A post-modern bedtime story

The only thing more ridiculous than people asking writers about their so-called creative process is the sight of these worthies going on and on about it. What makes these scam artists even more ridiculous than they have a right to be is that they have no idea how ridiculous they sound. Especially to someone who creates 10-12 stories in quick succession to put a kid to bed.

Kattabomman, as some of you know, has the attention span of a national politician. But he doesn’t fall asleep as easily as an MP in Parliament. This could make life difficult for someone who has to come up with bedtime stories and make him sleep when he’d rather spend the night hitting you on the head with a penguin.

Before you judge me, let me remind you that this is not as easy as writing a bestseller or a Booker-winning novel, which plenty of people have done. This is about creating a story that is not only attention-grabbing but also sleep-inducing. Plus it must fulfil four conditions: it should have a dinosaur, Doggy, Miaow, and chocolate. And you won’t get any praise for getting it right.

Pontificating about writing

So every time I hear someone talk about whether they like to write in their pyjamas or in a spacesuit, I feel like asking my friendly neighbourhood gau rakshak to pay them a visit. I’ve seen entire author interviews devoted to this line of questioning: Do you face north-east or south-west when you sit at your desk? Do you write with a fountain pen or a peacock feather? Do you follow a fixed writing schedule, say, three hours every Amavasya night, or do you only sit down to write every time a useless fellow wins a prestigious literary prize? How do you produce works of beauty despite being a nasty little misogynist schmuck? Who inspired you to become a writer — Salman Rushdie or Padma Lakshmi? (Don’t lie!) Are the number of drafts you make greater than or equal to the growth rate of lynchings in India? And it goes on. As if writers are the only ones who do any work or the only ones whose work involves struggle.

I am yet to come across a bunch of plumbers pontificating on plumber’s block. And plumbers work with blocks all the time. So do carpenters, whose work is equally creative and 56 times more useful than a novelist’s. But has anyone come across a carpenter’s journal? Not that our publishers would be interested. Most of them are anyway IMFLs (Indian Made Foreign Licensees) with New York pretensions and a Noida mentality. Their business model is built around publishing the autobiography of two-year-old Taimur Ali Khan and selling its film rights to his godfather. Or something like that.

Speaking of Taimur, let me come to the point. You all know that like most great journalists, not only do I not make things up, I can’t make things up if my life depended on it. The only fiction I’ve published, which you can order on Amazon.in, is a collection of 14 short stories, and they all have one thing in common: almost none of them has a beginning, middle and end. Some have only a beginning. Others have only the end. And most have only the middle. The only story in that book to have all three has them in the wrong order, much like our politics, where you first have acchhe din, then you vote for it, and then it disappears.

In other words, my stories are all post-modern. That’s what you call a story where you write anything you want and call it a story. This is fine so long as your target audience consists of sophisticated litterateurs who have aporia for breakfast, synecdoche for lunch and heteroglossia for dinner. Not when it’s a toddler who demands a compelling tale that is deeply felt, darkly humorous, wildly imaginative, and puts you to sleep in 20 minutes. Obviously this is not easy to do. But I pull it off every single night. Do I make a song and dance about my creative process? Never!

Nightly literary produce

Anyway, as a favour to all those dying to savour a sample of my nightly literary produce, I am happy to share a highly potent story that I told Kattabomman last week. Slightly abridged, this is how it went: Once upon a time, there was a dinosaur. The dinosaur lost its chocolate. So it went to Doggy and said, “Doggy, did you see my chocolate?”

Doggy said, “Nope. But ask Miaow.”

So the dinosaur went to Miaow and said, “Miaow, did you steal my chocolate?”

“I’ll return your chocolate,” Miaow said. “But only if you give me what I want.”

“What do you want?” said the dinosaur.

Miaow took out a recoil-operated, semi-automatic Glock 17 with a Browning cam-lock system. Pointing it at the dinosaur, it said, “I want Ram temple in Ayodhya.” Needless to say, by this time Kattabomman was fast asleep.

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