Two weeks back I was at my desk at the office trying hard to (pretending) work. I can hear you say it doesn’t really matter, who in management really work?. It may be true but we will discuss that on a different day. My extension rang, not to give an impression I am free I waited for 4 rings before answering. It was from my front office informing me of a visitor. The visitor was Jayalakshmi Thirugnanam, the founder and editor of CosyReading – a Book Reading community. I am not a writer nor an advertiser, while I was wondering on that Jaya began by inviting me to an award function happening later in the month. And that’s how I came to be in Besant Nagar “Spaces” today evening giving a speech and distributing prizes along with notables of the city.
The evening event was for awards distribution for budding writers across categories – short story, romance, poetry, fantasy, children’s fiction and romance. The jury who read the entries and selected the winners are Swarnalatha Bhaskaran, Sandhya Sridhar, R.J. Kalpana and Latha Ramesh. I was happy to be sharing the stage with Tamil Publisher Gandhi Kannadasan, SSLF City Founder G.Sakthivel and a young 13-year-old author Yamini Prashant.
When I entered the venue (“spaces”) which is opposite to Besant Nagar Elliots Beach I was surprised to find a large audience. The venue itself was beautiful and serene. I was asked by Jaya to speak first, putting a lot of faith in my ability not to make the crowd thin out quickly.
This is what I spoke:“The other day when I visited Citi Centre Landmark I saw they were having a closing sale. Though I was happy to get some books at good discounts I was sad to see one more bookstore closing. I was buying all my books online from Flipkart or BookAdda but thinking more on this back home I realized I was actually buying and reading more books than ever. The online shops have made it easier and affordable to buy books. With my Amazon Kindle, I can choose from millions of titles, hitherto inaccessible for someone outside the country in which it got published. Add to this sites like GoodReads or CosyReading bring in a dynamic community to the mix. Considering all this I feel our present time (21st Century) is the best time to be a reader (and/or a writer) in the history of humankind. Never before we had the access and opportunity to read this many books. Today there are a new set of writers who are coming in. They are not the journalists or who we view as traditional full-time writers. These are professionals like Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Bankers who have achieved and have taken up writing bringing in their writing, an accuracy of their past profession which was unprecedented. For example look at these books. 1. A dead computer game company billionaire killing people and taking over the world using an Internet Daemon. The book “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez who was a computer consultant for defence and fortune firms. 2. Entire alien civilization going crazy over Human music from 1977. Having become indebted to Earth for pirating they reach to a budding lawyer Nick Carter in New York mistaking him to be Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys. This is “Year Zero” by Rob Reid who is the founder of Rhapsody. Back home in India, we have two examples: 3. “The Steradian trail“, a murder mystery and a computer algorithm thriller by IITian M.N.Krish. Where Maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan and our own Chennai are important characters. 4. Rishi Piparaiya, the head of sales and marketing with a large financial service MNC has written a humorous take on the boredom of today’s Air travel in his book “Aisle be damned“ The above books are not business books, not technical books, they are all fiction written by professionals. I am not an author but a blog writer, I write my blog as a de-stressing mechanism, a way to move bits from my biological memory to digital where I can share with everyone and not repeat my experience every time. Finally, I am the biggest reader of my blog, if I don’t read my blog myself often who else will. I enjoy the writing and reading. In summary, today is the best time to be a writer. Start writing”.
Then, the other notables had their turn at the podium. First, it was Yamini, the young author.
Yamini – it was astounding to hear this girl speak. Great clarity in her expression and voice. It was a delight to see the pride in the faces of her parents who were sitting in the back. Yamini talked of her dejection after 49 publishers rejected her first book script, but she kept trying. Many of them writing back that they publish books for children and not by children. Finally the 50th publisher, a small timer agreed to publish her work and then she became a sensation. Yamini’s mother posted this “for children and not by children” rule as a question to Gandhi Kannadasan, who deftly replied it to be due to publishers being not able to separate real child talent over a work by an over-protective mother. Gandhi added an example of how the mom’s prepare and spoon-feed kids for a simple painting competition in Chennai Book Fair, thereby destroying any creativity left in the child.
G.Saktivel – a self-made entrepreneur attributed half of his success to the great books he read. He added “எதிர்காலம் மட்டுமல்ல நிகழ்காலமும் எழுத்தாளர்களின் கையில் தான் உள்ளது”, meaning not only future the present is also in the hands of writers.
Gandhi Kannadasan – the son of legendary Tamil writer Kannadasan, is a delight to listen. He advised writers about the six Rs to keep in mind — Read, Refer, Remember, Respect, Refuse and Recreate. He quoted the example of how his father remembers everything he read, whether its the style of a poem he read in a newspaper in the 1950s using it in a song he wrote in 1960s; similarly borrowing from Shakespear style of a paragraph in one of his other songs. He stressed on the need to refer a lot, especially Google the facts before you write.
After the event driving back home, I was looking back at what turned out to be a fine evening with a lot to think about. Thank you, Jaya!
Also published on Medium.