Who is common to writing rooms of well-known authors? Lord Ganesh (Literary Feature - Part II)
(5 months ago)
Just a few steps away from the busy Lodhi Road and its loud cacophony of car horns is a beautiful room that transports one to an overwhelming old-world-era amid the concrete jungle of the national capital. This is the room where Shashi Tharoor sits down to write.
The room is well-lit and as you look out of the glass wall to the right of his desk, the splendid view of a garden sparkling in the afternoon sunshine is rejuvenating.
"I am very fond of sunshine -- and also very blessed as it is hardly possible to find such a green view in urban India. So I like keeping the curtains open; it is rarely that I draw them. Not that I am looking out all the time and getting distracted, but I am aware it is there; if I look up it is there and it is a nice feeling," Tharoor had told this correspondent earlier.
One of the first things that catches attention is the lovely collection of Hindu god Ganesha that Tharoor has elegantly displayed in his writing room. He notes that Ganesha was the scribe of Ved Vyasa. "I associate him with words. That is a very important connection. The first and foremost reason is that Ganeshji is a divine scribe and so he is an inspiration for all writers," he said. These are just one-third of his collection and a larger lot is in his bedroom.
His desk is fairly functional -- the screen and the keyboard are where he is focused -- pens, scissors, highlighters and others within touching distance. He occasionally likes to sign with an ink pen and so ink bottles are also with reach. His phone is within striking distance so that he can respond to urgent calls. In a drawer on his right he has different kinds of supari (areca nut) and other stuff to occasionally nibble on. He confessed that he consumes a lot of supari.
And then there are three very special things -- a Nataraja, presented to him by a foreign friend, claiming that it was actually from the ruins of Mohenjo Daro; a little Hanuman for strength; and four little musical Ganeshas playing an orchestra. So there is a tambourine, a tabla and a mridangam. They are all sitting on a leaf and the big Ganesha is sitting on them all playing music, "symbolic of the music of the words that I hope to be writing".
Popular writer Ashwin Sanghi has created an almost similar ambience in Mumbai, the place where he writes most often. It is at the basement level and is accessed via a staircase. As a result, it remains relatively disconnected from the rest of his home. "I prefer it that way," says Sanghi because his desk remains uncluttered. A MacBook Pro with a keyboard occupies one side of the desk while the wall behind him contains books and reference material.
On his desk again is a small portrait of Ganesha -- depicted as sitting at his desk and writing. In addition, there is a picture of Hanuman, the deity who, in his own words, gives him strength to persevere. A small set of Lakshmi and Saraswati idols are also there to remind him of the need for balance between wealth and learning, perseverance and passion.
"I use my study between 5 am and 9 am for writing and between 6 pm and 9 pm for reading and researching. You will also see a small black box on the desk. It's a box of cigars. One of those will get lit during the evening hours while I'm reading. Sometimes the cigar is accompanied by a peg of whisky from a bottle that is tucked away in the side cabinet," he said.
The rest of the room is bare except for a couch and an easy chair that is also equipped with a foldaway table. A coffee machine is tucked away on one side of the sofa to help him along during the wee hours of the morning.
Another leading writer whose writing room evokes curiosity is Amish Tripathi, the creator of "The Shiva Trilogy" and now the "Ram Chandra Series". He resigned from his job in 2011, "when his royalty check became more than his salary" and this was the first time in his working career that he did not have an office to go to and had to work from home.
What he did was to convert one of the rooms in his house into a study-cum-personal office. This room has lovely sweeping views of the sea (and the Bandra-Worli Sealink). His wife redesigned the room to include book cases to store his large library. A wooden floor was installed. A specially-designed desk was custom-built which directly faces the window, affording him an inspiring sea/bridge view. An ergonomically designed chair was purchased to support his weak back. (Amish had suffered a slip disc around 10 years ago.) His work area has a soft board where he puts up pictures of his family and messages from them, along with prosaic stuff like 'To Do' lists. His son regularly makes new and inspiring messages for the writer to put up on this soft board. Tripathi then filled the desk and board area with idols and pictures of Lord Shiva and his family.
"We commissioned a painter-couple we know to create a large painting of Lord Shiva playing with his son Lord Ganesh. I absolutely love the painting for it shows the deep bond of love between father and son. This was put up on the main wall of the study-cum-office. It is an inspiring place. And I find that creative juices flow well here," said Tripathi.
There may be no real connections between the fictional worlds that these three leading contemporary Indian writers have created but one connecting factor, perhaps inspiration, for each of them is Lord Ganesha, whose paintings or statues adorn each of their writing sanctums.
(This is part 2 of a two-part story on writers. Saket Suman can be contacted at email@example.com)