Indiblogger sent me an email 3 months back telling me about the IB 2017 awards. I’m a work-in-progress and blog once or twice a month, so I didn’t think I’d have much chance. But when I looked through their site I realized they had many categories.
“If I can find a category with 2-3 entries, maybe…” I said to myself.
I discovered they actually had state-wise categories, and Uttarakhand had only 3 entries. Bingo!
I submitted my entry and crossed my fingers. Then they emailed me again, saying I could nominate my blog for four other categories (with three posts required for each category). This time I thought of three appropriate posts in each category and submitted. But I still had my hopes pinned on Uttarakhand. India is a big country, and Indiblogger has over 25,000 registered blogs. What chance did I have?
This is about the Himalayan blogging and podcasting retreat but it is not an advertisement. I am going to tell my personal experience at my dad’s retreat. OK, where do I start? I should start with the bad things first. I don’t know about the rooms I have not stayed there. As a 10-year-old, I got super bored. The wifi was not good and the light went often.
Now let me tell you about the good things like food and more food and also people. Okay, so food. They have good food and if you’re lucky you might also get a barbecue. I was lucky by the way that’s how I know. If you want to know more about the retreat then go to the writing retreat website at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com. So to tell you about the people – there were 10 people who were attending the retreat. Two hosts – my dad
and Kiruba uncle. He also has a blog. And I liked the guy who wrote about iHeart café. iHeart is my favorite cafe in this area. There was also my boring cousin sister Shruti didi and Manoj uncle who owns the place where the retreat was happening and he does the barbecue.
In the retreat I also committed to a 50-day plan – in 10 days I had to write a blog and that’s what this is.
That’s about it for the blogging and podcasting retreat. I forgot Podcasting was also there but it was boring.
About Anhad Mahajan: Anhad is an animator who has published his own comic book titled “Nature Heroes”. He is in grade five, and is currently recovering from a broken leg. That setback allows him free access to most of the events organized by his parents under the Himalayan Writing Retreat banner.
Kumaon doesn’t have an airport, ergo the Kumaoni Luggage cart doesn’t exist. So how come this topic? Well, Harry Potter doesn’t exist either, so humor me for 380 more words.
In another era as a busy corporate type, I traveled the world a bit. From my travel’s I realized that there is a lot you can learn about a place from its luggage carts. Yes, those boring metal things that float around at airports.
Take Paris – it has the nicest looking luggage carts, except they don’t really work very well. Go to Frankfurt airport – Germany – and you will come across wart-hog ugly carts that look like they were created by battletank designers. But then you see them on an escalator
– yes, on an escalator – and you realize why they are a marvel of design. Load up a German cart with luggage and walk right onto an escalator – up or down doesn’t matter – and the cart easily gets onto the escalator without a single piece of luggage falling off. And then rolls off effortlessly at the other end (This video is from Geneva, but you get the idea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIVvYekG2nQ .) Go to the USA and you will find rather basic luggage carts that carry cheerful messages welcoming you – along with advertising panels selling stuff. And you have to pay to use the cart, of course. Credit cards welcome. Amsterdam has probably the most classy looking snub nosed little carts. Back home in India, our carts don’t move when you push them. Then you realize that you have to press down on the bar. Once the pressure is on we – and the carts – work just fine. Although the occasional squeak is par for the course.
This whole thing got me thinking about what a Kumaoni luggage cart would be like. In my mind’s eye I imagine something rather old world – probably made out of dark wood. The Kumaoni cart isn’t fast, but people would hand you the cart with a smile, and chat with you for a bit in a sing-song pahadi lilt. The cart will have a small flower vase built in with some fragrant flowers. Maybe a little bird-house as well. No cupholder, though. In Kumaon we sit and drink our tea. What’s the rush? The Kumaoni Luggage cart moves at a comfortable, relaxed pace. It would still get you there, but would make you wonder about the point of travelling anywhere else from here.
Yup, that is about how I imagine a Kumaoni luggage cart.
P.s. The guy who wrote this post also hosts and organizes the Himalayan Writing Retreats – mostly in Kumaon. You can learn more at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com.
Moving to the mountains was easy. Figuring out what to do here was harder.
The clichéd “make your hobby your profession” was exciting but also scary. unknown. I love writing. It can be mind-numbing and frustrating. But getting even a fragment right – what Mark Twain calls “a glittering paragraph” or the “luminous flash of a single sentence” can be its own reward.
So in July I got the zany idea to host a writing retreat. The “Himalayan Writing Retreat” sounded so cool. I knew of aspiring authors stuck somewhere along the way. I had been one myself before Bokaro Jail*. I started with no curriculum, no product, no material. But a fabulous venue (a friend’s house) was a great start. I asked my old pal Roy Abraham, a multi-award winning copywriter, for help. The two brains started firing and the product evolved. Roy came up with some brilliant communication, including videos.
On August 15 we hung out the shingle. And village Satoli at 6000 ft welcomed six brave
souls. With one American, one Brit & one Kathmandu resident, and the oldest participant touching seventy, boredom didn’t have a chance.
A forest walk and bonfire were a great warm-up. The next three days were a mix of fun discussions, writing exercises, publishing industry analysis. We ended with committing to a “book writing plan” to get our books going, if not done.
Along the way we laughed a lot : often at irreverent quotes like “Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her (Jane Austen) up and beat her over the skull with her own
shin-bone.” We went for forest walks to meadows and streams. We hung around the fire,
we made new friends. I feel truly enriched with new writing wisdom – as much from the preparation as from the rich discussions with the witty, bright participants. I think I am now a better writer with the discipline to get my book done faster.
The participants echo that. The overall participant feedback score was 3.7 on 4 – cool for a first effort. Many great suggestions from them will benefit future participants.
Well-wishers helped in many different ways. Kiruba Shankar with brilliant advice, Arvindji and Mita Kapur with industry insights. Tim Sebastian helped by pushing the
retreat at the awesome iHeart café, Gagan by clicking great pictures, Annanya by putting up posters, and of course Ashish Arora by providing bread, muffins and free publicity. Topping the list was
Roy for, well, everything. And innumerable friends who spread the word and told potential attendees about the retreat.
The Himalayan Writing Retreat will now grow into a series of events to help writers across genres with many different interests. Specialist facilitators like Mariam Karim Ahlawat (an award winning writer of plays and fiction for Kids and Adults) will enrich it even more. And Dr. Vandita Dubey (a clinical psychologist and published author) will help participants with techniques such as mindfulness to focus better and get more creative insights.
*This blogger was incarcerated in Bokaro jail for a month in 2013 which is when he wrote his first book “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail” which was published by Penguin. Since then he has relocated to the Kumaon Himalayas, and the fun stuff he does besides writing this blog, riding the Himalayas, running marathons and contemplating the universe now also includes hosting the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
It is a pleasant afternoon. We have those often in the Himalayas. I sit down to write.
My wife – a psychologist and mentor – is on the phone coaching a counsellor about something that sounds rather juicy. She notices my attentive eavesdropping and leaves the room. I turn back to writing.
I am short of my daily target of words to finish my novel. Yesterday, the words just flowed. Not today. A Facebook alert pops up on my screen. I stare at the intrusion. A reflective brain thinks but a reflexive finger clicks faster. Almost subconsciously, I am chatting with some obscure acquaintance. I learn that her daughter has colored her hair blue. And she wants a place in the mountains. But with a/c – mainly for her heat sensitive pet. At 6200 ft, I don’t even have fans in my house. I end the chat.
I scroll Fb. Brexit update. So now EU sounds like Ewww? See the cute puppies video. Get the latest Trump news – what’s wrong with America? See Dipa Karmakar’s vault – again. Indian sports history will remember her posterior for posterity. What a touching moment. “Mat finish” says one part of my mind. “No empathy” says another. Sigh! Politics and Religious fundamentalism bait me into pointless rants. Full of wisdom, I resist and shutdown Fb.
Bloody time thief.
Alone, I focus. Still no words.
I think of creative ways to unblock. Vaastu? I turn my chair to face south instead of west south west. The vacuum continues. I put on a hat – maybe that will focus the thoughts. Nah. I put on my full-face motorcycling helmet. Still nothing.
Maybe a cup of tea will help?
I put the electric kettle on. The power fails. “Should’ve picked a village with full power backup.” I chuckle and grumble.
I transfer the water to a pan and set it on the gas stove. Waiting for the water to boil I vacantly look outside. The kids have left a bike out, and it is cloudy. Might rain.
Still helmeted, I step out and move the bike to the store. Our store has two rooms. I have intended to make one into a writing room for a long time, to stay away from the distractions in the house. I look around at the mess and see some books that I was intending to give away. I set the bike down, pick up one of the books and leaf through it. Turning the fourth page I find a royalty cheque of 46 rupees from my first book. It is dated January. Sheesh, what a waste! I wish I was better organized.
Just then Munni – who thinks I am goofy anyway – walks in and asks why an empty pan is on the gas. She sees me in my helmet and runs away. I run after her – but to the kitchen. The steel pan looks like a rainbow on steroids, with colors ranging from rosy pink to burnt black.
I kill the flame, remove the helmet, and step out to find Munni peering at me from behind a tree. Non-chalantly, I ask her to make me some tea. I return to my writing and take a deep breath. Just then the door opens – both my kids are back from school …
(As a full-time writer, I know writing is hard. Starting a book is daunting. Keeping it going even more so. Daunting enough to ignore, avoid, not put on to-do lists. Or only put on to-do lists.
That is why my friend Roy and I are doing the writing retreat. We understand. We hope the retreat will keep you – and us – on track and fill the world with more high-quality books.