& occasionally about other things, too...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Authors don't retire - 1

Writing books as a new retirement activity
Guest Post by Sharad Bailur

I retired from active service in 2005 after three surgeries to my left eye for retinal detachment. Of my parents, who I had taken care of throughout my professional life, my father died in 2002. His influence on me was both malign and persistent, spread over forty years. The lifting of that heavy burden that was the consequence of his death unfortunately did not sort out matters as well as I would have wished. My mother demanded special attention and a home of her own in which I should live with her rather than in my own home. That was not possible. The matter continued to fester till 2015 when she finally passed away. Both were influences in my life that dragged my potential down for decades.

I have written since as long ago as 1968 when I first did a music concert review for a local English newspaper in Lucknow, as a college student. There were long years of desolation in my life dealing with my personal problems that prevented any useful work when I was working for the State Bank of India. Bank managers don't write articles.

And yet during my four years with the Economic and Statistical Research Department of the State Bank, I managed a first rough outline of a novel that I titled, "Safe Custody". It is yet to see the light of day. This was interspersed with articles on various subjects, some of which found favour with newspapers and magazines. Many of them were on Macro-Economic issues. Some were on scientific developments like Diamond Film, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Some others, that did not find favour, and remain in my files, were on concepts like turning metropolitan sewage especially faecal matter into biogas for use as fuel, and developing what I imagined were "revolutionary concepts" like a wing cross section for an aircraft that saved fuel, and a vertical shaft windmill design that could be put atop skyscrapers to generate electricity. I even dabbled in a medical "discovery", that eventually led to Stanley Prusiner winning a Nobel some years later.

In essence, I have been a restless mind that has not been able to stay the course for want of adequate support.

Then quite by chance a suggestion came to me about writing an article on cloning when the story of Dolly the sheep made world headlines. I wrote the article. I was not satisfied with it. It was too involved and pretended to an understanding of science at a level that did not meet with layman standards. Also, it was too long. This was at a time when I was trapped in that famous cloudburst that hit Bombay some time in 2006. I was stuck in my hilltop home in a small place called Dapoli in Ratnagiri district where the rain is about twice as intense as it is in Bombay. I was under a waterfall that hammered down on my roof for a week.

During that week, I sat down to try out an outline of a novel that brought together two diverse threads. The serious part was about human cloning, because it involved hard science. The more entertaining part was that the cloning involved humans, more specifically a famous actress of the fifties and early sixties – Madhubala. The aim was to make a science fiction story appealing to the masses. This was written specifically to be fiction, unlike my first attempt "Safe Custody" which is a sort of "Alternative History" of a political kind.

My biggest difficulty, it turned out, was with the writing of dialogue. I was no good at it. It has taken me years of practising the art of dialogue writing and to this day I am not confident about being realistic enough when I write it. For almost ten years after I wrote that first novel, I could find no publisher for it. Even ten years later in 2017 there was no constructive suggestion about how I should go about getting my novel published.

Sharad Bailur with Mayank Bhatt at the
latter's home in Toronto

Continued in the post below

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