sujatha Ma'am, Meera and me 
Now before I share my own thoughts about the book and the writing… here is something about the Author…

A Brief Note About the Author
Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of an Italian novelist. Ferrante's books, originally published in Italian, have been translated into English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish, among other languages. Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels are among her best known works. She was named one of the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine in 2016.

Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, the best known of which is the four-volume work known as Neapolitan Novels, about two perceptive and intelligent girls from Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and stultifying culture.  The Story of the Lost Child (2015), which was nominated for the Strega Prize, an Italian literary award.

Ferrante has repeatedly argued that anonymity is a precondition for her work and that keeping her true name out of the spotlight is key to her writing process.

Curtsy: Wikipedia

My Thoughts
In the land of Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi and many more authors popular or unknown, including me, we keep trying to be recognized as an author, she chooses to remain anonymous. I salute her for her words…

"Books, once they are written, have no need of their authors."-  Elena Ferrante

To see our name on the book cover, is mainly driven by our ego and then partly by a desire to be recognised as an author by people of divergent fields, sometimes including people from our childhood, schools etc., by whom we would like to be recognised. There are, of course, practical reasons for it too but then purposely denying the recognition, she seems to me to be at the level of detachment, which is preached in the Bhagwat Gita. So I respect Ferrante for that.

Now coming to the book let me begin by quoting these lines…

“I found my self alone, frightened by my own desperation.” - Elena Ferrante

And that’s the beauty of her writing. You suffer reading her words, the pain of Olga. It is so intense that you feel like skipping those painful pages, which was quite difficult for me as I don’t like to leave even one word unread. It is a story of 40 year old woman, Olga, who after marriage was uprooted from her known surroundings and sets up her home in a new town. Ferrante does not waste much time, going straight to the heart of the action in the first page itself as Olga's husband declares his desire to move away.

As the sense of abandonment grew on her with each passing day, she returned to her Poverella - an old abandoned woman from her childhood memories, which in my view created a ulcerous wound that oozed with colors of pain as Ferrante brilliantly painted in her book.
“… After a lot of shouting that often woke me up in the middle of the night, that seemed to be flaking the stone off the building and the street as if it had saw teeth - drawn-out cries and laments that reached the piazza…” - Elena Ferrante

As the pages turn over, she begin to resemble more and more like her Poverrella, even taking on her abusing language as preferred means to communicate her deep sense of abandonment.

And as Olga settled deeper into the rigor mortis of her abandonment, she started to question her own feelings and thoughts about her husband in powerful words of Ferrante…

“A long passage of life together, and you think he’s the only man you can be happy with, you credit him with countless critical virtues, and instead he is just a reed that emits sounds of falsehood, you don’t know who he really is, he doesn’t know himself.  We are occasions. We consummate life and lose it because in some long -ago time someone, in the desire to unload his cock inside us, was nice, chose us among women. We take for some sot of kindness addressed to us alone the banal desire for sex. “ - Elena Ferrante

If you look at the book in terms of characters, I felt somewhat cheated, when she did not flesh out Olga’s husband character who had abandoned her. It did leave a gap about why he actually abandoned her? Was it lust for young daughter of his colleague's widow or it was love? It was the only thing that left me asking for more explanation in the book. Love, it seems has its own shades of grey, but her husband was painted more black than the grey it may have been. Probably when Olga reflected these words, it was more for him than herself…

“What a complex foamy mixture a couple is. Even if the relationship shatters and ends, it continues to act in secret pathways, it does not die. It does not want to die.”

5 years earlier, Olga had objected to her husband kissing the young girl, and that’s how the family moved away from hers but still, in my opinion the relationship was based on lust and despite my fellow members objecting to this opinion, I still feel it was lust. The husband had already abandoned Olga, 5 years back. Lust is a powerful driving force as our brains are so  structured to crave after what’s available right then and there.

That was what probably got her to go upto her neighbour one night to feel, as the Author puts it in the pages, as a desirable woman. By end of the encounter, I felt her agony like, paraphrasing the Author, 'unfolding skin to show the raw bleeding wound'.

In the end, let me close my views about the book with a thought… In times of desperation, human mind seeks to do what it can to survive powerful and debilitating emotions or situations and over a period of time it does so by suffering as much as it can, with memory replays again and again. But in the end, it settles down, more resolute and detached. That’s where the beauty of Elena Ferrante’s writing comes into action as she finishes the book with a perfect closure. I would have liked to quote those words, but then it will be a better for you to find your own closure in the book.

However here is a thought from my book, ‘Songs of the Mist’, to give you an idea of what that closer meant to me. 

“People walk out of our life, leaving the sheer emptiness of the background with a clarity that has nowhere to go.” - Calliope in first book of "The Monk Key" series.

Finally leaving you with some quotes from the book “The Days of Abandonment”

“Favor has to be answered by another favor, and the courtesies become a chain that imprisoned us.”

“A long passage of life together, and you think he’s the only man you can be happy with, you credit him with countless critical virtues, and instead he is just a reed that emits sounds of falsehood, you don’t know who he really is, he doesn’t know himself.  We are occasions. We consummate life and lose it because in some long -ago time someone, in the desire to unload his cock inside us, was nice, chose us among women. We take for some sot of kindness addressed to us alone the banal desire for sex. “

“… and I felt something move inside me, a jolt of grief so intense that the tears seemed to me fragments of a crystal object stored for a long time in a secret place and now, because of that movement, shattered into a thousand stabbing shards.  My eyes felt wounded…”

“I thought of beauty as of a constant effort to eliminate corporeality. I wanted him to love my body forgetful of what one knows of bodies. Beauty, I thought anxiously, is this forgetfulness. Or may be not. It was I who believed that his love needed that obsession of mine.”

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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The Philosophy Book                        

Oct 30, 2016

The Purpose - Language has the power to change you...!

As I started speaking in public forums, after my first book Songs of the Mist's publication, I realise how hard it is to speak from the podium. I never had a problem talking to my team members across office table and in annual meetings, where the gathering used to be large as well, but you were quite sure that you will be received well as after all they are colleagues. But believe me, talking to people who have just come to listen to you, leaving their far more important work at home or office. They do expect you to give them something to think, make it worth their while as you come up on stage.... 

Haiku Workshop in Delhi University

I have had heard many public speakers, politicians, business and religious leaders speaking from stage and some of them impressed me. Over a period of time, I realised that most of the speakers were there for a purpose. They had something to talk about, to share, to make people understand where they are coming from. Behind each great performance there was a purpose, a thought or an idea that needed to be conveyed to the audience and it took me some time to realise that the reason, I published the book for, is essentially my purpose to talk about, share with young generation. And that's when I started speaking without the accompanying hesitation that comes with public speaking. Now I had a reason to get my message across.

Chief Guest Address at Tata's High Range School in Munnar

The Message: The Language alone will change you...
As I was finishing my book, I had dwelled deeper within our ancient scriptures, specially Bhagwat Gita, as its essence 'Karma Yoga' was the underlying flow of the lives my protagonists like Ashutosh, Ayan, Anishka etc. More and more people, specially youngsters I talked to more I realised that they are not reading these books. In our childhood, Amar Chitra Katha, Pancha Tantra, Chanda Mama, Stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana, Jatak Katha's were the stable diet of growing up. Now with the advent of smart phone, What's App groups, Texting, Memes etc. these stories were taking a back seat and reading was becoming confined to small little screens of smart phones. 

Click here to read an excerpt

So I wrote a love story, where through all the heart break and pain. The Deccan Chronicle headlined when talking about my book as "Bitter Pill with Sugar Coating", which is exactly how I shared the essence of Bhagwat Gita for the young generation. And I continue to talk to the young generation about the need to go back to our ancient Heritage and culture and read those amazing work of arts and literature as I believe that even if the deep thought process hidden behind seemingly obscure ancient language does not make any sense to them at this stage of life, the language alone has the power to make a difference in their lives. So I keep talking about it in almost all my workshops, presentation and lectures. 
Writing Workshop at High Range School - Munnar

Slowly I started conducting workshops in Chennai, Delhi University as well as in schools like Tata's High Range school in Munnar Kerala. With just one purpose, to inspire young generation to reach out to these books, Bible, Koran or Bhagwat Gita and get benefitted from it.

But over the period of almost a year after my book was published, I have realised another important aspect of language... 

It changes you as well...
The brain is like, to give you a mordern example, is CPU of the human form. And it works on two operating software - The Logic and the Language. So for me, writing and its essence, the language has the power to slowly work on 'within' and make you perform better. The more you practice, the more perfectly the software works. For me, it creates an awareness as in meditation.  I keep telling my audience, students that Haiku writing has become a kind of Mantra Chanting practice for me over the years. 

As I keep working on inspiring some aspiring authors in these school and colleges, I am learning as well. The young generation provides me with the spark that is essential to keep my ageing mind to break free from the shackles of time as well. Seeing those young, enthusiastic and confident youngsters, interacting with them opens up grey folds of my brain and look at the world differently. As I cajole and push them across to write good works of fiction which will stand the test of times, I am pushing my limits too. Each day, I have a blank sheet of paper that needs my reverence and respects in well formed thoughts and ideas and new awareness. As I grapple with words in my mind, the blank spaces needs and demands the most precise and aesthetically formed words following each other in a sentence, concise paragraphs and fully fleshed out characters in the most realistic back ground and that my friend is a meditation. It has changed me over the year and I am sure it will change you as well. 

At Delhi College of Arts & Commerce

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Writing Fiction                              

Oct 16, 2016

Writing Fiction - Story Mirror Creativity Workshop II

Sharing my thoughts on “Writing Fiction” from the Second Story Mirror Creativity Workshop, which was organized in association with Story Mirror, Apparao Galleries and Aspiring Authors Group. The workshop was conducted in collaboration with the famous Film Director / Producer as well as a fine Tamil Haiku writer N Lingusamy and popular romantic fiction Author Meera Shiva.
Author Meera Shiva, Me and Director Lingusamy
at the Story Mirror Creativity Workshop II

Why people write?
As the tight grip of Publishers, distributors and established & influential Author’s nexus loosened up on the Publishing Industry in the Kindle Age, the floodgates opened up for new authors and new writing styles. Every day, there are millions of books getting published through online platforms. But why this rush? No one is actually making money apart from a very miniscule number of online authors. So why people are writing all the time?

As I thought more about it, I realised that there are few other reasons beyond making money…

- To become known as Authors
- To be acknowledged as Intellectual
- To leave a legacy

But underlying all these perfectly valid reasons, the driving force is one’s own ego satisfaction…

But not every one is writing for their ego. Certain passionate and sincere writers, according to George Orwell, write for other reasons too, e.g.

1) Aesthetic enthusiasm
2) Historical impulse
3) Political purpose

But like all good things in life, to seriously write good fiction, you need to have this intense desire for self-immolation to illuminate the world around you. One can never be a writer in its true form, if you are in it just for the sake of money or fame…

One of the reasons I write, is to hear the silence of my reader, thinking…

However as Milan Kundera said once, “Any work of art has to have a purpose of its Existence”

So if you have an undying compulsion to write otherwise as Rilke said, you will die, then go ahead and write. But like all things, there are techniques and tools to become a good writer and there is a way of writing a good fiction…

“There are two methods by which a person can acquire wisdom, painlessly via a teacher or painfully via life, and the painful variety is far superior.”  Marcel Proust

“The greatness of works of art has nothing to do with the apparent quality of their subject matter, and everything to do with the subsequent treatment of that matter.” Marcel Proust

Since most of us are not like the author like Proust, at least not yet, what do we do? Well the good news is that whoever has survived childhood and adolescence, has a story to tell. But the bad news is that writing is not a cakewalk or a stroll in the park. It requires discipline, a will to step out of our comfort zone.

And over the period of my own journey towards writing my books - The Monk Key Series - first of the three part series is already published as “Songs of the Mist”, in which the Monk says to the protagonist Ashutosh, “Every one can bring meaning to one’s life by doing things with passion and love. Even the smallest of life rises up to its full potential with its devotion in doing what the universal design brings along your path. So if you seem to be going nowhere, Ashutosh do not blame living, blame yourself.”

But before I describe my way, here’s a Reality Check. If you are interested in writing something good that will stand the test of times, ask yourself these questions…
Konark @ Shashi 2010
1 – Are you passionate enough…?
Willingness to put in sweat, blood and toil day in and day out.

2 – Do you have necessary tools…?
If you need dictionary to write, please don’t. Should be adept in the language one is writing.

3 – Room of your own…?
As Virginia Woolf asked in her famous lecture at Oxford’s young women students, are you financially comfortable? You know most of us writers don’t make enough money to survive.

4 – Are you going in right direction…?
Are you writing what you love and passionate about or writing what you perceive to be the best selling genre.

5 – Are you in hurry…?
Are you looking for becoming overnight Internet sensation? If you are, there is no one who can guide you to become one. So stop reading stuff like this and pray for luck.

All good things life needs time and effort to manifest and sincere effort at that. So, unless you are a celebrity and have million followers on your own or through reflected glory of a celebrity friend, relative or lover, you need sustained effort and hard work over time to write something good.

It is known that if you start today with zero knowledge on any subject and work diligently towards acquiring necessary tools, knowledge and technics, in 7 years time, you can become an expert in the desired field. So writing a great book is not impossible. You just need to focus on your goal and discipline to keep writing and honing your writing skills.

For many decades I knew the story I was going to share. But only in 1987, while meditating on the banks of holy river Ganges in Rishikesh, I got inspired enough to share my stories of heart break and pain and the resulting spiritual journeys and assimilated thoughts.

However, as soon as I actively started writing in 2010, I realised that writing and publishing a book is a difficult task. Then my training as an engineering professional, kicked in. I knew that to solve any problem the first step is to know what the problem is. And yes, getting your book published at that time was a big problem. I remember talking to one of the author in Hindu Literary Festival in Chennai and asking him, how to get a book published and he gave me the perfect answer… ‘Write the damn book’.


Even in today’s connected and equally chaotic world, good writing is not about being restless or quarantined. Aspiring Authors just have to work on every aspect of creative process to produce good results and on every aspect of connectivity to reach out to the right readers…

To write a good book and publish it, one has to work on these 3 aspects – Simultaneously
1 – Inner Awareness
Mark Twain said once, “Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before.” So we all have every word of the story all around us, within our inner-self but as I have quoted Proust earlier, we need to treat those stories with our own unique awareness. And that comes from actively working on it.

- Walks
- Deep Observation
- Meditation
- Wonder

2 – Conscious Mind
We should write in a language, where we don’t need a dictionary. So if you are writing, you need to have the right tools. Practice the language; write something you are passionate about. I started writing my public blog in 2010 with start of my book writing and it gave me a firm footing to test my language and see if I am on the right path.

I wrote daily, whatever way the story came into my words… by 2014 I have had written 500,000 words - the first book started with 125K words first draft and published ‘Songs of the Mist’ has 76K words. Suffer if you didn’t write some day as Hemmingway used to.
Read and read a lot. There is no substitute to it. I cannot sleep if I don’t read a book. In this year’s Good Read Challenge, I have committed to read 50 books and have completed reading more than 100 books as of now.

Look within your self, find pieces of characters - we have all the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our self within, don’t judge, write about them, develop them. It is also an exercise of catharsis.

Whenever an idea, thought or character appears, write it down. Watch people around you, think about their life and their thoughts, go to stations, movies and park, observe and write.

Travel, travel wherever and whenever you can. Preferably take the train or bus, if time permits and walk or trek around the place. Carry a pen, small notebook and a camera. For decades, I have been travelling to Himalayas, Spiritual places, Monasteries, temples, rivers and sea side within country and abroad. Write about it somewhere as I have been sharing at my blog as spiritual travels.

3 – Practical reality
When I started thinking about publishing my book, I looked around and felt that the most of the published authors are not so great. I felt that I am unique and the moment I finish my book, the publishers will be queuing up to sign off a deal. Well it does not happen. Even though each one of us are unique, but is it something that people are looking forward to embrace. I have had seen many author’s book die a silent death as it did not reach out the right readers. So have a plan and yes in this Internet world of connectivity, where millions of other authors are trying to catch the proverbial short attention span of Netizens, you do need to reach out and market your book like crazy, as long as it is not intrusive and irrelevant. Here are the things that I did.
My communities on Google Plus

- Even before I started writing my book, went public online. I created a blog and wrote about creativity, Spirituality, Writing and designs, which went on to become the No 1 Spiritual Blog of India within 4 years, as selected by credible aggregators of Indian Blogging community for the last three years.
- Joined FB, Twitter, Google Plus. Interacted within relevant communities like Good Reads, Quora, Book clubs etc.
- Created groups like Haiku (one of the best communities on Haiku at Google Plus where more than 1000 poets write their Haiku), Aspiring Author’s Group, Shadow Dancing with Mind, How to publish etc.
- Joined off-line book clubs, writing groups and networked with like-minded people in literary festivals across the country.

With Timeri N Murari
Over the years, I realised that it’s me who has to reach out to the right audience and readers for my books not the other way around. Marketing is not about being intrusive; it’s all about being interactive, proactive and helpful to the readers and the audience.

Finally, I would like to say one thing that the world needs its authors, who are the mirror to the society we all are living in. We are there to host, to heal our readers within the pages of what we write. 

As my friend, philosopher and guide - a famous author from Chennai Timeri N Murari said in one of my Story Mirror Creativity workshop, “Write for yourself first, without any thoughts of future result” echoing the famous Bhagwat Gita Verse 47 from Chapter 2

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani

You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.

Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Creativity Workshop I - Writing Haiku                     Creativity Workshop III

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