Wednesday, November 11, 2015

50k words, one month, endless tea = a novel?

Writing is a funny thing. And frustrating, exhausting, tiring, sleep-depriving, stressful, stress-free, scary, and yet, extremely fulfilling.

Before I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I spent most of my time making plans about writing. Most of my effort went into everything BUT writing. I read endless articles, browsed websites full of advice from authors (dead & alive) and took lots of printouts which I conveniently stuffed in various folders. I sat at the writing desk at various times of the day to ascertain which was the ‘perfect’ time. I also rearranged the objects on the desk to create a zen writing place. I was doing everything, except writing. 

NaNoWriMo changed all that. It made me realise that writing will happen only if I sit down each day and put one word after another. That’s all there is to it. It might not be the perfect prose, and it isn’t. It might be a first draft or maybe not. It might not be anything but just 50k words I cranked out to win a challenge. Or it just might (and I'm hoping with all my heart that it is!) be the skeleton of a novel. 

This month I have realised the magic of writing. I had never reached a point in my writing before where I considered it an escape from reality. I never thought I’ll be able to create a world, through words alone, so real that I’ll actually start believing it exists. It comes with some downsides also. One of them is a permanent ache between the shoulder blades. But the feeling of exhilaration and achievement I have felt this past one week after writing a couple of thousand words is just amazing. It probably is akin to having a baby. There is the pain, the exhaustion, the sleepless nights but in the end, it’s all worth it. 

It better be! 

*repeat to self all day, every day - first draft, first draft, first draft*

Image: Google

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Morning night

There are some movies which leave you speechless, you can’t find the right adjectives when you’re trying to describe them to someone. Movies which have the perfect story, breath-taking cinematography, whose every shot is a work of art, a lovely music score and brilliant acting. The Great Beauty, for me, was one such film. Last night I added Youth to the list also. 

What movies does your list have?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Handbag wishlist

The one article almost all fashion magazines feature is on handbags and what to carry in them. '5 must-haves for your handbag' or 'Handbag police: What will we find in yours?' or 'Travel essentials: 7 items every girl needs on a holiday' and there's also the 'guide to a perfectly equipped handbag'. It seems as the handbag is the saviour of the world, the real superhero which will have the answer to everything.

Since I am obsessed with bags and do end up carrying a lot of stuff for those 'just in case' moments (which have never really happened in all these years), I made a wishlist of what I'd really like in my handbag...from all my favourite books. 

1. The Invisibility cloak: Both Harry Potter and Amar Ayyar (Tilsm-e-Hoshruba) have one and boy, does it come handy. Once someone asked me if given a choice between the power to fly and becoming invisible, what will I choose? It was a no-brainer really...invisible beats flying any day. Imagine the possibilities of having such a cloak in your handbag?! Endless! 

2. The Light of Eärendil: Galadriel's gift to Frodo, this small crystal bottle of liquid contained the light of Eärendil's star. A light to fight darkness will come very handy in Karachi when muggers try and stop you. Flash the bottle at them, the light will blind them momentarily going you enough time to make your escape. An extremely handy item for the handbag.

3. The little box Amar Ayyar carries with him which contains a special drug powder. One blow of it in the face of someone and it knocks them unconscious. Will probably come in very handy when noisy and ill-mannered children are screaming near your table at a restaurant. Or in a cinema. Or on an airplane.  Of course, how to go about it requires skill but when one is in a desperate situation, desperate measures need to be taken.

And speaking of Amar Ayyar I thought, why carry a handbag at all? If only I had his Zambeel, his magical bag of tricks in which anything of any size, animate or inanimate can be stored, I won't have to worry about handbags at all. Or muggers or weight limits while travelling! 

What item, from literature, will you like to carry in your handbag?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Anatomy of a performance

Crazy plans, usually, are made in the most calm moments. 

It was on a nice, pre-summer evening, somewhere in early April. It is that time of the year when the weather in Karachi is not monstrous and one can enjoy a smoke and chit chat in the great outdoors (read: terrace) with friends. While conversation flowed between hubby dear, Z and myself, one of us (I forget who) asked rather innocently if we could put up a new narrative performance this year?

The other two nodded nonchalantly at first but with each passing minute the desire to create something overcame all rational thoughts and a performance started materializing. Books were taken off the shelf, dim lights were replaced by reading lamps and the music was turned low. Discussions followed over the merits and demerits of various pieces. Plans were made and the night ended on a high note. 

Days turned into weeks and months and finally the seed that was planted in April took on a serious form in July and by early August the narrative performance was all set to happen. Dates were locked, essays selected and all was well with the world.

Or so it seemed. 

The first task is to choose the right actor for a piece. Matching the actors with the essays sounds like a pretty dangerous task and it is. In our case, thankfully, it isn't. Both our actors usually want the 'other' one to have the better piece. Unbelievable, right? It is such a relief that we usually perform with two actors only otherwise this 'Lucknavi style' of you, no you would just go on forever. 

Rehearsals are not fun when you have the job of deciding the venue, time, arrangements, menu (actors require nourishment), and then also take into account unforeseen events like strike by oil tankers = petrol pumps closed = no petrol = actors can't reach rehearsal. And then also keep your cool! Who said life was fair?

While the rehearsals are going on the rest of the team has to ensure everything else is in place and it doesn't help if it's only a one man team. So while rehearsals happened, it was my job to promote the event and ensure people turn up. There is no surety that people will come and it certainly doesn't help when every night hubby dear wonders out loud if anyone will even come to see the performance. If there is one surety it is the onslaught of nightmares which will continue till the performance. 

The day of the performance is madness, to say the least. Getting everything in order is no easy task. Costumes, props, lights, music etc. Of course one person in the group usually ends up taking most of the stress and that, in our case, is yours truly. 

Post performance is a time for both celebration and a bit of performance appraisal. The former usually happens on the final day and mostly it is more of a collective sigh of relief than anything else. At least until the next time one can bask in the glory of a successful performance (and not check Facebook to see how many likes have come on the pictures/videos every two hours!).

[That one question which started the entire exercise culminated into two nights of great performances by our theatre group, Qissah Farosh. For details, pics and video, click here]. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Down the rabbit hole I went

I was trying to hide from the world and following Alice's example I decided to go down a rabbit hole. But instead of finding Wonderland, I discovered:

1. All holes are full of mud and poop (rabbit or otherwise).

2. There is a Mad Hatter inside each of us.

3. We create Jabberwocky ourselves and feed it with our fear and insecurities. 

[A message I sent to a friend a few weeks back when I was floating about in the land of blues]. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The eat-------poop journey

I read quite a lot of books (read: nine) during Ramzan so the 15/15/30 project wasn't such a failure. Except that I could hardly think let alone write on an empty stomach so only 1.5 blog posts actually materialized. My hibernation mode was in overdrive most of this summer and if you've never experienced it, take it from an expert, it is SUPER easy to get used to the eat, sleep, read, poop lifestyle. 

There's nothing wrong with living such a life except the time when you decide to turn the hibernation mode off and try to add a whole bunch of activities between eat and poop. 

Since we're all different, even though we are essentially more or less the same, but since we all strive to be unique our eat--------poop journey varies (age, gender, profession, marital status, parents vs. non-parents, etc, etc). But what is the ideal journey? 

For me it'll be: eat - yoga- gym-read-WRITE-do a host of other random activities with family/friends/hubby dear- WRITE- read-poop

[Poop being at the end of the list does not mean it is done after all the activities. It's just to indicate its importance in our lifestyle. Although, I must admit, that not having a perfect poop every day does have an adverse effect on the rest of the activities]. 

So what's coming between me and all the items in my eat ------poop journey????


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Murder, a counterfeit eye & courtroom drama in Book #2

Detective novels, good ones, don't just have twists and turns or gruesome, bloody murders on every second page. The backbone of a good detective novel is the protagonist, the hero who is, of course, the detective himself. Christie gave us Hercule Poirot, Chandler created Philip Marlowe, and Doyle gave us the greatest (probably) of all detectives in the form of Sherlock Holmes.

And Erle Stanley Gardner created the legal eagle, Perry Mason.

The first thing different about this murder mystery is that Perry Mason is a lawyer and not a detective. The plot is simple: there is a murder, a number of people are at the scene of the crime which looks like a suicide but isn't, family members come under suspicion, back stories are dug up, another murder happens which the reader didn't see coming, a big court scene, and finally the capture of the fleeing murderer. 

The title of the book is The Case of the Counterfeit eye and the eye (or eyes) pop up whenever murder happens in the book. And it is this title which made for this amazing cover which made it an irresistible buy. Erle Stanley Gardner was also a criminal lawyer. He wrote 82 Perry Mason novels and this one was number six and was published in 1935 (the last one was published in 1973). The Penguin edition that I have is called a Penguin Perry Mason.  All his novels started with 'The Case of......' and have such interesting titles as, The Case of the Singing Skirt,  The Case of the Glamarous Ghost, and The Case of the Negligent Nymph (for a complete list read here). 

This book was a 'just read-don't think' kind. Unlike Marlowe or Holmes, I didn't really warm up to Perry Mason. His character seemed too sure of himself and kind of one dimensional. By the end I was kind of put off by his arrogance. I'd like to see how the character was played out on the television drama Perry Mason. Sometimes an actor can add greater depth to a certain character in a novel (like Anthony Andrews did for the character of Sebastian Flyte in the Brideshead Revisited television series). 

The ending of the novel was in true Urdu digest style with Perry Mason providing us with a little teaser of his next case complete with a title! 

Image: Google