Here We Go Again…

August 21, 2015

I thought it would take me three months at least, but I did it – working all day, practically – in exactly a month. Which is the fastest I’ve ever written a book.

Reason to be thrilled, I suppose. And I was. On Wednesday, when I had the end I wanted, I was pretty happy – the kind of writer’s high you get when you’ve written something and you know it’s good.

The trouble with writing a book, though, is that writing the book is the easy part. That’s the fun part, the picnic. It’s only after the book is written that you start the long, hard slog to find a publisher.

You’d think it’d get easier after the first one, even easier after the second or third. But it doesn’t. Sigh. Not only is each barrier a brand new barrier, it sometimes (apparently) becomes a tougher barrier. This, I hadn’t expected.

My agent, who told me bluntly that he’s not interested in this or any other of my future endeavours unless I hit the jackpot, explained that when your published books don’t do well, then publishers don’t want to look at any of your new work.

At one level that makes sense. Publishers have a business to run and they want to print books that will sell.

However, it also makes you wonder. What about all those authors whose first one or two or three books went nowhere and they finally became international bestsellers with their nth attempt? If I recall correctly from her autobiography, Agatha Christie was one of those. So, clearly, her publisher thought it worthwhile taking a chance on several of her books before she made it big.

Of course, I’m no Agatha Christie, I know that. I’m just saying. I’m prepared for each new book to be judged on its own merit (though, going by the latest yawn-inducing offerings of some erstwhile awesome authors, that’s not always the case either). But for a book to be summarily discarded because previous books by the author – although superb pieces of writing in their own rights (ahem!) – didn’t make it big in the market would mean that someone whose first book is not a bestseller is just doomed. That can’t be right?

But my agent is supposed to be the best in the business. He should know. And so it is certainly disheartening to know that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with my upcoming works of genius.

It’s also disheartening because it means I have to do the whole business of sending out my manuscript to publishers all on my own. And that’s so not fun. It’s tedious and tense and discouraging.

And yet… here’s the good part about your nth attempt at fame and glory. I know there’s no fame and glory to be found at the end of the tunnel. But I also know that I’ve been here before and I’ve got through it. I struggled for years to get my first and then my second book published. Well, they finally did get published. So I know that – win or lose – it’s a question of persistence, of not losing faith in yourself. I’ve been in this lonely place before, where no one knows what you’ve written and no one thinks it’s worth publishing. This work of mine might never in fact get published… but I’ve looked that disappointment in the face before and survived. It can’t be so bad the third time around, can it?



August 14, 2015

For quite a while now, I’ve been thinking I should take up yoga. You know, getting old, getting stiff, getting fat(ter), the usual reasons.

Also, I must admit, I thought yoga might be something I might be good at. Or at least, not exactly good at, but better than my better half, who’s better at all things physical than me, hence the need for one-up-man-ship.

So what is this extremely unlikely belief based on? The mere fact that I can bend and touch the ground and the better half can’t even reach his ankles. Haha. Plus I can almost do a full split, and I can bend sideways and grab my ankle and suchlike awesome stuff without even trying (much). (Of course, I generally try to do such things only after a challenge and a couple of drinks – but it says a lot that I can even do such things after a couple of drinks.)

However, there is also, on the other hand, the sad fact that I can’t even sit cross-legged for more than five minutes at a stretch, far less do a padmasana (or a half padmasana – and if you don’t know what that is, you’ll have to look it up, because it is fairly impossible to accurately describe that or any other asana in words). In fact, when I was about 5, they made us, for a very brief period of time, do yoga at school and I seriously sucked at it. (I guess that’s because I didn’t have a couple of drinks in me in those days. Huh. Totally unfair.)

So anyway, I decided to take a stab at it and I signed up for a two-month course. Which is not a very good idea, because after two days I wished I hadn’t.

Now, after a month, I’m somewhat conflicted about it.

On the one hand, there is a certain thrill in being able to bend and twist your body in all manner of odd ways that it was never designed to bend and twist in. And I can’t deny that that all-stretched-out feeling is nice. And everyone says it does wonders for your general health and fitness, so I’ll just assume they’re right about that.

It’s just the actual doing of it that I have trouble with. You know – the aching arms, the gasping breath, the sweat and toil. I mean, I have most of that with tennis as well (not the aching arms though) but tennis is just fun, you get the thrill of whacking the ball and also, if you’re good, of making the other guy run. (If you’re not good, you get the thrill of chasing after the damn ball, which is not so much fun, but is major motivation to become good.)

Yoga is all the pain with not so much of the thrill. I particularly hate it when the instructor makes me do abs in the guise of yoga. Hey, I’ve been into enough gyms by mistake over the years. You can’t fool me. Abs is abs, it’s not yoga. Yoga should be all relaxed and fun, not hard grunt work like abs. Making me do abs is a human rights violation, if you ask me.

And I don’t like the back exercises much either, mainly because I can’t do them.

Also the ones that require padmasana or anything that needs the knee to fold inwards while standing or sitting, such as the tree (vrikshasana).

So it’s a mixed bag for sure. I do get to show off with the exercises that require straightening the leg and bending in any direction at the waist, and there are quite a few of those, which is good.

Oddly enough, I think what I like the most is being bossed around by the instructor. I mean, it’s so comfortable. If I were to do yoga at home, I’d have to worry about which exercises to do and when. I’d have to make sure I didn’t just avoid the ones I don’t like and only do the ones I like. I’d have to make sure I do the damn breathing stuff at the end in a disciplined way. (I don’t like the breathing stuff – it’s boring.)

With instructor-led yoga, I don’t have to worry about a thing. He tells me what to do, and I follow obediently. That’s so nice! Of course, he makes me do horrible things and I hate him too, but… well, that’s ok.

So it’s easy enough to make myself go to yoga class for another month, knowing that I might not like what it entails, but I’ll probably be good at most of it, and it’s probably good for me, and in any case, it’s all the instructor’s responsibility.

Will I be able to keep it up after the class ends? Unlikely… but let’s see.

Tax Filing Day

August 10, 2015

The new tax filing tool on the site is so, so cool, I just can’t believe it.

Like all people, I hate tax filing work. I used to have immensely complex tax payment calculations (don’t even ask) and I used to want to trust it to a taxman, but I found (repeatedly) that they messed it up one way or another. One year, the guy entered my name wrong in the tax return. What good is a tax return if it has somebody else’s name on it?

There were also other little issues here and there. A couple of zeros in the wrong place (!!!) and a wrong date entered somewhere.

Plus, those fellows delight in pushing things to the last date and anyone who knows me knows how much I HATE that. I want to get my taxes done a month before the date. I aim for that, and I settle for two weeks before. It’s called buffer, you know?

So after various taxmans (taxmen? whatever) had driven me nuts over the years, and after I’d gone further nuts double and triple checking their calculations in Excel and then double and triple checking their data entry skills in the tax filing tool, I decided, what the hell, I’m so good at this I might as well do it myself.

So, gritting my teeth and hating it, I started doing it myself.

Last year, I was just back from a trip to the UK and I had very little time to get my taxes filed. I thought it would take me several weekends to get through it, but hey! It took just two half-Saturdays!

This year, I was all cool and blase about it. Two half-Saturdays, and they already pushed the date out to end of August. Ok, no problemo.

And it took me less than two hours!

I used the Quick File ITR option, which, I don’t know if it’s new, but it’s new to me. It pulled all the data from various sources and filled in my tax return for me. It calculated my tax, told me how much I should pay, and all but cooked up lunch for me. There were only one or two little bits of information that it hadn’t managed to get hold of, which I entered in about half an hour. For old times’ sake, I still went ahead and entered everything into an Excel file offline, verified the tool’s calculations and all, but, unlike the taxmen of yore, this guy had done a great job. What’s more, there was one bit of information that I was missing, so I had to close the tool without submitting it right away. I thought I’d have to come back and redo whatever changes I’d done, but no, it saved everything for me and in fact frequently reminded me to save so I wouldn’t lose my changes. I logged back in a couple of days later, entered the last bits of information and I was done.

But, wait a moment, wait a moment. Filing the whole thing online? Was that a smart thing to do? Where was my copy of the damn thing? What if it came back and bit me in the behind ten months later, what would I have to refer to then? I’ve always filled out the tool offline and then uploaded it, ensuring that I have a local copy of whatever I submit. What now?

Ah, they’ve thought of that. I dug around and found not only the PDF of the return I’d just filed, but returns for all the last several years. Sweet!

So now all I’ve got to do is to print out the acknowledgement and drop it in the mail box. Ok, that’s simple enough and I’ve got 120 days in which to get to it, so that’s ok. Amit’s been telling me to get a digital signature, but I don’t think it’s worth it, it’s not such a big deal to take a printout and drop it in a mailbox. I have to buy stamps, of course, can’t do that online yet (can you?) but it’s ok. I’ll make it to a post office some Saturday morning. Hopefully.

But, no. Wait. What’s this EVC thing? I click here and then go here and log in to my netbanking account and before I quite understand what’s happening, voila! The site tells me I’m done and I’ve apparently completed the Electronic Verification process and so now I don’t have to even go and buy stamps and drop that form in the letter box.

So simple.

Ok, so now this piece reads a lot like marketing drivel. I promise you, it’s not. I’m just happy that such a painful job became so easy and I’m impressed that our (expletives deleted) administration could come up with such a fabulous tool that works!

Next year, who knows, I might even look forward to tax filing day.

Has anyone else been using this tool? What did you think of it?

Day 21

August 5, 2015

Three weeks. Twenty thousand words. And I’m that close to getting my taxes done. Life is good.

Day 19

August 3, 2015

It appears that whether one is on leave or not, the weekends don’t get any easier.

To start with, I finally bought a phone. I mean, it’s time to face facts, and Nokia’s Symbian platform is as dead as it gets. That’s what I’ve been using for the past couple of years. Now since I had this money that I had to figure out how to spend, buying a phone made sense. I hate doing this, though, because it takes easily a week or so before you have everything back to normal, working the way you expect it to.

I gave in and ordered the phone on Friday morning. On Saturday morning, before I had even organized sufficient cash at home, the phone was delivered. Online shopping is such a pain.

It’s an Android phone, so the next thing was to figure out how to get all my contacts into it – porting from Nokia to Android isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a pain. It took the better part of the weekend to get it done. Blue-toothing the contacts across didn’t work, for reasons that are unclear to me. In the end, Amit had to find me a really old version of Nokia software that would allow me to export my contacts as a csv file and then I could import it into gmail. After that, all that remained was to make sense of the apparently ~1300 contacts I had somehow managed to acquire. I honestly expected it to be no more than 200 or so. I still don’t know where the other one thousand odd contacts came from.

And then, of course, I had to spend Saturday afternoon at the service provider’s shop, trying to get a micro sim.

The kids, meanwhile, had been invited to a sleep over on Saturday. And when the kids are away, the parents go out to play, right? So we grabbed the opportunity to spend Saturday evening at a very nice place called the Arbor Brewing Company. Apart from the rain and the curfew imposed by the Metro, which runs the last train at the ridiculous hour of 10.15, it was a fun evening.

Sunday, as usual, went by in a blur. There was plenty of gardening work awaiting my attention. We had a lot of fun disentangling our bougainvillea from our gulmohar tree, the former of which being intent on smothering the latter. Then we harvested a good crop of double beans and a few small egg plants. And the rest of the day passed by in doing the normal things, like going out for lunch, going to the library, doing the most minimal grocery shopping I could get away with, scraping up a dinner of leftovers, and working my way through a huge pile of ironing that I had neglected for all of two days. Of such exciting activities are Sundays made.

And now, it’s back to work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Thank god for Mondays! I’d never get through the week without them.

Because the best way to harvest beans is by climbing up on a high wall and talking on your new phone.

And it works!


Day 15

July 30, 2015

Distractions, distractions.

Last week, there was an office off-site that I’d agreed to attend. (I mean, it’s an off-site, it’s not like I’m working, so that’s ok. Anyway, it was fun, of course.) And then this week there was an office lunch that I wanted to skip, but couldn’t. And once you’re out for three hours and your day is broken up, it makes sense to get a haircut as well, right?

So apart from those minor distractions, I’ve been very focused. The only problem is, once you start researching, you never know where exactly to stop. It’s clear that I don’t need anything like the level of expertise that I’ve acquired in my chosen subjects. There’s no point in giving my readers a dissertation on theoretical physics (or, for that matter, philosophy). For one thing, there are many people, far better qualified than me, who have done that work already. For another thing, my intention is to draw my reader in with the story, not drive them away with the theoretical underpinnings. So I need just enough theory, not too much. But when I start reading, I tend to get sucked in deeper and deeper and deeper and before you know it, I’m in the murky depths and there’s no sunlight filtering in and I’m not even sure which way is up any more.

And that’s not all. I have my working hours and I have my leisure hours and now that the working hours are up to me and there’s no commute (apart from going downstairs to the basement, which doesn’t see a lot of traffic even at peak hours), I can actually enjoy my leisure hours without falling asleep at the wheel (literally or figuratively). I’d thought I’d spend some time with the idiot box, which must be feeling pretty neglected and unloved, but it hasn’t happened. Instead, we discovered a library near home.

Growing up, I used to go to the library in the Delhi Gymkhana Club. It had rows and rows and rows of bookshelves that stretched almost to the high ceiling, and it was quite possible to get lost in the gloom cast by those heavy wooden bookshelves and the thousands of books upon them. The catalogue was in a tall wooden cabinet, with musty cards detailing each book and the row and shelf where you could find it, if you were so lucky. There were a lot of good books to read in there, but they were old, old books, perhaps as old as the building itself, many of them covered with leather binding, and they smelt like dust and sometimes they crumbled into specks of dust when you tried to turn the pages. When you’d selected the particular assortment of dust you wanted, you carried them over to the counter and an unsmiling person took your card and stamped each book with a return-by date and then handed you the pile.

The library we have found now is nothing like that library. This one is bright and airy and spacious and the shelves are half empty (but not in a bad way). There are chairs and stools scattered around and a water dispenser at the back. The catalogue is online, of course (hence the half-empty shelves). If you wish, you can search for books online and they will be delivered to your doorstep, in exchange for the books that you’re ready to return. If you really want to go to the library, you can do so, of course, but when you’re ready to issue or return your books, it’s all automated. Place the books and your card in the slot and the machine reads everything and you’re done. There’s plenty to read here as well, half-empty shelves notwithstanding. I’ve already dipped into at least two different series of fantasy for pre-teens and found them to be quite a lot of fun, actually. I’ve also snapped up a Gerald Durrell and a Janet Evanovich, and eyed a Tolkein that I haven’t come across before. There’s a row of PG Wodehouses as well, which I’ve bookmarked for future entertainment. Lots to read, no doubt about it. Unlike the library of yore, this one has fairly new books in excellent condition (no dog-eared pages, no scribbling in margins) with plastic covers and all. They don’t smell of dust or fall apart in your hands… but you can’t have everything, can you?

Given that I’m trying to write, I have to ensure that I don’t get drawn into too much reading. It probably wasn’t a good idea, then to pick up The Martian, by Andy Weir. The damn thing was pretty much unputdownable. I’ve finished it now, of course, and I’m on safer ground with Gerald Durrell, which you can cherish in little bits. But there’s another trip to that library coming up soon and I’m already drooling over the possibilities!

Day 12

July 27, 2015

Ice cream for lunch. Homemade burgers for dinner, if I can get my act together. And almost zero driving. There are some perks to being at home, after all. I could get used to this.

On the other hand, trying to understand relativity and quantum mechanics at the same time (relatively speaking) is enough to make one’s head spin.

Meanwhile, I’ve been awarded 13K rupees and I haven’t a clue what to do with it. It’s the sort of award where you need to spend the money in order to get it. Huh. I’m fairly hopeless at spending money. I dug out my wishlist and looked really hard at it, but all it said was:

  • Write a book
  • Get all existing books published
  • Write another book

I suppose it is not impossible to spend 13K on clothes, especially if I include the spouse and kids in the lucky recipients. But while it might not be impossible to find clothes to spend the money on, it is completely and utterly impossible to find the kind of time it takes to accomplish this. I mean, just because I’m on leave from work doesn’t mean I have all day to go shopping for clothes.

What’s that? Weekends? Did you say weekends?

Look, don’t even get me started on weekends, ok? I’ve just come out of one weekend and it took two scoops of ice cream with caramel sauce and almonds to recover from that catastrophe. The next weekend is a safe 5 days away. Let’s not think about that right now?

It’s not that it was a particularly stressful weekend. I’ve had worse. In fact, it should have been a fun weekend. We went for a kiddies movie – Minions – and we rounded up some friends so it was 10 of us occupying practically the whole front row. As 3-D experiences go, this one was the best I’ve had so far – at one point something shot out of the screen at me and I actually ducked.

So anyway, the movie outing was fun, and that’s all I have to say about the weekend. For now, it’s back to work.

%d bloggers like this: