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What It Feels Like to Want to Kill Yourself?

One of the more fascinating psychotic conditions in the medical literature is known as Cotard’s syndrome, a rare disorder, usually recoverable, in which the primary symptom is a “delusion of negation.” According to researchers David Cohen and Angèle Consoli of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, many patients with Cotard’s syndrome are absolutely convinced, without even the slimmest of doubts, that they are already dead.

Some recent evidence suggests that Cotard’s may occur as a neuropsychiatric side effect in patients taking the drugs aciclovir or valaciclovir for herpes and who also have kidney failure.* But its origins go back much further than these modern drugs. First described by the French neurologist Jules Cotard in the 1880s, it is usually accompanied by some other debilitating problem, such as major depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy or general paralysis—not to mention disturbing visages in the mirror. Consider the case of one young woman described by Cohen and Consoli: “The delusion consisted of the patient’s absolute conviction she was already dead and waiting to be buried, that she had no teeth or hair, and that her uterus was malformed.” Poor thing—that image couldn’t have been very good for her self-esteem.

Still, call me strange, but I happen to find a certain appeal in the conviction that one is, though otherwise lucid, nevertheless already dead. Provided there were no uncomfortable symptoms of rigor mortis cramping up my hands, nor delusory devils biting at my feet, how liberating it would be to be able to write like a dead man and without that hobbling, hesitating fear of being unblinkingly honest. Knowing that upon publication I would be tucked safely away in my tomb, I could finally say what’s on my mind. Of course, living one’s life as though it were a suicide note incarnate (yet remember this is precisely what life is, really, and I would advise any thinking person to stroll by a cemetery each day, gaze unto those fields of crumbling headstones filled with chirping crickets, and ponder, illogically so, what these people wish they might have said to the world when it was still humanly possible for them to have done so ) is an altogether different thing from the crushing, unbearable weight of an actual suicidal mind dangerously tempted by the promise of permanent quiescence.

In considering people’s motivations for killing themselves, it is essential to recognize that most suicides are driven by a flash flood of strong emotions, not rational, philosophical thoughts in which the pros and cons are evaluated critically. And, as I mentioned in last week’s column on the evolutionary biology of suicide, from a psychological science perspective, I don’t think any scholar ever captured the suicidal mind better than Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister in his 1990 Psychological Review article , “Suicide as Escape from the Self.” To reiterate, I see Baumeister’s cognitive rubric as the engine of emotions driving deCatanzaro’s biologically adaptive suicidal decision-making. There are certainly more recent theoretical models of suicide than Baumeister’s, but none in my opinion are an improvement. The author gives us a uniquely detailed glimpse into the intolerable and relentlessly egocentric tunnel vision that is experienced by a genuinely suicidal person.

According to Baumeister, there are six primary steps in the escape theory, culminating in a probable suicide when all criteria are met. I do hope that having knowledge about the what-it-feels-like phenomenology of ‘being’ suicidal helps people to recognize their own possible symptoms of suicidal ideation and—if indeed this is what’s happening—enables them to somehow derail themselves before it’s too late. Note that it is not at all apparent that those at risk of suicide are always aware that they are in fact suicidal, at least in the earliest cognitive manifestations of suicidal ideation. And if such thinking proceeds unimpeded, then keeping a suicidal person from completing the act may be as futile as encouraging someone at the very peak of sexual excitement to please kindly refrain from having an orgasm, which is itself sometimes referred to as la petite mort (“the little death”).

So let’s take a journey inside the suicidal mind, at least as it’s seen by Roy Baumeister. You might even come to discover that you’ve actually stepped foot in this dark psychological space before, perhaps without knowing it at the time.

Step 1: Falling Short of Standards

Most people who kill themselves actually lived better-than-average lives. Suicide rates are higher in nations with higher standards of living than in less prosperous nations; higher in US states with a better quality of life; higher in societies that endorse individual freedoms; higher in areas with better weather; in areas with seasonal change, they are higher during the warmer seasons; and they’re higher among college students that have better grades and parents with higher expectations.

Baumeister argues that such idealistic conditions actually heighten suicide risk because they often create unreasonable standards for personal happiness, thereby rendering people more emotionally fragile in response to unexpected setbacks. So, when things get a bit messy, such people, many of whom appear to have led mostly privileged lives, have a harder time coping with failures. “A large body of evidence,” writes the author, “is consistent with the view that suicide is preceded by events that fall short of high standards and expectations, whether produced by past achievements, chronically favorable circumstances, or external demands.” For example, simply being poor isn’t a risk factor for suicide. But going rather suddenly from relative prosperity to poverty has been strongly linked to suicide. Likewise, being a lifelong single person isn’t a risk factor either, but the transition from marriage to the single state places one at significant risk for suicide. Most suicides that occur in prison and mental hospital settings occur within the first month of confinement, during the initial period of adjustment to loss of freedom. Suicide rates are lowest on Fridays and highest on Mondays; they also drop just before the major holidays and then spike sharply immediately after the holidays. Baumeister interprets these patterns as consistent with the idea that people’s high expectations for holidays and weekends materialize, after the fact, as bitter disappointments.

To summarize this first step in the escape theory, Baumeister tells us that, “it is apparently the size of the discrepancy between standards and perceived reality that is crucial for initiating the suicidal process.” It’s the proverbial law of social gravity: the higher your majesty is to start off with, the more painful it’s going to be when you happen to fall flat on your face.

Step 2: Attributions to Self

It is not just the fall from grace alone that’s going to send you on a suicidal tailspin. It’s also necessary for you to loathe yourself for facing the trouble you find yourself in. Across cultures, “self blame” or “condemnation of the self” has held constant as a common denominator in suicides. Baumeister’s theory accommodates these data, yet his model emphasizes that the biggest risk factor isn’t chronically low self-esteem, per se, but rather a relatively recent demonization of the self in response to the negative turn of events occurring in the previous step. People who have low self-esteem are often misanthropes, he points out, in that while they are indeed self critical, they are usually just as critical of other people. By contrast, suicidal individuals who engage in negative appraisals of the self seem to suffer the erroneous impression that other people are mostly good, while they themselves are bad. Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, inadequacy, or feeling exposed, humiliated and rejected leads suicidal people to dislike themselves in a manner that, essentially, cleaves them off from an idealized humanity. The self is seen as being enduringly undesirable; there is no hope for change and the core self is perceived as being rotten.

This is why adolescents and adults of minority sexual orientations, who grow up gestating in a social womb filled with messages—both implicit and explicit—that they are essentially lesser human beings, are especially vulnerable to suicide. Even though we may consciously reject these personal attributions made by an intolerant society, they have still seeped in. If we extrapolate this to, say, Tyler Clementi as he was driving towards the George Washington Bridge to end his own life in the wake of being cruelly and voyeuristically outed over the Internet, I’d bet my bottom dollar that he felt even the songs on the radio weren’t meant for him, but for “normal people” more relatable to the singer and deserving of the song’s message.

Step 3: High Self-Awareness

“The essence of self-awareness is comparison of self with standards,” writes Baumeister. And, according to his escape theory, it is this ceaseless and unforgiving comparison with a preferred self—perhaps an irrecoverable self from a happier past or a goal self that is now seen as impossible to achieve in light of recent events—fuelling suicidal ideation.

This piquancy of thought in suicidal individuals is actually measurable, at least indirectly by analyzing the language used in suicide notes. One well-known “suicidologist,” Edwin Shneidman, once wrote that, “Our best route to understanding suicide is not through the study of the structure of the brain, nor the study of social statistics, nor the study of mental diseases, but directly through the study of human emotions described in plain English, in the words of the suicidal person.” Personally, I feel a bit like an existential Peeping Tom in reading strangers’ suicide notes, but it’s a longstanding cottage industry in psychological research. Over the past few decades alone, nearly 300 studies on suicide notes have been published. These cover a broad range of research questions, but because they tend to yield inconsistent findings, they have also painted a confusing picture of the suicidal mind.

This is especially the case when trying to reveal people’s motivations for the act. Some who commit suicide may not even be aware of their own motivations, or at least they have not been completely honest in their farewell letters to the world. A good example comes from University of Manchester sociologist Susanne Langer and her colleagues’ report in a 2008 issue of The Sociological Review . The researchers describe how the suicide note written by one young man was rather nondescript, mentioning feelings of loneliness and emptiness as causing his suicide, while, in fact, “his file contained a memo inquiring about the state of an investigation regarding sexual offences the deceased had been accused of in an adjacent jurisdiction.”

The more compelling studies on suicide notes, in my view, are those that use text analysis programs enabling the investigators to make exact counts of particular kinds of words. Compared to fake suicide notes, real suicide notes are notorious for containing first-person singular pronouns, a reflection of high self-awareness. And unlike letters written by people facing involuntary death, such as those about to be executed, suicide note writers rarely use inclusive language such as plural pronouns, such as “us” and “we.” When they do mention significant others, suicide note writers usually speak of them as being cut off, distant, separate, not understanding, or opposed. Friends and family, even a loving mother at arm’s length, feel endless oceans away.

Step 4: Negative Affect

It may seem to go without saying that suicides tend to be preceded by a period of negative emotions, but, again, in Baumeister’s escape model, negative suicidal emotions are experienced as an acute state rather than a prolonged one. “Concluding simply that depression causes suicide and leaving it at that may be inadequate for several reasons,” he writes. “It is abundantly clear that most depressed people do not attempt suicide and that not all suicide attempters are clinically depressed.”

Anxiety—which can be experienced as guilt, self-blame, threat of social exclusion, ostracism and worry—seems to be a common strand in the majority of suicides. As I mentioned in last week’s post, we may very well be the only species for which negative social-evaluative appraisals can lead to shame-induced suicide. It’s not without controversy, but the most convincing data from studies with nonhuman animals suggest very strongly that we are the only species on the face of the earth able to take another organism’s perspective in judging the self’s attributes. This is owed to an evolutionary innovation known as “theory of mind” (literally, theorizing about what someone else is thinking about, including what they’re thinking about you ; and, perhaps more importantly in this case, even what you’re thinking about you) that has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it allows us to experience pride, and a curse because it also engenders what I consider to be the uniquely human, uniquely painful emotion of shame.

Psychodynamic theorists often postulate that suicidal guilt seeks punishment, and thus suicide is a sort of self-execution. But Baumeister’s theory largely rejects this interpretation; rather, in his model, the appeal of suicide is loss of consciousness, and thus the end of psychological pain being experienced. And since cognitive therapy isn’t easily available—or seen as achievable—by most suicidal people, that leaves only three ways to escape this painful self-awareness: drugs, sleep and death. And of these, only death, nature’s great anesthesia, offers a permanent fix.

Step 5: Cognitive Deconstruction

The fifth step in the escape theory is perhaps the most intriguing, from a psychological perspective, because it illustrates just how distinct and scarily inaccessible the suicidal mind is from that of our everyday cognition. With cognitive deconstruction, a concept originally proposed by social psychologists Robin Vallacher and Daniel Wegner, the outside world becomes a much simpler affair in our heads—but usually not in a good way.

Cognitive deconstruction is pretty much just what it sounds like. Things are cognitively broken down into increasingly low-level and basic elements. For example, the time perspective of suicidal people changes in a way that makes the present moment seem interminably long; this is because, “suicidal people have an aversive or anxious awareness of the recent past (and possibly the future too), from which they seek to escape into a narrow, unemotional focus on the present moment.” In one interesting study, for example, when compared to control groups, suicidal participants significantly overestimated the passage of experimentally controlled intervals of time by a large amount. Baumeister surmises, “Thus suicidal people resemble acutely bored people: The present seems endless and vaguely unpleasant, and whenever one checks the clock, one is surprised at how little time has actually elapsed.”

Evidence also suggests that suicidal individuals have a difficult time thinking about the future—which for those who’d use the threat of hell as a deterrent, shows just why this strategy isn’t likely to be very effective. This temporal narrowing, Baumeister believes, is actually a defensive mechanism helping the person to cognitively withdraw from thinking about past failures and the anxiety of an intolerable, hopeless future.

Another central aspect of the suicidal person’s cognitive deconstruction, says Baumeister, is a dramatic increase in concrete thought. Like the intrusively high self-awareness discussed earlier, this concreteness is often conveyed in suicide notes. Several review articles have noted the relative paucity of “thinking words” in suicide notes, which are abstract, meaningful, high-level terms. Instead, they more often include banal and specific instructions, such as, “Don’t forget to feed the cat,” or “Remember to take care of the electric bill.” Real suicide notes are usually suspiciously void of contemplative or metaphysical thoughts, whereas fake suicide notes, written by study participants, tend to include more abstract or high-level terms (“Someday you’ll understand how much I loved you” or “Always be happy”). One old study even found that genuine suicide notes contained more references to concrete objects in the environment—physical things—than did simulated suicide notes.

What this cognitive shift to concrete thinking reflects, suggests Baumeister, is the brain’s attempt to slip into idle mental labor, thereby avoiding the suffocating feelings that we’ve been describing. Many suicidal college students, for example, exhibit a behavioral pattern of burying themselves in dull, routine academic busywork in the weeks beforehand, presumably to enter a sort of “emotional deadness” which is “an end in itself.” When I was a suicidal adolescent, I remember reading voraciously during this time; it didn’t matter what it was that I read—mostly junk novels, in fact—since it was only to replace my own thoughts with those of the writer’s. For the suicidal, other people’s words can be pulled over one’s exhausting ruminations like a seamless glove being stretched over a distractingly scarred hand.

Even the grim, tedious details of organizing one’s own suicide can offer a welcome reprieve:

When preparing for suicide, one can finally cease to worry about the future, for one has effectively decided that there will be no future. The past, too, has ceased to matter, for it is nearly ended and will no longer cause grief, worry, or anxiety. And the imminence of death may help focus the mind on the immediate present

Step 6: Disinhibition

We’ve now set the mental stage, but it is of course the final act that separates suicidal ideation from an actual suicide. Baumeister speculates that behavioral disinhibition, which is required to overcome the intrinsic fear of causing oneself pain through death, not to mention the anticipated suffering of loved ones left behind to grieve, is another consequence of cognitive deconstruction. This is because it disallows the high-level abstractions (reflecting on the inherent “wrongness” of suicide, how others will feel, even concerns about self-preservation) that, under normal conditions, keep us alive.

A recent theoretical analysis by University of Rochester psychiatrist Kimberly Van Orden and her colleagues sheds some additional light on this component of behavioral disinhibition. These authors point out that while there is a considerable number of people who want to kill themselves, suicide itself remains relatively rare. This is largely because, in addition to suicidal desire, the individual needs the “acquired capability for suicide,” which involves both a lowered fear of death and increased physical pain tolerance. Suicide hurts, literally. One acquires this capability, according to these authors’ model, by being exposed to related conditions that systematically habituate the individual to physical pain. For example, one of the best predictors of suicide is a nonlethal prior suicide attempt.

But a history of other fear-inducing, physically painful experiences also places one at risk. Physical or sexual abuse as a child, combat exposure, and domestic abuse can also “prep” the individual for the physical pain associated with suicidal behavior. In addition, heritable variants of impulsivity, fearlessness and greater physical pain tolerance may help to explain why suicidality often runs in families. Van Orden and her coauthors also cite some intriguing evidence that habituation to pain is not so much generalized to just any old suicide method, but often specific to the particular method used to end one’s own life. For example, a study on suicides in the U.S. military branches found that guns were most frequently associated with Army personnel suicides, hanging and knots for those in the Navy, and falling and heights were more common for those in the Air Force.

So there you have it. It’s really not a pretty picture. But, again, I do hope that if you ever are unfortunate enough to experience these cognitive dynamics in your own mind—and I, for one, very much have—or if you suspect you’re seeing behaviors in others that indicate these thought patterns may be occurring, that this information helps you to meta-cognitively puncture suicidal ideation. If there is one thing that I’ve learned since those very dark days of my suicidal years, it’s that scientific knowledge changes perspective. And perspective changes everything. Everything.

And, as I mentioned at the start, always remember: You’re going to die soon enough anyway; even if it’s a hundred years from now, that’s still the blink of a cosmic eye. In the meantime, live like a scientist—even a controversial one with only an ally or two in all the world—and treat life as a grand experiment, blood, sweat, tears and all. Bear in mind that there’s no such thing as a failed experiment—only data.

Credit: Dr. Roy Baumeister’s Book & SA.

Guru Dutt: Life and beyond!

Guru Dutt: Life and beyond!

Guru Dutt: Life and beyond!


Guru Dutt has been my most beloved Bollywood personalities of all time. Even today, when I think about Guru Dutt, it bothers me that he is no more. Since my childhood, his immense talent fascinated me.

10th October, 1964, is considered to be one of the blackest days in the Bollywood Film Industry. This was the day when Maestro Director Guru Dutt died at his residence apparently due to overdose of sleeping pills. It left millions of his fans including myself with deep sorrow and with a sense of great loss. He was only 39 when he died. But in short span of Guru Dutts 13 year film career, he is considered to be one of very few artists who achieved tremendously in the Hindi Film Industry.

Guru Dutt, a Sarswat Brahmin, was born on 9th July, 1925, in Bangalore to a middle class Couple Shri Shivashankar Padukone and Vasanthi Padukone. His parents moved to Calcutta when Guru Dutt was a small child. Guru Dutt’s mother tongue was Konkani (a dialect of Marathi) and not Bengali or Kannada as some people wrongly think. I feel good that Guru Dutt belonged to same community as mine that is Gowd Sarswat Brahmin. Of course, he was a Sarswat Brahmin which is very close to GSB.

Guru Dutt’s creative uncle Shri B. B. Benegal had a great flair for art and music. Shri Benegal had a great influence on young Guru Dutt during his childhood days. Guru Dutt completed his Matriculation in 1941. However, due to financial constraints, he could not study any further. Guru Dutt had a great affinity towards Hindi and Bengali folk music. Guru Dutt had a natural inclination towards dancing and choreography. Shri Benegal provided Guru Dutt financial assistance to join Famous dancer Uday Shankars School of Dancing and Choreography at Almora near Nainitaal. After completing his dance training, Guru Dutt worked as a Telephone Operator in Calcutta for a short time. He left this job after a short stint and came to Mumbai to try his luck. In Mumbai, he started to organize his own dance compositions. He went to Pune and joined famous Prabhat Studios in Pune and started to work as choreographer. Along with choreography, Guru Dutt started assisting Hindi Film Directors which was his natural inclination. Dev Anand, his close friend from Prabhat days had already started his own banner. In fact, Guru Dutt met Dev Anand in one laundry shop in Pune when laundryman erroneously gave Devs shirt to Guru Dutt and vice versa and both came to the shop to get their own shirts at the same time.

During Prabhat days, Dev Anand had promised Guru Dutt that if he ever produced a film, he will give Guru Dutt a chance to direct and if Guru Dutt was to produce a film before Dev then Guru Dutt will cast Dev as a hero in his film. It so happened that Dev Anand was the first one to produce his film Baazi (1951) under his Navketan Banner and as promised, Dev Anand gave Guru Dutt a break to direct this film. This was Guru Dutts debut film as a director. With Guru Dutts able direction, Baazi, a crime thriller, was a huge success at the box office and became a trend setter for several crime thrillers those followed. During the recording of the hit song Tadbir se bigdi huwi taqdeer bana de, Guru Dutt met the singer Geeta Roy. Their friendship soon blossomed into love and Guru Dutt married Geeta Roy on 26th May, 1953, at Geetas mothers home in Santacruz, Mumbai. The couple had 3 children: 2 sons, Tarun and Varun and daughter Nina. Geeta Dutt and Guru Dutt were not at par intellectually and Guru Dutt being workaholic was not meant to have family or take family responsibilities. Due to this reason their marriage started to fall apart. Later, Guru Dutts alleged affairs with actress Waheeda Rehman also worsened the matters.

After the success of Baazi, Guru Dutt directed another crime thriller Jaal (1953). Director Guru Dutt was promoted to act as a hero in the next film Baaz (1953). But Baaz flopped miserably shaking the confidence of Guru Dutt to act as a leading man in the film. Guru Dutt then decided to launch his own company Guru Dutt Productions.

Guru Dutts breakthrough as actor-producer-director came with the film Aar Paar (1954). The entertaining crime thriller was a gutsy venture with lilting tunes by another upcoming maestro music director O.P. Nayyar who had yet to give hit music. Two heroines of the film, Shakila and Shyama were hardly major stars before Aar Paar was released. But it was Guru Dutts direction which made the film a superhit at the box office. O.P. Nayyars music created a rage among music lovers. Film Aar Paar established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. By now, Guru Dutt had polished his film making techniques considerably. Guru Dutt showed his strength as a great director when one looked at the way Guru Dutt fleshed out even minor characters with great skill- be it a street urchin or the newspaper stand vendor. Guru Dutt then produced Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955) which was a light hearted comedy with beautiful actress Madhubala as the heroine. Because of O. P Nayyars lilting tunes, Mr. and Mrs. 55 was a super hit. Guru Dutt had introduced a new technique for song picturization in these successful films. And the technique was that for the first time in Hindi Cinema, the story of the movie was carried forward through the song bringing continuity in the film. Guru Dutt succeeded in replacing the repetitive ingredients of formulaic cinema with an individual and lyrical vision. Guru Dutt was a strict disciplinarian when it came to making a movie. Before the shooting, Guru Dutt would first look through the Camera to check the first shot of the day and if he did not find that first shot well enough then he would ask his unit to pack up and go home.

By now Guru Dutt had claimed a big name for himself and also earned lots of money. And this was the precise moment Guru Dutt was waiting for. For last couple of years, Guru Dutt had in his mind to produce a highly emotional social film. But he did not have enough money to indulge in such a risky project, since those were the days when most of the films which became hit were crime thrillers. So finally the time was ripe. He was looking for an emotional lyricist for this new project and he found the right lyricist who was of course none other than great Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. Sahir had already penned down lyrics on social problems in his famous collection of poems in Talkhiyaan (bitterness) in 1944. Sahirs lyrics fitted the story of a film Guru Dutt wanted to produce and direct. The name of that film was Pyaasa (The Thirsty one) and it was a masterpiece. Guru Dutt never forgot to acknowledge the people whom he admired. And he dedicated his forthcoming film to the fond memory of Shri Gyan Mukherjee with whom Guru Dutt had a great affinity. The original story Kashmakash (Conflict) which was written sometime in 1947/1948 was revived with the help of Abrar Alvi with the new Title Pyaasa. Pyaasa was the best film of his career produced by Guru Dutt. It was his dream come true. It was released at the Minerva Cinema, Mumbai on 27th February, 1956. Pyaasa was a story of a Poet who longed for love, recognition from society and spiritual fulfillment while he was alive and whose poetic talent was not recognized by society and he was admired posthumously after the society mistakenly learns about Poets death. In Pyaasa, Guru Dutt lashed out at the hypocrisy of the society which in the film included his close relatives and some selfish friends. Replete with symbols, Pyaasa lamented the inability of a wicked world to comprehend the purity of a genuine soul. In Sahir Ludianvi gem, Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai Guru Dutt posed as if he was at the crucifixion. In Pyaasa, Guru Dutt extracted best from 4 actors: Rehman, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha and Guru Dutt himself.

Lots of film personalities had thought that Pyaasa will not succeed at the box office. This is because before Pyaasa, Guru Dutt had produced movies like Aar Paar and Mr. and Mrs. 55 and in the beginning nobody could understand completely a very different serious movie like Pyaasa. Pyaasa was somber, nihilistic film which was a marked departure from Guru Dutts earlier light-hearted romantic entertainment films Aar Paar and Mr. and Mrs. 55. As stated before, Pyaasa was a story of poet betrayed by his lover (Mala Sinha), disowned by his brothers and short-changed by his publisher. In the finale, the poet forsakes all of them and fame, seeking solace in the arms of a social outcaste, the street prostitute Gulab (Waheeda Rehman) with whom he leaves the town to go to a far place for good.

For Pyaasa, First 5 weeks of collection at the gates was very poor. By 6th week, suddenly Pyaasas fortunes changed and it became a crowd puller overnight. And with its super melodic music by Maestro S. D. Burman and superb direction and acting by Guru Dutt, Pyaasa became a raging hit and completed silver jubilee at several theaters across India. Originally, Guru Dutt had offered the main role to the then tragedy king Dilip Kumar. But Dilip Kumar backed out at the last minute, since at that time, Dilip Saab, a very big star himself, was not too sure about Guru Dutts directorial abilities. And finally, Guru Dutt acted himself in the lead role and did a superb job as the main character of the film. Earlier, Guru Dutt also wanted to cast Madhubala and Nargis as lead heroines. But ultimately, these 2 heroines were replaced by Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha.

It is said that Guru Dutt had instructed Music Director S. D. Burman to use minimum musical instruments within the songs. S. D. Burman exactly did what Guru Dutt wanted and yet gave very melodic music which was appropriate to the story. It is said that Guru Dutt used to visit recording studio while each song was being recorded. Guru Dutt was a perfectionist. He would never compromise with the quality no matter what. Guru Dutt thus made sure that every song of Pyaasa was composed to his satisfaction. I just wonder how Guru Dutt could conceive a serious film like Pyaasa, since Guru Dutt had a comfortable upbringing in middle class family in his real life and had never experienced bad treatment from anyone.

After the success of Pyaasa, Guru Dutt had bigger dreams. He wanted to produce yet another movie on a grand scale. And the film was Kaagaz Ke Phool, the first Cinemascope movie produced in India. In this movie, Guru Dutt actually depicted what he always feared in his real life and that was the possibility of becoming a failure. In this movie, Guru Dutt created some unforgettable visuals using ace cameraman V. K. Murthys still-admired photography.

It was ironic that during the shooting of Kaagaz Ke Phool, Guru Dutt was already in love with Waheeda and one of touchy songs Waqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam was sung by his wife Geeta Dutt and was filmed on Waheeda Rehman. It seemed that Geeta Dutt was crying her heart out through this song, since Geeta knew that Guru Dutt was wooing Waheeda.

Kagaz Ke Phool was a story about the film directors who ultimately fails to produce successful films. Film was released at Mumbais premier theaters New Empire and Maratha Mandir on 2nd August, 1959. This film won accolades for Guru Dutt but failed miserably at the box office. And he lost Rs. 17 lakhs which was a huge amount in those days. Failure of the film was a great shock to Guru Dutt, so much so that he vowed not to direct any of his films in future. Guru Dutt had already fallen in love with Waheeda Rehman who owed a lot to Guru Dutt since Guru Dutt was the one who gave her a break in his film C.I.D. Although Guru Dutt was in deep love with Waheeda Rehman, Waheeda herself kept a distance from Guru Dutt, since he was already a married man with kids. Guru Dutt in the end was a very depressed man, since Waheeda never reciprocated. After Guru Dutts untimely death in 1964, during many personal interviews, Waheeda was asked about her relationship with Guru Dutt, but Waheeda always made it a point that she always respected him as a Great Artist and nothing else.

After the bitter experience of Kagaz Ke Phool, Guru Dutt had not still given up. And in 1960, he produced a very successful movie Chaudhavi Ka Chand which was a Muslim Social. This film was a super hit and the film filled Guru Dutts coffers. Guru Dutt finally recovered all his earlier financial losses. The title song Chaudhavi Ka Chand Ho became a raging hit (credit goes to composer Ravi). Since Waheeda Rehman never reciprocated her love to Guru Dutt, at least in the movie Chaudhavi Ka Chand, Guru Dutt elaborately picturized the song scene Chaudhavi Ka Chand ho where he is singing the romantic song to please Waheeda on the wedding night in the movie. He even colorized this song scene. This was the only piece which was colored in the entire movie. At least, Guru Dutt probably tried to derive satisfaction by enacting an elaborate wedding night scene with Waheeda within the storylines of this movie.

Devastated and disillusioned by Kagaz Ke Phools failure, Guru Dutt never signed a film with his name as director. His next film was the wonderfully atmospheric Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). To date the controversy rages on whether Guru Dutt directed this film or it was Abrar Alvi whose name appears as director in the film credits.

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam could not stop Guru Dutts life from falling apart: his parting with Waheeda when she tried to establish her own identity outside his films hurt Guru Dutt. A last ditch effort to reunite with his estranged wife Geeta Dutt also failed. Guru Dutt slowly started to drown his woes in alcohol never to recover again. During these depression times, Guru Dutt met Dev Anand, his old pal, expressing his desire to cast him in his next film. But Guru Dutt could not keep up that promise. He started to shoot his last film Baharen Phir Bhi Aayegi (The Spring Will Return) with himself in lead role, But after few weeks of shooting, he asked his brother Atmaram to replace himself by Dharmendra. Maybe Guru Dutt had a premonition of his death. On 10th October, 1964, Guru Dutt died due to overdose of sleeping pills at a very young age 39. His death is still shrouded with mystery. It was never conclusive whether it was an an accident or a suicide. The prevailing magic of his films even now decades after his tragic end, testifies the skill of this genius who lived much ahead of his times.

Guru Dutt is my most favorite film director. Had he lived longer, he would have definitely produced magnificent colored films with different themes. But that was not to happen since we all know that fate which is guided by destiny finally can pull the curtain on anyones life at any time.

It should be noted that along with his own productions, Guru Dutt also acted in outside productions like Twelve O Clock (1958), Sautela Bhai (1962), Bahurani (1963), Bharosa (1963), Suhagan (1964) and Sanjh Aur Savera (1964) etc. with all the famous heroines of the times.

Guru Dutts Last Day: After Guru Dutt had his differences with his wife Geeta Dutt, he moved out of his Pali Hill House to his new flat in Ark Royal on posh Peddar Road, Mumbais most expensive area. He lived alone there and was looked after by his valet Ratan, and his cook, Ibrahim. Geeta Dutt had already left his Pali Hill house and was staying with her children at her mothers house in Santacruz, Mumbai. On 9th October, 1964, Guru Dutts brother Devi Dutt had a lunch with Tanuja and Guru Dutt on the sets of Baharen Phir Bhi Aayegi. Guru Dutt was in upbeat mood that day. Guru Dutt sent his driver to get his children from Geetas house so that he could fly kites with them. Guru Dutt was very fond of flying kites. After his children arrived, he flew kites along with them. He also gave tickets to Devi Dutt for the test match between India and Australia which was to be played the next day. He then took his children and Devi Dutt to Chiragh Din (a Boutique) in Colaba, Mumbai which is a very expensive place. Guru Dutt bought lots of clothes for his children and asked his driver to drop them back to Geetas house. Children were dropped at their mothers house. Guru Dutt and Devi Dutt returned to his flat in Peddar Road. Guru Dutt even prepared omelette for Devi Dutt. He did not have a telephone in his flat since he had just acquired the flat. So Guru Dutt went to his neighbors house and called Mala Sinha in Madras. Then he called K. Asif (famous producer of Mughal-E-Azam) and asked Asif to come to his house at 10 PM for some discussion.

Guru Dutt was in very good mood that day. There were no signs of depression. Guru Dutt asked Devi to call Geeta Dutt and ask her to send the children again. Geeta Dutt was upset, since the children had already spent whole afternoon with Guru Dutt. Geeta refused to send the children that late in night since they were sleeping. Geeta told Devi that she will send the children the next day. Devi told Guru Dutt what Geeta said. At this time, Guru Dutt was drinking. He asked Devi Dutt to leave while speaking to him in his mother tounge Konkani. As Devi Dutt was about to leave, Abrar Alvi arrived at the flat. Guru Dutt was planning to build a big house and showed Abrar the model of the house. Guru Dutt then spoke to his brother Devi Dutt again and asked him to leave.

For greater part of 1964, since Guru Dutt was lonely in the flat, Abrar Alvi lived with him at his Peddar Road flat. So it was quite natural that Abrar Alvi was there on the evening of 9th October. Mr. Gole, Guru Dutts Tax Consultant, also joined both of them for dinner. At the dinner table, Guru Dutt discussed with Abrar about the last scene to be shot for the film Baharen Phir Bhi Aayegi. Guru Dutt had started drinking early that evening. Guru Dutt looked very disturbed after reading a letter from his close friend. e told Abrar that sometimes he felt that he would go insane. Abrar was with Guru Dutt until 1 AM. Guru Dutt did not open up and at the dinner table Guru Dutt had not eaten anything. He was only drinking. Then Guru Dutt told Abrar that he would now go to bed. After this conversation, Abrar left the flat.

At about 3:30 AM, Guru Dutt asked his aide Ratan as to where was Abrar? Ratan told him that after the dinner, he had left. Ratan asked Guru Dutt if he wanted him to call Abrar. Guru Dutt said there was no need to do that as it was already too late. Ratan then asked him if he wanted to fix up a drink. Guru Dutt said no to him but asked him to give him the bottle. Guru Dutt took the bottle inside his bedroom and locked the door behind him. Guru Dutt used to take sleeping pills-Sonarils, so probably he may have had a lethal dose that night just before he retired to bed. The post-mortem report stated that Guru Dutt died around 5:30 to 6 AM on Saturday, 10th October, 1964.

During the evening, Guru Dutt had also rung Raj Kapoor and had fixed an appointment with him the next day. Guru Dutt also had contacted O. P. Nayar that evening but O. P. Nayyar was not available. On the day Guru Dutt died, Guru Dutts sister Lalitha Lajmi had organized a musical evening in her home. And had hoped that Guru Dutt would attend. Famous Sitarist, Abdul Haleem Khan was invited to play classical ragas on his Sitar. Lalitha had invited Guru Dutt. But Guru Dutt had said on the phone that he felt uneasy since there would be a big crowd at the party. Guru Dutt assured his sister that he will come some other day when there was no one else around in her house. At 12 Noon, one of Guru Dutts assistant rang Lalitha Lajmi to tell her that Guru Dutt was no more. Lalitha rushed to his brothers Peddar Road flat where she saw that Geeta Dutt had already arrived and she was sobbing. Guru Dutts mother was already there too. Then first person from film industry to arrive was Dev Anand. Then all other actors came and the whole film industry was there. It was well known in the film industry that previously Guru Dutt had tried to commit suicide on two occasions but was unsuccessful. Music Director O.P.Nayyar (Guru Dutt’s Favorite MD, O. P. Nayyar was music director to 4 of Guru Dutt movies) was one of the first famous bollywood personalities to arrive at Guru Dutt’s Peddar Road flat. After arrival, he even scolded both Geeta Dutt and Waheeda Rehman for ruining the life of Guru Dutt while both were grieving while sitting next to Guru Dutt’s body. Somehow O.P.Nayyar never liked Waheeda Rehman even before this tragedy. In fact, O.P.Nayyar stated all these facts in one of his recent interviews just before his death.

Guru Dutt was lying in a peculiar position when he died. His leg was lifted as if he was about to get up from the bed. There was an unfinished Hindi novel by his bedside. And the lights were on. It was like frozen moment. They had found him at 10:30 AM in the morning. Geeta had called and asked his servant to break open the door. Later the body was taken for post-mortem and funeral took place late in the evening. Guru Dutt was dressed in a dark suit when he was taken away. His body looked so fresh excepting a tinge of blue in his ears that gave the feeling of death. Just 10 minutes before his body was being taken for cremation, Waheeda Rehman and Johny Walker arrived. Both of them were shooting in Madras when they learnt about his death and they rushed back to Mumbai in time for funeral. It is a big question whether it was a suicide or a heart failure in his sleep due to excessive dosage of sleeping pills. One still does not know what exactly happened on that fateful night. Probably, it was intentional.

Raj Kapoor helped in completing all the coroners formalities. According to customs, the funeral rites were supposed to be conducted by the eldest son. But because Guru Dutts son Tarun was so young, Atmaram (Guru Dutts younger brother) performed the last rites at Sonapur crematorium at Queens Road in Mumbai at around 8:10 PM. The brilliant director was no more.

Every newspaper and film magazines in India carried the news of Guru Dutts suicide on the front pages. Kaifi Azmi wrote a poem in tribute to Guru Dutt that was featured in Filmfares cover article. The poem Rehne ko sadaa dehr mein aata nahin koyi, tum jaise gaye aise bhi jaata nahin koyi (No one comes to stay for ever, but no one leaves as you did), aptly voiced Kaifi Azmis sadness.

Reference: Guru Dutt: A Life in Cinema by Nasreen Munni Kabir published by Oxford University Press in 1996 & Sulekha.com

It takes no time to fall in Love!

It takes no time to fall in Love!

It takes no time to fall in Love!


Fall in love with someone who chooses you just as confidently as you choose them. Commit to the person who lifts you up whenever things get rough, the person who fights to make things work when the reality of life gets difficult and discouraging.

Fall in love with someone who sees the wars within you and not only chooses to stay, but chooses to stand by your side and help you fight them. Strive to find someone who cradles your dark, who embraces your light, someone who always wants to be your best when you yourself are not your best; someone who reminds you of every strong thing you are whenever you feel feeble.

Fall in love with someone who does not make you feel like you are hard to love. Give your heart to someone who does not call you weak for feeling so deeply, someone who adores the soft creature you are, and who fights to protect it in a hardened world.

Fall in love with someone who challenges you, who inspires you to think and feel. Fall in love with someone who ignites a wildness within you; someone who grows your mind just as much as they grow your heart.

Fall in love with someone who respects you for changing because they understand that it means you’re growing. Dedicate yourself to the person who stands in awe of how you bloom, how you flourish; someone who loves you not only for who you are, but for who you have the potential to be.

Please, do not ever settle for less. Keep waiting. Keep learning about yourself, keep trying and fighting for the heart within your chest. Keep growing and nourishing your wants, keep discovering your needs. When the time is right, you are going to fall in love with someone who will appreciate everything you stand for, who will compliment you in ways you never imagined. When the time is right, the love you have always been worthy of will flower within your life, and you will finally, finally, understand why you had to wait so long.

Stop Being a Victim! Take Responsibility

Not a Victim!

Not a Victim!

One big problem a lot of people have is that they slip into thinking of themselves as victims that have little or no control over their lives. In this headspace you feel sorry for yourself, the world seems to be against you and you get stuck. Little to no action is taken and you get lost in a funk of sadness and self-pity.

So how can you move out of that mindset? In this article I’d like to share a few things that have helped me.

1. Know the benefits of a victim mentality.

There are a few benefits of the victim mentality:

Attention and validation. You can always get good feelings from other people as they are concerned about you and try to help you out. On the other hand, it may not last for that long as people get tired of it.
You don’t have to take risks. When you feel like a victim you tend to not take action and then you don’t have to risk for example rejection or failure.
Don’t have to take the sometimes heavy responsibility. Taking responsibility for you own life can be hard work, you have to make difficult decisions and it is just heavy sometimes. In the short term it can feel like the easier choice to not take personal responsibility.
It makes you feel right. When you feel like the victim and like everyone else – or just someone else – is wrong and you are right then that can lead to pleasurable feelings.
In my experience, by just being aware of the benefits I can derive from victim thinking it becomes easier to say no to that and to choose to take a different path.

It also makes it easier to make rational decisions about what to do. Yes, I know that I can avoid risk and the hard work of taking action by feeling like a victim. But I also know that there are even more positive results if I choose to take the other route, if I make the better choice to take a chance and start moving forward.

2. Be ok with not being the victim.

So to break out of that mentality you have to give up the benefits above. You might also experience a sort of emptiness within when you let go of victim thinking. You may have spent hours each week with thinking and talking about how wrong things have gone for you in life. Or how people have wronged you and how you could get some revenge or triumph over them.

Now you have to fill your life with new thinking that may feel uncomfortable because it is not so intimately familiar as the victim thinking your have been engaging in for years.

3. Take responsibility for your life.

Why do people often have self-esteem problems? I’d say that one of the big reasons is that they don’t take responsibility for their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered.

This damages many vital parts in your life. Stuff like relationships, ambitions and achievements.

That hurt will not stop until you wise up and take responsibility for your life. There is really no way around it.

And the difference is really remarkable. Just try it out. You feel so much better about yourself even if you only take personal responsibility for your own life for a day.

This is also a way to stop relying on external validation like praise from other people to feel good about yourself. Instead you start building a stability within and a sort of inner spring that fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you.

4. Gratitude.

When I feel that I am putting myself in victim role I like to ask myself this question:

“Does someone have it worse on the planet?”

The answer may not result in positive thoughts, but it can sure snap you of a somewhat childish “poor, poor me…” attitude pretty quickly. I understand that I have much to be grateful for in my life.

This question changes my perspective from a narrow, self-centred one into a much wider one. It helps me to lighten up about my situation.

After I have changed my perspective I usually ask another question like:

“What is the hidden opportunity within this situation?”

That is very helpful to keep your focus on how to solve a problem or get something good out a current situation. Rather than asking yourself “why?” over and over and thereby focusing on making yourself feel worse and worse.

5. Forgive.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking that forgiveness is just about something you “should do”. But forgiving can in a practical way be extremely beneficial for you.

One of the best reasons to forgive can be found in this quote by Catherine Ponder:

“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

As long as you don’t forgive someone you are linked to that person. Your thoughts will return to the person who wronged you and what s/he did over and over again. The emotional link between the two of you is so strong and inflicts much suffering in you and – as a result of your inner turmoil – most often in other people around you too.

When you forgive you do not only release the other person. You set yourself free too from all of that agony.

6. Turn your focus outward and help someone out.

The questions in tip #4 are useful. Another question I use when I get into the victim headspace is simply:

“How can I give value right now?”

Asking that question and making that shift in what you focus on really helps, even if you may not feel totally like doing it.

So I figure out how I can give someone else value, how I can help someone out.

And thing is that the way you behave and think towards others seems to have a big, big effect on how you behave towards yourself and think about yourself. For example, judge people more and you tend to judge yourself more. Be more kind to other people and help them and you tend to be more kind and helpful to yourself.

A bit counter intuitive perhaps, but that has been my experience. The more you love other people, the more your love yourself.

7. Give yourself a break.

Getting out of a victim mentality can be hard. Some days you will slip. That’s ok. Be ok with that.

And be nice to yourself. If you have to be perfect then one little slip is made into a big problem and may cause you to spiral down into a very negative place for many days.

It is more helpful to just give yourself a break and use the tips above to move yourself into a positive and empowered headspace once again.

Disgust for News!

This planet is beautiful…more importantly, its eventful…in fact being eventful is what makes it beautiful. Every ticking of the clock witnesses events innumerable, some desirable, some not. To know about such events, to be informed, and to learn is the instinct and natural curiosity of the intellectual part of man. It is the media’s responsibility to bring all this information to society.
The media has in the past brought the dishonest to its knees, exposed the corrupt and nudged governments out of power. It has worked as a guardian of civilization and democracy.But why do I find a vacuum when I expect such noble duties from the media of our times? I switch on my TV in search of some raw news, neutral, anonymous and non-appeasing. I am utterly disappointed to find myself stranded amidst the gossip of Bollywood affairs, food recipes, quarrels among a few kurta-clad politicos, criminal investigation simulations by some cop-turned reporter, fast-track astrological predictions by some eminent gurus mending the lives of millions in a second, one channel regularly claims to make out-of the world discoveries. I waited for some news item for four hours, because every time in the break they said it would be the next and then they started some another one. Such is the degree of distrust for news channels that the very spirit of media as a fourth pillar of our democracy seems to be defeated. So one is disgusted. In fact the news is not disgusting, it is the ‘un-news’ disguised as news that makes us feel helpless.
Commercialization is in the air, and it would be injustice if we expect media (print or electronic) to turn a blind eye towards rich prospects. But an outright compromise with the interests of the public, in the name of commercialization, is in fact, a form of corruption.
TV news is the biggest market of these. The generosity of these channels is visible all the time. For all they could manage to dedicate to news was a pathetically narrow strip of the entire space of the screen. This strip gives legitimacy to their so called’short’ breaks for commercials, which rarely give way for the news to flash. And why do every third of such commercials claims to make you unbelievably fair in just a week or two? If these sort of commercials were sold to African Americans in the United States, there would be a justifiable uproar. Their children are taught to be proud to be black. Why are our children being taught that “fair” is the only way you can be beautiful?
Nowadays, every particular news channel has its own history, geography and economics. And these factors decide the ‘spice’ to be added to the news. The history, or the lineage of the ownership of the media decides upon whom to confer patronage. The geography decides the bias to be applied to news on regional lines. Of course, the economics decides the complete dynamics of news presentation. Even the national news channel is often termed as another spokesperson of incumbent party in power. In that case ‘good governance’ and ‘all is well’ are the only few spices used by them.
The jargon of ‘paid news’ and corporate lobbying effect on news is no longer a new term. News channels are more often commercial arms of politicians and big business houses, one of them known for the unique way of wishing the audience with a prefix specifying group’s name before the wishes. Now that should not be a problem, that’s just something like ‘branded-news’.More often, the discussions-cum-ethically eroded arguments between some politicians, suck the remnants of energy the viewer has to offer to the news. They are provided for some value addition to the news. Anyways, they end up leaving more questions than answers. All our youth can learn from them is how to keep speaking for hours, with literally nothing worth speaking.
Speaking about progressiveness, rationalism and pragmatism, these are the main culprits for fostering superstitions among the people. Dormant concepts of ghosts, spirits, witches etc. are often activated by them as a ‘contingency story’ in case they don’t land up in a good news on any fine day.
On any given day, you will be informed that the world is going to end and are we surprised that it doesn’t?
Like all this was not enough, what makes the matters worse is the metamorphosis of the news channels into daily sops wrapped in the envelope of news, serving dual purposes of being news providers as well as instruments of appeasement of low brows, with ‘news’ as pathetic as Bollywood love stories, crushes, breakups and even pregnancy predictions of celebs. Even dish recipes are also in the wide ambit of the term ‘news’.
One day I was shocked to see some people communicating to a big bellied person giving Gyan to people on telephone about their future. It was a matter of seconds for him to predict with full conviction that the person was going to get a first class in exams and a government job for sure, given he gets a costly stone for a ring to wear on his finger, studies obviously do not matter. The detrimental effect of such ‘news’ on the people is not too difficult to imagine.
There is much to say, but it’s high time for the media to shed the dust gathered due to the rapid commercialization and corruption, under its auspices and again work as yet another bulwark of our democracy, revitalizing our society with raw and unbiased news that gives them space to form their opinion in an independent and rather balanced manner. This would propel the ‘demographic dividend’ of India into an ‘intellectual demographic dividend’… ushering into India the ideals with which the Idea of India was created.

How to format your Novel for Submission!

Novel Submission Process

Novel Submission Process

Novel Submission Process

Submitting your novel to literary agents is a daunting business. There is no avoiding the fact that you’re sending your work out to be judged and that can be both frightening and painful.

I’ve been through the process a couple of times, and I can honestly say that it gets easier with practice. It helps, too, if you can remember that each agent (or publisher) is not judging (or rejecting) you as a person, they are making a business decision about your work based on the small sample they have seen.

Here are the tips I picked up along the way – I hope they are helpful.

First off, separate your ‘writing self’ from your ‘publishing self’. Your writing self is the one who put his/her heart and soul into creating the novel. It’s the self who thinks of the book as ‘his baby’ and who dreams of critical acclaim while being simultaneously terrified of revealing her writing to the harsh critical eye of the market.

Your publishing self is the businessman. The one who knows that publishing is an industry. Smart, book-obsessed people run that industry and they are all hoping to find the next ‘big thing’ but, equally, nobody knows what that will be. And, like any creative industry, the worth of the product is very much in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjective. Say that again (loudly) with your best, confident, business-self voice: ‘It. Is. Subjective’. (Don’t believe me? Go and look at the Flipkart or Amazon reviews for a recent bestseller or work of ‘classic’ fiction. Opinions will vary. Wildly.)

The next step is to expect rejection. I don’t say this to be discouraging, but quite the opposite; embrace your certain rejection. Pick a novel from your bookshelves and feel it in your hand. Know with utter certainty that both the book you are holding and the author who wrote it were rejected at some point.

The third step is this: Just do it. Much like writing the damn book in the first place, the only way to get through the fear of submission is to get started. Once you’ve got a few rejections under your belt and the sky hasn’t fallen onto your head and people aren’t stopping in the street to point and laugh, you will find it easier to continue.

So, a few practicalities. I’d advise sending out submissions in small batches. With the best will in the world, agents are super-busy and take an average of three months to respond. If you submit one at a time, the process will take forever.

Why not save even more time and submit to your entire (carefully researched) list of dream agents all at once? Well, small batches give you a chance to tweak your submission along the way.

If you’ve submitted to, say, ten agents, and you’ve received zero requests for the full manuscript, you might want to check over your submission package to see if it can be improved. Perhaps, on a second look, you realise that your first chapter isn’t as good as you originally thought and it really ought to be cut completely. Or, you discover that your covering letter opens with an embarrassingly ponderous sentence or a misspelled word (the horror!).

Finally, read the submission guidelines carefully and follow them.

Yes, really.

Yes, all of them.

Yes, every time.

Most publishers/agents ask for a covering letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters.

How to format your Novel

You can format your novel manuscript any way you want as you’re writing and editing. If you want a purple font on a yellow background, have at it. If you have a font you just love looking at, use it while you’re writing.

But when you’re ready to submit your novel to an agent or publisher, follow the guidelines. Please. Let your creativity shine through your story, not your manuscript format. There really is a time to blend in with others, to be just one of the crowd, and this is that time.

No fancy fonts or colors. No odd sizes in fonts or margins. No illustrations or graphics such as your five-year-old son’s artwork for a suggested cover.

You want an agent or editor talking about your submission, but for the right reasons. Don’t be the joke of the week at your favorite publishing house.

Don’t give harried agents and editors an excuse to toss your manuscript before they’ve read the first word.

So how do you format a novel manuscript an acceptable way?

Find out what the agent or publisher recommends.

Yes, many publish their specs and formatting requirements right on their websites. Checking out the specs should be your first step.

Adapt your manuscript for each agent or publisher (most will be remarkably similar).

For any agent or publisher without a specific format, follow an accepted format for novel manuscripts, such as this one—

Font:  Twelve point, Times New Roman (or Courier New, if you insist), black

Margins:  One-inch margins on all four sides

Indent:  Half-inch paragraph indentations (this tab is pre-set in MS Word) for the first line of each paragraph (even the first paragraph of a chapter)

Space:  Double space; no extra line spaces between paragraphs

Align:  Align left (not justified). The right edges will not be uniform or even.

Page numbering:  Number pages beginning with the actual story (don’t count or put page numbers on the title page)

Scene breaks:  Indicate scene breaks by inserting a blank line and centering the number sign # in the center of the line

Page header:  Include your last name, your title (or keywords from the title), and the page number in the page header of every page except for the title page. Align the header to the right, so the information doesn’t interfere with the text of the manuscript. (Dear, I Hate You!)

Chapters:  Begin chapters on new pages (insert a page break or format using styles). Center the chapter title, even if it’s only Chapter One (or Chapter 1), about 1/3 of the way down the page. Skip a couple of spaces and begin the text of the chapter.

End:  Center a number sign # on an otherwise blank line one double-spaced line down from the final line of text of the final chapter or epilogue at the end of the manuscript. Or simply writeThe End. You want agents and editors to know they’ve reached the end.

Italics:  Use italics for italicized words. (A former practice was to underline to show italicized words, but that’s no longer necessary unless an agent or publisher requests underlining.)

Character spacing:  Use a single character space only, not two spaces, between sentences. If you forget this one, nobody’s going to turn down your manuscript because of it. It’s just a good habit to get into, especially for those of us who learned on typewriters and always added two spaces between sentences.

Include a title page—

Contact info:  Aligned left and single spaced, near the top of the page, include contact information: Your real/legal name, address, phone number, e-mail address. Follow with the word count. Alternatively, you can set word count apart by listing it at the top of the right side of the title page.

Title and author:  About 1/2 the way down the page, centered, enter the full manuscript title (all caps or mixed caps); on the next double-spaced line, type by or a novel by or a story by; on the next double-spaced line, add your pen name or your real name plus your pen name—Alexis Chesterfield writing as Billie Thomas

Agent:  If you have an agent, include the agent’s contact name and information beneath your name (yes, skip a line)

Page header:  Header information is not included on the title page. The title page is not included in page numbering.

Subgenre:  For some genres, including romance and sci-fi, you can include the subgenre, such as suspense or Regency. Include this information either above or below the word count.

That’s it, a basic format for novels.

Happy Writing!

Source: Blogs and mails of other fellow authors.

 

 

An open letter to my ex-wife!

An open letter to her which I think she will never ever read.

“I never imagined you and I, out of all the people in this world, would go through something so devastating as we did. Throughout the years, we created the most beautiful memories. We climbed all the way to the top together, only to slip and fall as soon as we got there. And though I may have contributed to that fall, I tried so hard to hold on to you.
My heart shattered into a million pieces. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t save us.
I couldn’t undo what had been done, and I let you go to find your true happiness.
All I ever wanted was my own family. Every day, I dreamed of falling in love with a woman, getting married, buying a beautiful home and one day bringing our own little bundle of joy into the world.
I guess it goes without saying that you made all of that feel real for me; you helped make most of those dreams come true. I wanted nothing more than to be the best husband, a romantic lover, the most selfless provider, and one day, the world’s best dad.
Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I loved you so much.
All those things I wanted to be, I couldn’t imagine with anyone but you.
Our life together — it was like Disney World. We ran carefree in this theme park we call life. Holding each other’s’ hands, we laughed, cried, loved, and we were in awe of everything we experienced. We were children with dreams, and together, we thought about the day when all of ours would come true.
Eventually, though, those roller coasters stopped.
The music died down, the lights shut off, and our magical journey came to an abrupt halt.
You were gone.
Suddenly, everything that was so familiar about life felt so foreign. I was lost without you. All I had left were my memories and dreams of us that I knew would never come true.
There are a few things that I never had the opportunity to tell you …
Every time I called you, I looked forward to hearing you answer the phone. You would say “hey baby” in this voice that sound so innocent and so loving. And it never changed. It always reminded me of the beginning of our relationship and all of the reasons I fell in love with you. Who would have thought something so simple could be so powerful? It’s what made you unique.
I thought about us being kids, not having anything but each other. I thought about the dreams we shared, and how I was so ready to spend the rest of my life with you. You helped shaped me into the man I was becoming, and this was a representation of my love and appreciation for you.
That leaves me with our wedding day.
November 28, 2012, the greatest day of my life. I looked forward to that for 25 years, but I never imagined it to be as beautiful as it was.
I was in awe of everything. Everything was beyond my wildest imagination, but nothing could compare to the excitement I felt about becoming your husband.
I couldn’t wait to make you Mrs. Nitya Prakash.
Here we were, two teenagers who met on the streets of Pune, with no idea about life, love, and where it would take us. We finally created this day. We had built our lives, our careers, our home, and now it was time to build our family.
When those doors opened, every dream, wish and prayer I ever had came marching right toward me, more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
You were my best friend. I wanted so much more for the both of us.
Sometimes, though, we have to accept the unexpected.
Our worlds need to fall apart, so we can put them back together the way they were meant to be.
There’s nothing more important to me than your happiness, and knowing you have that means the world to me. Our lives took different paths, but that can never take away from the memories we shared.
As for me? I’m happy. I’ve found peace. I am busier than ever with work, I found a new passion with writing, and I’ve been rebuilding a life that was once in a million pieces. I still dream of having a family. I still dream of holding my own child. Of course, I still dream of falling in love and finding my true happiness.
I’m much of the same Nitya you knew, but so much different.
You see, too many people live with hate in this world. Those same people live with anger and fear.
I’m not one of those people.
I’m disappointed we never got to finish writing our happily ever after, but I’ll never be angry. I’ll never hate you, and I’ll never be dishonest about my emotions. God gave me this amazing opportunity to love. It brought me to so many beautiful places, taught me so much about life and gave me memories I’ll cherish forever. How can I ever be angry about that?
To your mother, sister — tell them I always loved them as if they were my own, and I’m sorry if I never lived up to their expectations. I knew how much they loved you. I knew what kind of man they wanted for you, and God knows, I did everything I could to make sure I was just that.
And finally, to you — I’m sorry for anything I may have ever done to hurt you. More than anything, I wanted to spend forever with you by my side, and to one day add our own little peanut who would join us for the ride. Everything I did in my life was to ensure yours would be all you dreamed it to be. I wanted to give you the world.
Unfortunately, I fell short.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have held you tighter during our first dance and picked a song that never ended.
I’m not perfect, and I never want people to think that I am. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve done things I’m not proud to admit, and I’ve made decisions I wish I could take back. But I loved someone with every bone in my body, with every beat of my heart and every inch of my soul. It wasn’t perfect, but I know for sure I loved with everything I had; I loved in such a way that your happiness was always mine. And I’m thankful for that.
I once told you I wish I could put into words how much I loved you and share it with the world; here’s my best shot at that promise.
Losing you may have been the most painful experience of my life, but it made me stronger than ever. It somehow made life feel real.
While on paper I lost my wife, in reality I lost so much more.
I lost a piece of me that I will never get back.
Take good care of it.
All the best”

Everything changes, and changes for the better!

For no reason at all, I was reminded of this poem by Bertolt Brecht after so many years.

 

Everything changes.

You can make a fresh start with your final breath.

But what has happened has happened.

And the water you once poured into the wine cannot be

Drained off again, but everything changes.

You can make a fresh start with your final breath.

 

I didn’t understand this wonderful poem when I first read it; perhaps I still haven’t fully. I turned it round and round as if it was a beautiful locked box, left it lying on the shelf a while, I went back to examine it after a while. Then one day when I was old enough, brave enough to let go of the structure, it came through. However, I would rather say “Everything changes, and changes for the better”.

Once I thought that Love is an impossible thing for me but today, I have found my true love in my wife, Shraddha Nitya Prakash. My Life at present is perfectly analogous to this piece of work. It’s a movement towards perfection.

I would like to quote Albert Einstein’s very crisp words of wisdom

“He, who moves not forward, goes backward”

Don’t look back because everything will change and it will always change for something better.

Lets Fall in Love Again!

Fall in Love Again!

Fall in Love Again!

The second time you fall in love with someone, you’re going to feel so relieved. When you get your heart broken for the first time, you can’t imagine loving someone else again or having someone else love you. You worry about your ex finding love before you do, you worry about being damaged goods. And then it happens. Someone else loves you and you can sleep well at night.
The second time you fall in love with someone, it’s going to feel different. The first time felt like a dream almost. You were untouched, untainted by anyone. You accepted love with wide open arms and desperation. “Love me, love me, love me!” So you did. And then it fell apart and left you shocked to the core. You realized that people could be cruel and break your heart. You realized that people could stop meaning the sweet things they said to you just yesterday. So when you go into it again, you’re going to keep in mind everything that you’ve learned. You’re going to say, “Love me, love me, love me…until you don’t. In which case, I would like some advance warning. Thanks!”
The second time you fall in love with someone, you’re going to compare it to your first love. That’s okay. That’s natural. You’re going to be studying the new love with judgment and wariness. “My ex never liked biryani. Why the hell does this one eat so much biryani?!” Discovering that you have the ability to love multiple people who are different and feel different is initially very jarring. Loving an unfamiliar body will leave you disoriented and in dire need of a map. That’s okay too. That’s to be expected. Just ask the new love for directions.
The second time you fall in love with someone, you’re going to suffer from a bout of amnesia. You’re going to poke and prod at your lover’s body and be like, “Wait, how do I do this again? How do I love you? I think it starts with us having a moment together in some coffee shop, right?” It’s going to feel scary at first. Falling in love is sort of like riding a bike though. You never really forget.
The second time you fall in love with someone, you’ll be a more sane person. Your first love is when you get all of your insanity out. You behave like an insane monster because your mind is freaking out about all these new powerful feelings. By the second time, however, you have an idea of what works and what doesn’t. It’s by no means perfect. The insanity will make a cameo at some point. “Peek a boo. I’m here! Hope you didn’t forget about me!” But you can usually shoo it away after awhile.
The second time you fall in love with someone, you will hopefully have better sex. Do not quote me on this.
The second time you fall in love with someone will still be exciting and you might even talk about moving in together or marriage. It will feel more “adult.” You have no idea what adult love actually is but you think it involves making coffee for each other in the morning and maybe even getting a dog. “This is my dog, Passion. I got him with the second person I fell in love with because that’s what you do! The first person I was in love with would’ve killed a dog.”
Fall in love with someone who chooses you just as confidently as you choose them. Commit to the person who lifts you up whenever things get rough, the person who fights to make things work when the reality of life gets difficult and discouraging.
Fall in love with someone who sees the wars within you and not only chooses to stay, but chooses to stand by your side and help you fight them. Strive to find someone who cradles your dark, who embraces your light, someone who always wants to be your best when you yourself are not your best; someone who reminds you of every strong thing you are whenever you feel feeble.
Fall in love with someone who does not make you feel like you are hard to love. Give your heart to someone who does not call you weak for feeling so deeply, someone who adores the soft creature you are, and who fights to protect it in a hardened world.
Fall in love with someone who challenges you, who inspires you to think and feel. Fall in love with someone who ignites a wildness within you; someone who grows your mind just as much as they grow your heart.
Fall in love with someone who respects you for changing because they understand that it means you’re growing. Dedicate yourself to the person who stands in awe of how you bloom, how you flourish; someone who loves you not only for who you are, but for who you have the potential to be.
Please, do not ever settle for less. Keep waiting. Keep learning about yourself, keep trying and fighting for the heart within your chest. Keep growing and nourishing your wants, keep discovering your needs. When the time is right, you are going to fall in love with someone who will appreciate everything you stand for, who will compliment you in ways you never imagined. When the time is right, the love you have always been worthy of will flower within your life, and you will finally, finally, understand why you had to wait so long.
The second time will not be the first time. The first time is an insane magical life gift that you can never reclaim. But that’s okay. The second time is more real anyway. The second time can involve some amazing love.

Dhanushkodi – A ghost town at land’s end

Dhanushkodi - Ghost Town

Dhanushkodi - A Ghost Town

Barely 20 km from the town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Dhanushkodi gets its name from Dhanush (bow) and Kodi (end). The name alludes to an anecdote in the Ramayana, where Lord Rama broke the bridge constructed by his army of monkeys between the mainland and the island of Lanka with a stroke of his bow. Barely 50 yards long, Dhanushkodi is the sole terrestrial border between India and Sri Lanka. It was inhabited until 1964, when a terrible cyclone wrecked the village and swept a passenger train into the sea. Though Dhanushkodi today is a ghost town, it is still visited by pilgrims.

On the fateful night of December 22, 1964, Indian Railways train number 653, the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, left Pamban with 110 passengers and five railway staff. It was only a few yards before Dhanushkodi railway station when it was hit by a massive tidal wave. The train was washed away, killing all 115 on board. In all, over 1,800 people perished in the cyclonic storm. Following this disaster, the town was declared unfit for living. Thus this is a holy place for Hindus, further made holier by the confluence of two sea bodies, The bay of Bengal and Indian ocean.

Today, 48 years later, the structures that withstood the tidal wave still exist buried  under the sand and some partly weathered by the Sea adding a mysterious beauty to the place. A few fishermen have settled here in thatched huts and life goes on for them unaware of tomorrow.  Of late, I read in a magazine that the sea water is slowly receding and some parts of the submerged town are visible.

Ruins of a church at Dhanushkodi

Ruins of a church at Dhanushkodi

I haven’t visited Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi, but it is on my ‘to do list’ to see  and experience how it feels, standing at the land mass which is at the tip of India.  Many tourists who travel to Rameshwaram are unaware of Dhanushkodi and the ones who visit sing praises about its  its beautiful coral reefs and rich marine life which is supposed to be very active  here since the ocean waters are very shallow.

It is also the birth place of our ex President and missile man APJ Kalam. and this  is  also the town  through which Swami Vivekananda entered India Via SriLanka after his famous Chicago conference.

A port, a holy town, nature lover’s paradise that was (is) Dhanushkodi. Mark it next time around Rameshwaram.

How to reach
By air: Nearest airport: Madurai (167kms)
By rail: Nearest railway station: Rameshwaram, 18kms
By road: Buses and taxis conducting regular service between Madurai and Rameshwaram. From Rameshwaram you have to hire private vehicles through the sands.
Local transport: Inside the city walls of Rameshwaram, you can hire a jeep or an auto rickshaw.

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