33rd day of 30 days of writing challenge

Commentary on the 30 days of writing everyday challenge that I took in Nov 2020. I reflect on the experience and I talk about what next for me.

Time flies. And how.

I did not realize when these 30 days that I was supposed to write for every day got over. I started on the 30th of Oct and published 23 posts (including this over) over the last 33 days.

Like most projects, the first few days were exciting. The next few, drab. And the last few, a pain. As I end this project today, it’s time to reflect, catalog some thoughts, gather some ideas and move on.

Here we go.

The Project

I’ve always known the importance of writing well. And one of the key components of writing well is to write often. It is exactly like building muscle, running, or meditation. You cant reap benefits if you do 24-hour sprints. You have to do it every day. Slowly, deliberately and with intention. As Will Smith calls it, brick by brick.

The idea of this project was to develop a deliberate, regular writing habit. Stack them bricks. On that count, I think I did ok. That was the primary benefit I was seeking. So, Check!

The secondary benefit I wanted was to get active on this domain (saurabhgarg.com). I have my content scattered all over the internet and if I were to point people at one direction, I don’t think I’d be able to. Plus, increasingly, our personal brands are getting more and more important and thus it was imperative to create a homepage for self. I am not sure if I’ve met that objective. So, half-check.

Finally, I wanted people to read what I write, send me feedback, and help me get better. Even though I wrote a lot, I haven’t been able to get that. So, fail.

While I can end the post here, I do want to take the opportunity to talk more about the project and a few things that I am taking away.

A. On Writing

I have been writing and publishing my thoughts online since 2004 (on my personal blog) and it has helped me in numerous ways. I have made friends. I have learned new things. It lead me to a book! It has allowed me to expand my world. It has opened new work opportunities.

However, it has remained a mere hobby that I have been damn serious about. Also, I think writing keeps me sane. Writing allows me to feel that I have someone to talk to (#foreverAlone). It gives me that voice that I think is getting heard by someone, even strangers, in this world full of cacophony. Even if no one is responding to what I write. I write for the sake of writing. And then everything else (connections, lessons, opportunities, etc) is like a cherry on the cake. You know what would be the icing on top of the cherry on top of the cake? Ability to make a sustainable and lavish living with what I write! In fact, I’ve thought often about pivoting to becoming a full-time writer but it has remained a thought at best.

Three reasons.

  1. I am harsh af on myself. And I know it. To a point that I am critical. If I were my own mentor, I would have broken down. That bad. And that means even if I write a line that I think is as good as the worst that Bukowski wrote, I would consider mine as pathetic. So I am not sure if I can deliver. And thus, I am not active about seeking writing opportunities.
  2. I am not consistent. I have these bursts of creativity where I am freakishly productive and I can push out a tome in minutes. Words flow like tears flow in saas-bahu serials. Ideas are aplenty. Fingers fly on the keyboard to a point of producing literal sparks. And then there are days, even weeks when I just want to disappear under a rajai and not come out. Everything looks dreary. Dark clouds don’t seem to dispel. I think most artists suffer from such bouts and fluctuations (taking the liberty of comparing myself to an artist). And I don’t know a solution. The only advice I give myself at such moments is that old adage from Fitzgerald I think – live a rich life when not writing and retreat into a boring world when you write about that rich life.
  3. I never had the luxury to take long breaks to write. I’ve had to run my house. Luckily I do not have a lot of responsibilities but I do not have a freewheeling life either. Writing, thus, has always been the second or even third thing I’d do. Even these 30 days that I wrote, I would steal time after the day’s chores were done. PS: The lockdown did give me an opportunity to write. And I tried to be honest. But I could not sustain. I have nothing to blame but my laziness. So that.

While I know of these three issues and trust me when I say this, I have tried to fix these, I haven’t been able to. If you know of a way out, please do let me know.

Oh, I must mention that I believe writing can help me reach one of my #sgLifeGoals of impacting a billion lives. And this also fuels the on and off seriousness about writing. Every time I slack, I pick it up thinking writing is my shot at changing the world.

B. Traffic / Quality of writing

Like I said I have not been able to grow my audience, lemme talk more about it.

The dismal traffic on the website, despite my attempts at marketing it, tells me that either people are not keen on reading what I write or I am lousy at marketing. Lemme give numbers.

As of writing this, I have had 158 unique visitors and 600 odd page views to the website (as per Google Search console). One of these 158 is me. The second is Arti (I’ll talk about her towards the end of this post). And then there are 156 other people. And if I were to do simple maths, on simple average, it translates into 5 new users per post and 4 page views per reader. That means even the ones that read a post or two do not come back. So, dismal.

Lemme decode this.

Of course, I don’t want to be harsh on myself and I believe I am good at marketing. So, it has to be the quality of content.

This means that if I want to make a living off what I write, I need to get better. This also means that if writing has to be the tool that I use to make an impact in the world, I am failing at it. And bad. And I need to get better. And I do the word required. I read advice on writing. I practice it often enough (guess need to be more “often” with it). I follow other writers that are as widely read as the ones that wrote Geeta, Bible et al. I feel I am fairly deep with my ideas and I can explain those well to even a six-year-old. I write from the heart and I am probably as authentic as Corona beer is. I even publish often and I try to market what I write!

But, it’s not happening. I am not reaching more people. I am not expanding my world. Maybe I am in the second year of the 10-12 years it takes to be an overnight success? Maybe I am in the ninth. Who knows.

Or maybe, just maybe, Google is wrong?

C. Write AND publish thrice a week (and not daily)

Howsoever hard I may try, with all the things I do, I realized it’s impossible for me to write every day. But did manage 23 posts in 33 days. This tells me that I can definitely pull off writing every alternate day.

So when I start the next series of posts, I would aim for a 3-times-a-week cadence. I would try to better it but the thrice a week would be the bare minimum I’d want.

Oh, when I say write thrice a week, I mean I would publish thrice a week. I AM, I WAS and I WILL write every day. It could be a tiny scribble that gets lost in between the pages of notepads or it could be 2000-word posts. But I write every day. It’s the publishing that I am talking about here.

D. Acknowledgments

Oh, I can not end this post without thanking Arti. One, for painstakingly checking each post for typos. I don’t think in all the posts that I wrote, there was even one where she did not find a typo. She’s got that keen an eye. Second, the days that I did not send her the draft, she would pester me to write. Often there have been days when I wrote just because I did not want to disappoint her. I need more Artis in my life. Three, she did all this without expecting any remuneration or credits. I am not sure such selfless, such good people exist.

So yeah, thanks, Arti!

You’re awesome. The world needs more people like you. Dare you to find a typo in this one!

Other people that I have to mention here are Prakruti, Pradeep, and Suresh. For being the bouncing boards and constant encouragement nagging!

Honorary mention to the entire LFW Gang for reading and feedback.


And with that, its over and out from this one. I will be back with the next project soon. Till then, do let me know how I can improve my work. And do follow me on Twitter 😀

Over and out!

Review – Durgamati (2020)

A short review of an upcoming Amazon Prime film, Durgamati. The film starring Bhoomi Pednekar in the lead role is set to release on the 11th of Dec.

I normally don’t do pop-culture-y time-bound things but over at TheRedSparrow.in (one of the things I helped start), they were talking about the upcoming film Durgamati and thus I got curious and I went ahead to write it. This is a new thing. Lemme know what you think.

Every big-budget film demands the writer to pen a plotline that is so convoluted that you need a Sherlock to unravel it. And yet you want it to be so mass-y that even a 6-year-old relates to it. After all, big monies come to the producers when the film does well in the multiplexes and the single-screen cinemas. I suspect that is what the writer-director Ashok was attempting with Durgamati as he remakes his super hit Telugu movie, Bhaagamathie (2018) in Hindi. 

The story of Durgamati

The story is of two political rivals that are at loggerheads over pretty much everything. The one in power wants to pin the blame on the one competing against him (Ishwar Prasad, played by Arshad Warsi). Since he has the judicial and political machinery working for him, it is easy. So Rawat (played by Jishnu Sengupta) and Mahie Gill (her character’s name is not clear in the trailer) plot against Prasad. They try to manipulate Chanchal Chauhan (played by Bhoomi Pednekar), an old accomplice of Prasad, into conspiring against him. Chanchan is in prison because she was caught murdering a man in broad daylight.  

They put her in the holding at the Durgamati Haveli, which is apparently haunted. Mahie Gill coerces Chanchan by offering her freedom if she agrees to rat against Ishwar. Chanchan of course refuses. 

And thus starts the story of Durgamati. And the Haveli. And the film. 

What works for me? What does not?

What stands out for me, even though I first saw the trailer on the tiny screen of an iPhone X is the lavish, grand sets and impeccable CG. The cinematography by Kuldeep Mamania is brilliant. Mamania was a camera person in the critical and commercial hit Tumbaad (2018) as well. Even though the standards of visuals (a marriage of art direction, costumes, camera, and of course direction) in India have been raised to the Hollywood-ish levels in recent years, this one is still among the best I’ve seen. The shots look grand, crisp, and make me want to actually navigate the Durgamati Haveli in real life! 

I have to give a special mention to the art direction. The details are, well, detailed! I mean look at this shot. What do you think those windows at the back look like to you? 

Screengrab from the trailer of Durgamati.

As a big fan of Mahie Gill’s work in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011), Dev D (2009), and Gulaal (2009), I expected a lot more from her. She looks unconvincing as a cop. I do hope that in the film she is more powerful. 

Arshad Warsi, again, to me looks unconvincing as a politician. I half expect him to break into a joke with every line he delivers.

Bhoomi Pednekar as the lead has done a decent job with the acting. When I see getting dragged for the interrogation, I see her plight. When she becomes the all-powerful Durgamati, I feel her power. However, the couple of dialogues that she has in the trailer, they lack any punch.

Also, for some reason, while I was watching it, I could not stop drawing comparisons with Vidya Balan in Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2017), which itself was a remake of a Malayalam film. The mood, the costumes, the music, the frames reminded me of the film that was released 13 years ago. But then maybe it’s just me – an old, self-confessed discerning cinephile. 

I am told that the Telugu film was a phenomenon! However, I have not seen the Telugu film and thus can’t really draw parallels. What I do know is that as a standalone piece of work, I may not be too keen to watch Durgamati in the cinemas even though it promises to be a cinematic treat.

But hey, there are no cinemas and with it streaming on Amazon Prime, I might as well! 

What do you think of the trailer? 

PS: Like with all reviews that I post, I wish to draw your attention to this speech by Anton Ego.


This is part of 30 minutes of writing everyday challenge. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311, 0411, 0511, 0611, 0911, 1011, 1211, 1311, 1411, 1511, 1611, 1711, 1811, 1911, 2011, 2311, 2611.

Coming of Age

Back after 2 days. I read somewhere that when you are trying to build a habit, it’s cool to miss things for a day once in a while. The odds of you coming back are about 70%. If you however miss what you are doing two days in a row, the odds of you picking it up again drops down to low double digits. And if you miss three days in a row, the odds are less than 5% that you would pick the habit again. So, here I am. Not missing the third day.

When I say “Coming of Age”, I do not mean Bildungsroman (the German word that doesn’t really have an equivalent in other languages, but is applied to a young adult and means something like growing up). The word merits an entire book to be honest. May be at some other time. Today I want to talk about some other coming of age.

The coming of old age.

A rant about how age is creeping up on me and rendering me useless to function in the society that I need to be young and fast to operate in.

Once upon a time…

I remember there was a time when I could pull all-nighters for like 3 days nights on the trot. Without any fancy coffee, tea. May be I’d have a Red Bull but I don’t think I had the money those days to buy Red Bull. That’s not the point. The point is that I could stay awake for more than 3 days and yet no bat an eyelid. And function at more than my optimal. I was like Popeye with Spinach running through his veins, a car on Nitro boost, Bradley Cooper on NZT-48 in Limitless.

To a point that people would ask me if I was ODing and abusing substances.

However…

With time, I have seen this ability to stay up gradually diminish.

From uncountable streaks of these three-day don’t-sleep and crank-out-things fests to now a time when I cant get by even if I stay up beyond 8 PM. Take yesterday for an example. It sucks that age is creeping up on me like that.

Source: pa3kc on DeviantArt

Mind you, this ability did not go poof like that one fine day. It crept away from me. Like you know you have this house (imagine Carl and Ellie’s house in Up) tied to a million Helium air balloons. And as it goes up, the balloons start popping out and the house can no longer continue going up. In fact, the weight in the house starts to drag it back.

That is how I feel!

With each passing day the body seems to be weathering more and more and the ability to recover seems to be reducing more and more.

In the end…

As I write this, it’s 4:06 PM. I have just woken after an afternoon siesta. I did not really want to sleep in the afternoon. I just could not continue to stay up because I had to pull an all-nighter for a project that I was working on.

I need to go stretch my rickety old back and lie down on a hard surface till I feel like a human again.

That’s about it. That’s the post.

Oh, and, FUCK YOU, OLD AGE!


This is part of 30 minutes of writing everyday challenge. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311, 0411, 0511, 0611, 0911, 1011, 1211, 1311, 1411, 1511, 1611, 1711, 1811, 1911, 2011, 2311.

The Small Space Situation

I was talking to my sis yesterday about something and an epiphany happened. I realized that the reason I don’t like to be in Delhi is, because I don’t have enough space here.

Lemme elaborate.

In terms of actual physical space, the house (the only home I’ve ever known) is spacious by all means, even lavish if I were to compare it to the Mumbai houses I’ve lived in. Plus since this home was built by my parents one thing at a time (they are from a time where you waited years before you could add another thing to your home; unlike our and the next generation where you just flash your plastic and you get free shipping), the house is full of utilitarian things that you would find in any house that’s been, well, well-lived (compared to the almost spartan houses that I am used to living in when I am in Mumbai). You name a thing and we have it at home. And it’s all hidden from plain sight. You ask your parents for the most obscure of things and it magically appears from one of the drawers or cabinets or shelves! I am sure they’ve hidden some airplane somewhere in one of those spaces that are inside those double-beds. Ah, the beds here are at least 6′ x 6′, unlike the beds in Mumbai that are smaller than the suitcase I carry when I travel abroad.

The thing that is lacking here is personal space. We live in a decent-sized house and there’s just my parents and I and while they are very very supportive and understanding and caring, they are like me.

Wait! They are not like me. I am like them! Sorry, ma, pa.

So, I am like them and just like them, I need a lot of personal space to even breathe. And since there are three of us that need large personal space, we often find ourselves jostling for it!

However, when I am in Mumbai, I am by myself and even though the houses are like cubbyholes, there’s nothing alive that can potentially encroach upon my personal space. I can play whatever music I want to at whatever volume I fancy. I can keep it as dirty as my laziness permits. Or as spic and span as my old age wants. I could have the walls bare. Or I could paint it with sticky notes where I scribble about my dreams and ideas and aspirations and thoughts and inspirations and so on and so forth.

Plus, when am in Delhi, there is a limit to what I can do (things like going out and coming back at a whim). My parents don’t really mind me doing anything, to be honest, but for some reason, I don’t want to do things that I feel will even remotely bring them inconvenience. And thus, I put shackles on how I live when I am here. And I reduce my space even more. In Mumbai, well, the only person that I have to look after, think about, is me! And that means I do things that minimize the grief that I need to go through. And since I am thinking about just myself, it’s simpler, easier, and faster.

So yeah. That. Personal Space. Or the lack thereof.

The solution?

Make enough money to be able to create an Antilla. Or maybe get an entire Island. And if not even that, live alone!

Over and out.


This is part of 30 minutes of writing everyday challenge. Missed the post yesterday. Back to writing today. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311, 0411, 0511, 0611, 0911, 1011, 1211, 1311, 1411, 1511, 1611, 1711, 1811, 1911, 2011, 2111.

Tales of Troubles with Technology

Super ranty post ahead. Read at peril.

I missed the post yesterday. No, I did not have anything specific to write about. That’s a problem that’s solved easily – I now have a couple of friends that give me prompts. The larger challenge was that I broke the screen of the laptop that I use. And even when I tried to connect it to a television to try and get some work done, I could simply do nothing on it! More than the post, I missed a couple of deadlines and that is a larger problem IMHO.

Yes, 2020 is being a bitch. Like it is being to everyone.

In my case, I think I am the favorite child. I broke my iPhone screen the day the lockdown was announced. I had to wait for a few weeks before things could move and I could get the phone repaired after a few weeks. And then, I broke it again. I am sick and tired of dropping it so many times. I am not even trying to get it repaired anymore.

Coming to the laptop.

The laptop snafu is not new either. First, the laptop charger stopped working. I don’t know why or how. May be it was too old? I have had this charger for almost 5 years now. So, I had to get a replacement charger. Then, after a few days, the motherboard crashed. Again, I had to get it repaired. And each of these took time. I mean, you order a charger from the nearest store. It comes after a day or two. Repair normally takes anywhere between 1-3 days, after you identify a reliable person that would not fuck with your data.

And yesterday, in Delhi, the screen broke. Here… this is how it looked like. The blurs on the edges are to hide the embarrassing filenames I have for my work. The wallpaper is of Steve. In case.

The broken screen. Sigh.

I did get it repaired today. But not before I lost face with two clients and the two deadlines that I had. And I will have to work extra hard over the next 24 hours to first deliver on the work I had promised to deliver yesterday. And then catch-up on what was planned for Sunday (and was to be delivered on Monday).

Damn!

No, not the work. I am ok with work. I actually would not know what to do if I could not work. The shitty part is losing face. I can not afford to lose it!

I think I need to go get checked for the saadhe saati of Shani or something. There is no way it is not upon me. I mean can not think of anyone that’s been having so much trouble with simple things like computers and all. Plus, these devices are all Apple and that means they are WAY too expensive to either replace. Or even get repaired.

It’s so mind-fuckery-inducing that you are left laughing! Universe, get your fucking act together, bro!

And with that, it’s over and out for the night. Have a lot to do.


This is part of 30 minutes of writing everyday challenge. I missed yesterday’s post. Others in the series are at 3010, 3110, 0111, 0211, 0311, 0411, 0511, 0611, 0911, 1011, 1211, 1311, 1411, 1511, 1611, 1711, 1811, 1911.