Saturday, November 26, 2011

By The Water Cooler - Preview

A little late in the day to be doing this but while trawling the internet for reviews of By The Water Cooler, I realized that Google Books offers a pretty good preview of the book. If you haven't had the chance to read it yet, and what a misfortune that is really, you should at once proceed to this link and read some for free. 

Once done, you should then hop over to flipkart or infibeam or indiaplaza or kindle as the case may be and make me richer by...alright, let's not get into that. My depression medication is running a little low. 

Keep a struggling writer in business, kind reader-folk.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No, it's not them

It's not Kiran and it's not Y. They, in fact are the friends that I didn't want to drag into all the murkiness. Even so, best to clarify. My apologies to both these dear friends in whom I take immense pride.

An open letter to the plagiarist of my voice

Dear Plagiarist,

I must admit, at first encounter I was misled, fooled. When you wrote in to express your admiration of my blog and my books, I was flattered. When you asked for my advice I told you what I knew in good faith. I did not read your blog. I hardly ever add new subscriptions to my Google Reader, preferring to stick with the old dozen or so, keeping their links warm even when they go on breaks. And so, I did not know what tricks you were up to. You were even less popular than me - there was not much chance of anyone figuring out what the hell was happening, that you were indeed the thief of my voice.

I am no stranger to plagiarism. It is rampant on the web. I have seen friends fall prey to it when entire blog posts have been lifted and passed off as the thief's own. I have bristled in indignation. We have all come down on such people in herds, criticizing them vociferously. In most cases, such people tuck tails between legs and slink off, only to resurface again somewhere else later.

But you, you don't lift passages. You lift my style. I wouldn't have known this had this eagle-eyed friend not pointed it out. It piqued my curiousity enough to read your blog and honestly, my heart sank. Just a random phrase here, a certain turn of phrase there and you were running a diluted Radio Parul of sorts. I tried to be flattered about it at first but the nauseating feeling continued. You see, inspiration needs to be credited. Had your banner declared in a bold font that your blog is nothing but a tribute to me - a fan-blog, if you please - it would have completely taken the edge off but now, I only feel robbed of my words.

Everyone knows what a tricky thing the writer's voice is. If we read and admire any author, we tend to get influenced by them. I have shouted about my own love for PG Wodehouse from the rooftops and every time a 'What, ho?' leaves my mouth or my pen, it is a tribute to that master of wit. But I am no Wodehouse, I am just a small-time writer with barely two books under my belt, none of them astounding successes. When you get inspired by me and pass it off as your own, you are doing me a great disservice.

It is easy to call someone out when direct lifts are being made. How do you call someone out when they take your life - your easy-going husband that contrasts your own hyper self, sleepless children, adventures in resorts, hotels, planes, your childhood and how you want it to influence your children, your difficulties with the help, your everlasting affair with books - and write about it in a strikingly similar style and show no remorse? Perhaps you, dear plagiarist, justify it to yourself saying that these are common themes and anyone could talk about them. The only problem is that you would be lying and you know it. Had it been a little less subtle, I would have had no qualms in reporting you and believe me, I know what I am talking about. I am a writer and understanding copyright laws is important for me. But you, you are copying themes, making a mish-mash and then reflecting in stolen glory.

I know there are bloggers out there who lead lives uncannily similar to ours. I don't want to name my friends in this letter (which is all about you, really) who could be my long-lost twins, so similar are our attitudes and values and yes, even lives. The only difference is - their voices are their own. And so, when they get book-deals and publish articles, I rejoice and revel in their success. When you do the same, it's a direct hit on my own creative process. If you need me to jog your memory, although I suspect there is no need for that, perhaps you should read this post once again and remember how you lifted it. And this. And this. And this. And Chapter 14, page 135-138 of Bringing Up Vasu - That First Year too. I know I am not the only one you copy from. It is only a matter of time before the others figure it out too. Do consider that.

So do me a favour - get real, get original and get a life. You cannot borrow from someone for all your life. Do the decent thing by me, by you and your family - I'm sure they can take no pride in someone who is swelling up like a toad (a completely original phrase that you will not find even on Google) in work that is only a derivation of the original. Derivation, without credit is also plagiarism, my friend. Plus don't you want to be the real thing for once in your life? Try it, it feels great.

Right then -ouch- we have reached the end. I have no doubt in my mind that you will read this, just like you do every word I ever write. I also have no doubt in my mind that you know who you are.

I wish you well, provided you stop your stealing ways.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A series of unfortunate events

It all started with Bikram Yoga. It's pretty hardcore, this Yoga, sort of like a decathlon for the spiritually minded, done under conditions of very high heat and humidity. My problem of course is that I cannot resist a new type of exercise. I signed up for the year - the economics made it worthwhile only to go for the annual membership - and started my ninety minutes of torture a day. I loved it and like I do with most things, it was only a matter of time before I was overdoing it, going for a class every day of the week. I was looking and feeling great. This could go on.

Mahesh came home from work one day groaning and moaning and generally feeling under the weather. I braced up for a few days of nurse duty. I am the official horse of this family. I never fall sick, I like to boast, not to mention tempt fate. No headaches, no aches and pains, nothing. Just robust good health, often bordering on a bit too healthy, if you know what I mean.

The next day though I wanted to sleep during the day, something I am always loath to do. Sure enough, the thermometer showed a raging fever. I cursed Mahesh soundly for having passed his bug to me.

The following week we were supposed to be in Delhi for F1 and in Bangalore for Metallica. I was certain I would be well in time. How could I not? Metallica!

That week is a blur. The children kept wandering into our room every now and then, the baby quite obviously puzzled to find both parents in lamlet position. The help and my mum were all severely overworked because as we like to flatter ourselves, we contribute a lot to the running of this household.

Just in time for Diwali though, my fever broke and feeling slightly better I ventured out to buy some candles and do a bit of celebrity spotting. Just making sure you are still paying attention. One of my ribs on the left side hurt a bit, specially when I coughed. Nothing to worry about, said the good doctor, probably something you pulled while trying to cough out your lungs during the illness.

On Chhoti Diwali though, the pain was unbearable. I offered a fractured rib by way of an explanation, scaring the spouse enough to call the doctor again and ask him to do something. An x-ray and CT scan later, I was told to show up at the hospital and admit myself with immediate effect.

By the time I hobbled to the room I had been assigned, I could not walk. Resist the wheelchair, resist the wheelchair, resist the wheelchair.

I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Now, I was under the impression that pneumonia is something that happened when you fell into barfeela paani and so on. Clearly, Bollywood does not render an MD redundant. They performed a thrilling procedure called bronchoscopy that comprises sticking tubes down one's lungs to pull out vile matter. I wouldn't suggest you try it at home.

I watched TV all the time, missing my children, missing the concert, missing Diwali and I was obviously quite the trooper. I only whined for all my waking hours.

I stayed in that room for ten miserable days. Finally though, I was declared well enough to go home. Obviously with some reservations about Bikram Yoga.

I reached home and oh, the children had grown up. The thing is - I never really paid any attention to how they feel about me, sort of assuming that they take me for granted. That is what maintains world order, right? Mahesh and my mom had reported that they were very supportive. They understood that mom's unwell and will be back soon. No trouble, really, no trouble at all. Except that they have both clung to me ever since I came back home, not letting go, not leaving anything to chance, just making sure that I am around. And I can say this with some conviction - nothing beats feeling this important. I feed them and tell them stories and play with them and take them to the park - I haven't written a word since I got home - and yet, it doesn't seem to be enough. They are such cool people, you know, full of newness and wonder, brimming with ideas and concepts and just to see them, to watch them as animation marks each word is delightful in itself.

It's not going to last. It never does with me. I will soon forget this whole episode and start getting impatient over things, over mussed bedsheets, over writer's block, over petty insecurities and anxieties over money, career, appearances and so on. And that is why I am writing this here, just to remind myself that the Big Things are right here in my house, that perfection grows in my own backyard and that if ever I need proof that I am twice blessed, I need to walk where the building blocks are strewn over the carpet and the soft toys are spilling from the baskets.