Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Of Mr Winter, theatre and discipline

I was leafing through my old Creative Writing book a few nights ago. Those pages are a result of many afternoons spent with Mr Joe Winter in the 11th and 12th. He was a towering man, sixty years old with light-blue eyes and a booming voice. An Englishman who fell in love with Rabindranath Tagore and Jibananda Das. And the word kobi (Bengali for poet). The classes were quiet. He would come in, read to us, or talk about a topic we could write about. We wrote about light. Blindness. Once we wrote about The Cave. Nobody knew what cave we were writing about - it didn't matter. I wrote about a psychiatrist, a professional explorer of the dark cave that is the human mind.
There were afternoons just before exams when nobody would stay back for his classes. It would be him and me. I liked his classes. He encouraged gentleness, he pointed out cliches. He got me up on stage to recite William Blake.
Nobody could ask to leave the class without getting a droll 'Going for a quick smoke, are we? Off with you then.' He would check our writing individually - read out some that needed to be heard. It was like being back in kindergarten where we lined up at the teacher's desk with our exercise books. In many ways, it was what we needed. To show up on time. To write steadily for 45 minutes. To respect silence.
Towards the end of the year, our class performed Harold Pinter's Mountain Language. Pinter isn't about gentleness, and we shocked a lot of our audience, including Mr Winter. There were scenes where a prison guard assaults a young woman. We had full creative control in the play and we made it brutally vivid. There were scenes where an old woman (me) is whipped. We didn't have a whip handy, we used a metal-tipped belt, but it was enough to elicit major gasps from the audience. And leave bruises on my neck and arm after every rehearsal.
I don't think Mr Winter was overtly happy at the direction we had taken. But I liked that he admitted to being shocked. I miss so many things about those two years. I think I was more of a writer as far as discipline and regularity goes back then, than I am now. A lot of what I wrote was sloppy, sappy - I cringed quite a few times while reading.
But I was there. I sat down with paper and pen and got moving. I was a writer.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

This side of 24....

needs a lot of changes. Only I can make.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Look here.