Monday, October 20, 2008

To Leave or Not to Leave

It was just another day. I walked out of my home at the usual time and was checking my watch every other minute, cursing myself for being late by about ten minutes. It was a Saturday and I knew that buses would not be so crowded, so I was taking it easy since morning. Now that I was late, I was beginning to have doubts if I’d reach office on time.

I was walking on the main road, toward the bus-stop which was a few paces away. There’s a make-shift market on the road at this time of the day. I was making my way through the scattered groups of people buying fresh fruits and vegetables. I met a neighbor. He was walking and dragging his cycle along, checking out the wares on display. He looked at me with surprise and said, “How will you go? There’s a bus drivers’ strike on.” I was aghast.

Then it struck me that on the previous day, the bus conductor was telling a passenger about this strike. On hearsay, it was a protest because of a new law against drivers who commit accidents. The drivers haven’t taken fancy to this law and decided to take a day off to think about it. As a result, there was a general bus strike in our area. Some parts were unaffected, because the strike was not publicized in the right manner, neither did it have the support of any political party.

I was stranded without a choice. The cabs that strolled in refused to bring me to the city. They were looking for passengers who would travel more than I needed to. This was the time to make some dough. They didn’t want the opportunity to go begging. I waited at the bus-stop, hoping against hope that something will come along and I can make it to office. My illusion melted with each passing minute. Ultimately it was so late that there was no point in coming to office even if I could have.

I walked back home, dejected and humiliated. I generally stay at home during strikes and hartals because I don’t want to return home this way. It was then that I realized how people feel when they are denied their right to put in a hard day’s work. I won’t say that I am a workaholic or something, but when I go out with a mind-frame to do some work, I’ll not have someone spoil my day. I was extremely irritated and for the first time in my life, it struck me that there was no point in expecting things to change in this State. Most things are beyond repair and if one had the intellectual ability to think beyond the lazy, languorous limits this State binds you to, you have to look for options outside the State.

This is not escapism. This is being practical. There is no point in probing deeper into a tunnel to look for light when you can very well see it’s a blind alley. I had a lot of hope from this State, especially because my ambitions are limited. However, things are such that even my moderate ambitions are being quelled each time I see the collective apathy of the people or the government to set things correct. More on this later…

Friday, October 3, 2008

What’s the USP?

USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, in advertising parlance means a particular quality or feature that makes an entity different, segregated and isolated from the others. When you are talking about USP of a car or carton, you are speaking of the quality that makes it unique from all other cars or cartons. Determining the USP of an object does not knit creases on your forehead. But, what do you say when you are asked what the USP of your writing is? I’ll explain.

Let’s face it: there is no dearth of writers. But few get appreciation, even fewer get published. Why is this so? It is imperative for the writer to cultivate a style that is unique from the others, say the pundits. But is it really possible? There is no debate over the fact that to write well, you need to read extensively. While reading, you cannot help but internalize the writing style of your favorite authors. They have, no doubt, been influenced heavily by their favorite authors. So it is a chain of influences and internalizations that has made the writer of today. How do you gauge the USP then?

Writing, I believe, should come from the heart. That is the USP of a writer. Even if your thoughts are in disarray, even if your syntax leaves room for improvement, even if your ideas have not spilled out onto the paper as you’d wanted it to, the honesty of purpose will shine through and connect with your reader. There is a conviction that grows on you when you believe in what you are writing. That is something that you cannot point out as tangible, but it is there as the air we breathe. You can feel that permeating your thoughts when you read a piece written from the heart. That is the USP of a writer, and that can only come across when you write to express your heart.