If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A real writer? Quel rat!

“My chosen tools of trade, that is, written words, are fast becoming adjuncts to pictures.” – Pico Iyer in 2009

At the age of 23, a poor, insecure Gabriel García Márquez decided not to earn his living through any means other than writing. At that time, he had shown sparks of brilliance, but was nowhere near the epoch changing author that he would later become. (His first novella, Leaf storm was published five years later.) His earnings from writing were meagre, and he went through tremendous privation and hardship. "There are stories of his collecting bottles in the streets of Paris in order to pay for food." [Gabriel García Márquez - Raymond L. Williams, Twayne Publishers, Boston, p. 10] Marquez says that he could support himself financially only when he was 46! [Living to tell the Tale]

So if you are a young man or woman aspiring to become a writer, relax! It is going to take a while, there is no need to rush.

And for someone like me, who has taken up writing seriously a little late in the day, this significant fact is reassuring. There is no shame in not being able to make a living through writing. If it took a genius like Márquez twenty-three years, I guess if I can hang around for another, say, five hundred years, I will have become a successful writer.

But would I ever become a real writer? Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s begins with a hilarious encounter between an unnamed narrator – presumably the author in his youth – and an attractive young woman, who, in today’s parlance, can be called a freelance sex worker.

The narrator was a struggling author in the 1940s; Holly Golightly lived in the apartment below his in a brownstone building in New York. They hadn’t met each other yet. One night, she entered his bedroom from the outside through the fire escape, and started chatting as if she was an old friend. She explained her inappropriate entry by the presence of a particularly beastly client in her room, who had started biting her after consuming “eight martinis and enough wine to wash an elephant”. Unimpressed by the drab décor of the room, she asked, ‘What do you do here all day?’

Her host said he wrote “things”.

A little later, Holly enquired, ‘… Are you a real writer?’

‘It depends on what you mean by real.’

‘Well, darling, does anyone buy what you write?’

What a charming definition!

If you accept that definition, I might call myself a real writer (albeit of non-fiction) now. Last month, the publisher of my book Who says you cannot learn English? gave me a royalty cheque for all the copies of the first print-run. Yesterday, he delivered some complimentary copies of the second impression.

It is a self-learner’s manual for English written by someone eminently un(?)qualified for the job. I have had no formal training in English since leaving my school, which, incidentally used Bangla as the medium of instruction.

My father had taught me the basics of the language. But that was about all. Later, when I realized that the little English I knew was thoroughly inadequate as a survival tool in my job, I started teaching myself English. And I fell in love with this beautiful language .... But it was a long process, acquiring bits and pieces over a long period of time from authentic sources and from friends / colleagues ... and the process continues to this day. I wish someone had given me the book I have written now when I was 23.

A minor success, but a source of unalloyed joy all the same. I would like to share my happiness with you. The first five readers who wish to use the book and tell me so, will receive a free copy, delivered at their address. Please email me at santanusc@gmail.com if you are one of them.

But there is a catch, as is usual. You will have to write a review of the book!


  1. dada, Send it to me, if you can Send it Internationally. i would like to read it, though i believe that one mostly learns a language by constantly using it.The more one writes or speaks, the more he learns.

    And the best way(if not the only way) is to read, read and more read.And of course write in your own style, and not imitate anyone.

    I find people using intricate synonyms and tough terminologies, but wrong grammar.I believe right grammar is much more important than fancy words.What say.

  2. i believe you should write fiction as well, Probably a novel, with your realistic style. :)

  3. Nice to know about your book, it sure will be helpful for people who have studied in schools teaching in their mother-tongue only.

    Shall check out 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', I have another of Truman Capote’s bestsellers 'In Cold Blood' waiting to be read.

  4. Sir, congratulations on your book :-) I'll be sure to buy a copy :-) I have never read the book but I am a big fan of the movie. Audrey Hepburn did a wonderful job as Holly Golightly isn't it??

  5. Congratulations on the publication. If I were in Kolkata, I would have visited you and grabbed a copy for us to read. It is important that such books are written for everyone. Further it is important that school children have access to such books.

    I would wait to read your book and write a review.



  6. Congratulations on the publication!! You are being too modest..I just love the way you write..hope to catch the book soon!!

  7. I would, of course, love to read any book written by you. But, I think I have missed the freebee bus.

    Congratulations on becoming a 'real' writer (as opposed to us 'virtual' writers)!

  8. Santanu,
    The reference to "Learning English" reminded me of what I had read about VK Krishna Menon. His english was impeccable. So, quite naturally an englishman tried paying him a compliment stating "Your english is even better than mine". VKKM was known for being a little more than just "outspoken", if you know what I mean (not that all of us from Calicut are that way!). He replied "Naturally. You speak english because you happen to be born in England. I speak the language because I learnt it"!

    I am sure your book will help make many more VKKMs. Good Luck and Best Wishes.


  9. A big thanks to all of you.

    Damu, you were with me all along the way while I was writing the book. I cannot thank you, KTR, and US enough. I guess this story about VKKM ought to find a place in the next edition of the book. (Looks like another ed. will happen!)

    Sucharita, How can you miss THIS bus? I am going to send you a copy, but it will have to wait. I am in the US for a month. Will be back in the first week of Sept. Pl send your mailing address to santanusc@gmail.com.

    I beg to differ with you on you being a "virtual" writer. Must not write more lest it should look like a mutual appreciation society. But I do hope the people who visit my blog also read your yours. Let them decide.

    Sujata, thanks. I do hope you will get to see the book.

    Tanmoy, I have handed over a copy to Satyadasda. Pl do tell me how you find it.

    Yes, Vaishnavi, I have heard that Audrey Hepburn did a fantastic job in the film. I hope to see the film on video soon.

    Thanks, Rahul for your kind words. I would become a more real writer if I featured in your book reviews! I too am looking forward to reading IN COLD BLOOD, which I believe is based on a real crime story.

    Finally, Manoj, Pl check with your wife in Calicut if the book has reached her. Pl let me know if she hasn't received it.

    Take care, and keep well.

  10. bojho beparta!!! ki soubhagya! ke ekjon dekhchhi amar blog'ta follow korchhen!!! tanr abar boier prothom print run ses...orthat tini abar ekjon celebrity textbook writer hisebe official!! he bhogobaan!!! ke je apnake physics-tysics osob habijabi porte bolechhilo!!!

  11. Thank you, Samya, tomar email id-ta ki?


I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.