A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG #7.

            THE STRUCTURE OF A NARRATIVE.

       In the previous blog, I had discussed my experience in developing characters during the unfolding of the novel. A novelist is required to provide direct and indirect clues which would give the impression of a  character’s growth as the plot of a novel unfolds. In this blog, I would discuss the problem that a novelist faces while creating a plot.

       Normally, a reader would prefer to read a novel which is told in a linear style. In other words, a novel must have a beginning , an end and the narration of what happened between the beginning and the end in the same sequence as it must have happened. However, very often, a novelist would prefer to begin a novel somewhere from the middle of the plot and keep going back and forth in the plot. The technique of flashback is sometimes necessary because it helps a novelist to begin the novel at a point with which the readers can identify themselves. Therefore, flashback, in such a scenario, enables a novelist to develop a context why the readers could identify themselves with the protagonist. Once the context of this identification is established, it becomes easier for a novelist to move the plot in the forward direction. Thus, the technique of flashback helps a novelist to begin the narrative from the middle of the plot which is contemporary and easily identifiable by lay readers. The flashback then provides a novelist with a tool to depict the past of the protagonist. Since the readers have already identified themselves with the protagonist by then, the revealing of the past takes readers to their own past, thereby providing an opportunity for catharsis.

        In my both novels, I have used this technique. In my first novel, THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES the novel begins when the protagonist, Manas Desai, is hospitalized after his nervous breakdown. I thought, at that time, that this is a good starting point because Manas Desai was in a most vulnerable state and therefore he was easy to be identified with. Secondly, since he was trying to recollect his own past, the very process of recollection could become the narrative. Of course, due to his nervous breakdown, Manas’s recollection was fractured and that created a surreal narrative.

      In my second novel THE HUMAN PILGRIMAGE, the protagonist Gautum Parikh, begins writing his own life story when he finds himself overwhelmed by the irrational things happening in his life. I felt that this situation, wherein we find ourselves unable to cope with circumstances of our lives, is a universal situation. Almost all of us have felt that way, sometime or the other, in our lives. This vulnerability, I thought at that time, to be a good starting point because the readers would find it easier to identify with such a vulnerable protagonist. The unfolding of the protagonist’s past, in this novel, provides the context in which readers would find out why  their own  identification with the protagonist was justified. Of course, in this novel, things happen even while Gautum Parikh is writing about his life and these events provide a meaning to him about what life is.

      In my first novel, the plot was unfolded twenty years after it happened. In my second novel, the story begins and ends in the present times. It begins and ends in the year 2016. Therefore, I am wondering how to structure the plot of my third novel.

          I have decided that in this novel, I would not use flashback to take readers to the past. Instead, I would keep the plot restricted to a small period of time. I am planning to tell the readers about what happened to the protagonist, a software consultant in the last  three years.  His past would be narrated only through the references and allusions. Since this novel is a third person narrative, the protagonist would not be able to narrate his past. Therefore, he would recollect his past in the context of things happening to him in these three years. Therefore, the novel would begin in the year 2014 and end in the year 2017. The protagonist’s past would be revealed to the readers only through the reminiscences of the protagonist in the context of what is happening to him.

        This arrangement creates a rather complex narrative, and I am looking forward to it as a challenge. The reason why I have chosen this style of narrative is that it is my belief that, in real life, we don’t recollect our own pasts in a linear fashion. What actually happens is that every new event in our lives connects us to some incidents that we had experienced in the past. Thus, we live a complex life in which our past surfaces in our minds at every instance of our present moments. Moreover, since every moment of our lives triggers different and sometimes unrelated memories of our past, we spend lot of energy in making sense out of this haphazard experiences of living moment by moment and trying to cope with random memories that these moments trigger.

        This is where the significance of fiction lies. It helps us to learn how to create a simple narrative from our haphazard lives and make sense out of it. Therefore, writing and reading fiction is a therapeutic. It helps us to understand what life is.

        Having tried magical realism in past two novels, I am planning to write my next novel using realism. I am convinced that realism is as magical, if not more magical than the fantasy. I am also convinced that it doesn’t matter what the life really is. What matters to me, and it is a matter of faith for me, is that a human mind is capable of infusing meaning into the life. The life may be haphazard or absurd and the meaning that we infuse into such a life may be subjective, but it doesn’t matter. This is because this  subjective meaning of otherwise absurd life is what keeps us alive. Without it, we would not be able to live.

         In my next blog , I would discuss more practical aspects of being a novelist. I would discuss my problems with finding a right audience of a novel. 

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MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #30.

DOES AN END OF A NOVEL ALSO GIVE A NOVELIST AN EMOTIONAL CLOSURE ?

        In my previous blog , I had discussed the process of ending a novel. I had suggested that a climax and a twist in that climax are necessities. I had suggested that a novelist is bound to attempt to create a climax even when she/he knows that it is a difficult , if not an impossible task. In my last few blogs , I had described the structural and thematic compulsions for creating a climax in the narrative. While ending a novel is something that is preordained , it does not imply that a novelist is comfortable ending   a novel. Therefore , in this blog , I would discuss emotional problems that a novelist may feel while completing a novel.

        From a novelist point of view , this situation is poignant because she/he is torn between two conflicting emotions. On one hand , a novelist wants to end the novel because she/he wants to experience an emotional closure. On the other hand , a novelist doesn’t want to end a novel because , over a period of time , she /he has found a sense of identity with that novel and therefore would like the novel to go on. Therefore , in this blog , I would discuss my own experience while closing my two novels.

           The conflicting emotions that I mentioned above arises from the ambivalence that a novelist experiences towards the novel under preparation. On one hand , a novelist is observing the characters from outside. On the other hand , part of her/his own self gets indirectly reflected in these characters. It is this duality of frames of being an observer and a participant that gives rise to the conflicting emotions mentioned above. I recollect that when I began writing my first novel , I was hopeful of analysing my own creative instinct while writing that novel. As that novel progressed , I realized that the process of creative writing is far more complex than I had anticipated. Finding myself unequal to the task , I decided to focus on writing the novel. However , insights into my own creativity would surface in my mind now and again.

      As my first novel approached its climax , I experienced this duality of the frames for the first time. I was determined that I would not experience emotional closure as a novelist through the emotional closure of the protagonist. I wanted to arrive at my emotional closure through the plot itself. Since my first novel had two climaxes , one structural and one thematic  , it was easier for me to experience my emotional closure when the plot ended with the nervous breakdown of the protagonist. As a novelist , I felt satisfied that three different threads in the narrative converged into the climax. This convergence of three different threads required a creativity which I didn’t know I had. Therefore , when I could manage to bring about the convergence , I felt cathartic and cleansed as a novelist. Later on , when the protagonist found his own emotional closure by finding a new meaning of his life , I achieved my own emotional closure.

       In my second novel , I am nearing the end of the narrative. This time , I am trying to have a single climax having a structural momentum and a thematic depth. As I have mentioned in my previous blog , I wish to achieve this by introducing a twist in the climax. Therefore , my challenge is to make sure that the twist is already present in the backdrop of the novel but in a different context. Moreover , I want to surprise the protagonist and the readers as well. Therefore , I want to achieve my emotional closure as a novelist through the fine tuning of the twist in  such a way that it brings out tragedy of human life. This tragedy consists of our ability to delude ourselves with convenient explanations. The human mind is clever, but not clever enough to see through its own deception. The tragedy of human life is that our mind uses deception to make our life bearable , but in the process , our mind is itself deceived.

           There is another aspect of closure from the novelist’s point of view. It refers to the novelist’s own transformation during and after the writing of a novel. While ending a novel , a novelist may achieve an emotional closure , but that novel remains embedded in the novelist’s psyche. The true closure for a novelist happens when the plot , the characters and the theme of the completed novel are dissolved into the novelist’s subconscious mind. This process of dissolution takes a very long time. For instance , the details of my first novel and its narrative construction is very much present in my psyche. Of course , it helps me because every time I find an echo of my first novel in the second novel , I stop and make a conscious effort of not repeating myself. However , it does indicate that I have not achieved a complete closure in case of my first novel. While I make conscious effort of not repeating myself , I realize that , at a fundamental level , there is continuity between my two novels. This perhaps represent my inner self. In that sense , I don’t think a novelist can ever achieve complete emotional closure while ending a novel. That novel remains in the novelist’s sensibility forever. This continuity is inevitable because life itself goes on forever without achieving any such closure.

            In my next blog  , I would discuss why a novelist is inclined to continue writing novels. The question that bothers me is that is there any point in a novelist’s life , when She /he feels that she/he has nothing new to offer and therefore must stop writing novels ? Frankly speaking , I can’t think of myself ever reaching that saturation point. However , I want explore the motives and motivations of a novelist that prompts her/him to begin again. I would discuss these issues in my next blog. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #25.

THE ROLE OF BELIEF IN WRITING FICTION.

      In my previous blog , I had discussed the difficulty in creating two different avatars of a character being reborn. I had suggested that changes in the society in the interim would shape these different avatars differently. While some of the emotions would remain unchanged , some emotions , or at least their expressions , would change with the passage of time. The most visible source of these changes would be the technological advances. I had described in my previous blog how the current incarnation would have a different way of expressing her emotions. In this blog , I would focus on different aspects of emotions. Our emotional universe  defines the kind of beliefs that we have. This is the basic premise of characterization in fiction writing. However , in this blog , I would invert this paradigm and look at the role of a novelist’s own  beliefs in creating characters. If it is true that our emotions decide and define the kind of beliefs we have , then it must be true in case of a novelist also. The problem with this reasoning is that if the characters created by a novelist were to have different kinds of beliefs , then the novelist can not herself /himself have mutually contradictory beliefs of these characters. More importantly, what if the novelist’s own beliefs were to be contradictory to the beliefs of one of the characters present in the novel. This is the  point that I want to delve on in this blog. The question  is whether a novelist ought to share same set of beliefs that the characters in her/his novel have ?

     Let me begin with my own experience while writing my second novel. I am basically a rationalist leaning towards agnosticism. For instance , I don’t insist that science and logic can explain everything in this world. At the same time , I do not believe that the things that logic can’t explain are proof of divinity. I think that we , collectively as a species ,  are still learning about what the universe is really like. Therefore , when I decided to write a novel based on the theme of reincarnation , I was doubtful whether I would be able to do justice to the idea of reincarnation. I was afraid that my own rationalist upbringing would not allow me to appreciate the reasons why we believe in the idea of reincarnation. I was afraid that the intellectual arrogance that comes so easily to us , the educated Indians , would make me dismissive of this idea. I was torn between my own rationality and my respect for the collective wisdom of our culture. However , I knew in my heart that the correct approach is to use fiction as a way deconstructing not only our cultural ethos , but also my own internal contradictions. That is why I created a protagonist who at some level believes in the idea of reincarnation and yet , somewhere deep within himself , doubts this idea of reincarnation.

       Actually , I thought that this was very clever strategy. However, as the novel progressed , I realized the reason why everyone believes in reincarnation is not based on logic but on their emotions. The belief in the idea of reincarnation arises because our emotions dictate that we do. At the same time , I realized that just because we believe in the idea of reincarnation due to our emotional compulsions, does not imply that the idea of reincarnation is wrong. At that point , I rediscovered the fundamental nature of ourselves that has been known to some of our greatest novelists. It is fundamentally true that we , human beings , live our lives in trying to make sense of our own emotions. We don’t live for or live by reason. We live for and live by our emotions. Just because our emotions influence our reasoning and just because our emotions are hidden from our conscious self  that we make a mistake of looking for reasons of our beliefs rather than understanding the emotions that give rise to our beliefs.

       Therefore , a novelist’s job is not to justify beliefs, either her/his own or those of the characters in the novel. A novelist’s primary role is to describe the journey of the characters present in her/his novel from the emotional turmoil to the emotional resolution. It is possible that the characters in some cases would reach wrong conclusions in their lives and that too by a wrong reasoning. A novelist is not required to justify her/his  characters. A novelist is responsible for portraying the emotional journey of the characters as faithfully as possible. If , in the process , the contradictions were to surface in these characters , then it is inherently tragic. But then again, the life is tragic whether we like it or not. The tragedy of life is not because we eventually realize our own emotional contradictions , but it is tragic because we conjure up some convenient explanations for these contradictions

    The question that I have not resolved , so far in my novel , is how would the protagonist eventually reconcile his own belief and disbelief in the possibility that his girlfriend has come back to him in her next incarnation. Of course , I would write about it, when I finish my novel.

         In my next blog , I would discuss another aspect of my second novel. I would describe my own difficulties in trying to understand and give expressions to the mentality of younger generation. I have mentioned earlier that the protagonist suspects that his dead girl friend has come back in his life in her next birth. As a novelist, my main concern was how to create contemporary expressions for that character. In my next blog , I would describe my problems with idiomatic expressions of modern life. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #19.

CAN MALE WRITERS CREATE AUTHENTIC  FEMALE CHARACTERS IN FICTION  ?

              In all my previous blogs ,  I have tried to discuss the details of creative processes that are responsible for producing a work of fiction. I have tried to analyze subconscious compulsions that drive a novelist in chiselling out a final version of a novel. I have also discussed how these subconscious compulsions of a novelist are the products of the society that a novelist lives in. Thus , any novel provides a window to understand what is happening inside the mind of a novelist and therefore inside the collective psyche of the society to which that novelist belongs. However , in all these previous blogs there was an impersonal frame of reference.  It is true that , in all these blogs , I did refer to my own creative compulsions and the ethos of the society that I am living in.  However, in all these blogs , Vaachakmitra as a writer was being analysed. Today  , I am going to discuss a topic wherein I would try to analyze Vaachakmitra as an individual. In that sense  , this blog is more personal than all my previous blogs. However , I would like to keep the tone of the discussion at the academic level.  Of course , I would discuss this aspect of my personal side in the context of my forthcoming novel.

            Today , I would discuss a gender aspect of creative writing. Admittedly  , the gender issue is a very sensitive issue. I would try to keep in mind the strong emotions that this issue normally evokes.  Therefore , I would try to be transparent without being offensive. The topic of this blog is ‘ Can male novelists create authentic  female characters ? ‘  Of course  , it is possible to invert the framework and ask ‘ Can a female novelist create authentic  male characters ? ‘ However , I doubt whether I am qualified to answer this inverse question.  Therefore , I would restrict myself to the original question about men’s ability to understand and depict women in fiction.

        I would begin by analyzing my own creative processes. When I wrote my first novel , I was not very self observant. I was more focused on articulating my innermost feelings. Therefore , I could not analyze myself while writing that novel. However , when I had to read that novel again while editing , I realized that the women in that novel were created to fulfill emotional requirements of the protagonist. Therefore , I started wondering whether this was necessary  ? Of course  , as I have discussed in some of my previous blogs , every character  ( whether male or female ) can be understood as a personification of one or more emotions of novelist’s subconscious mind.  However  , the question is whether the gender of a novelist would obscure such a personification ? Admittedly , it is possible to argue that all such personifications are subject to personal bias of the novelist, so why single out female characters created by male novelists. However , I believe that this singling out is necessary because it reflects on far more fundamental aspect of psychology and therefore that of psychoanalytical fiction.

           Before I express my views on that topic  , I would like to discuss how writing of my second novel has helped me to arrive at my present view.  As mentioned above , when I realised that I was not self observant enough during the writing of my first novel , I made a conscious choice of being self observant while writing my second novel. I realized , while writing my second novel , that it is not easy to think like a woman.  For a man , it is far easier to create a fancy dressed as woman than create a real woman in his fancy. In the novel that I am writing , the central character is a woman. However, the protagonist of the novel is a man. Therefore , the novel is a narrative of reminiscences of the  protagonist in which the central character of a woman predominates. Since the novel about the reminiscences of the protagonist  , it was always tempting to describe that woman as part fantasy and part reality.  However , I felt that that would be unfair to the central character of a woman. So , I have tried to create a literary device wherein she describes herself. This was the point of narration where I realized the importance of gender. Of course , the readers would have to decide whether I have been successful in depicting a female character without gender bias.

          I will now answer the question I have posed in the title of this blog. I am going to answer this question from the scientific and literary perspectives because I happen to be both , a scientist and a novelist. Genetics tells us that men and women share the same genes except for those present on X and Y  chromosomes. Since we do not exactly know how each chromosome contributes in creating our mind , it would be difficult decide whether men can think like women or women can think like men. However, it is most likely that our ability to think is decided by all our chromosomes.  It is only to the extent  where genes present on either X or Y chromosome influences creating our mind , that men and women would differ in their thinking. Therefore  , to that extent , it would indeed be difficult  for men to think like women and vice versa. However , as a novelist ,  I have a slightly different view. Men may not be able to think like women , but men can always understand the way women think and vice versa.  This is because  we understand things by not just by thinking but by empathising. Empathising is a process wherein we put ourselves in other person’s shoes and then try to perceive reality from that person’s perspective.  This ability to empathise elevates us to our humanity. Therefore , to answer the question , I can say that no , male novelists can not think from women’s perspective  but  , yes,  they can create a genuine female characters by empathy.

           It must be kept in mind that , in a broader sense , every character , whether male or female ,  created by novelist , whether male or female , is created by similar processes of empathising and internalisation. Therefore , the conception of fictional character , irrespective of its gender , is always through internalisation which is subjective anyway. Therefore every fictional character is blend of the subjective sensibility of novelist and the objective reality of our society. The process of personification extracts parts of reality and blends them with the novelist’s sensibility. Therefore fiction has a luxury of being inventive which is not available to sociology.

          In my next blog , I would discuss one more aspect of gender difference.  I would discuss whether the kind of emotions that we experience are derived from our gender. In other words , do men and women have different types of emotions ?

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #18

THE TWISTED LOGIC OF OUR EMOTIONS.

          In my previous blog , I had discussed the  psychology of wishful thinking and the role of wish fulfillment in shaping our behavior. It was suggested that we are sometimes not aware of our own emotions because they remain embedded in our subconscious mind.  However, these emotions surface as wishful thinking in our conscious mind . Therefore , when we try to fulfill our wishes , we are actually trying to accommodate our subconscious emotions. Since this transformation of our subconscious emotions into our conscious wishes is not simple and  straightforward , we never realise what our actual emotions are. We simply indulge in wish fulfillment without knowing how our wishes are formed. However , it is possible to understand our own selves by analyzing this transformation but that would be possible only with the help of psychologists. Alternatively , we can understand human mind by reading some of the great novels. I had suggested that the novelist can explain human nature by personifying the emotions and building a novel out of it.

          In this blog , I would like to discuss how our emotions twist our ability to think to make us believe in things that we would not have believed otherwise. While the psychologists are familiar with this emotional distortion of logic , as a novelist , I am interested in the unfolding of tragedy because of this distortion. Psychologists study this subject of cognitive dissonance purely from the clinical perspective. However , I am not interested in clinical aspects of this emotional distortion. I am interested in the tragedy resulting from such emotional distortion. The academic scholarship has the luxury of being impersonal. A novelist does not have such a luxury.  A novelist is driven by empathy. This empathy arises from the fact that the characters of that novelist’s novel are personifications of human emotions and some of these emotions are the novelist’s own. Therefore a novelist has an insider’s perspective of this emotional distortion , whereas a psychologist has  an outsider’s perspective.

          I would like to clarify that I have referred to tragedy of human lives that arise from the emotional distortion in this blog so far. This is not to be confused with the melodrama that one witnesses in popular fiction and cinema. Sometimes  the human tragedy occurs even when the  individuals involved are not even aware of it. Strangely , this is one of the defining features of human tragedy wrecked by emotional distortion. The person concerned would defy the logic which shows that there is something tragic in that individual’s life. However , the emotional distortion would compel that individual to deny the tragedy. It is this persistent denial by that individual that is the real tragedy and not the misfortune that befalls on that individual. The misfortunes happen to all of us. However , our consistent denial would simply perpetuate the emotional distortion. This persistent denial postpones the acceptance of reality  , subsequent emotional closure and healing. Therefore the real tragedy of human beings is that our own , very natural , response to emotional trauma that misfortunes inflict on our mind , itself  closes our paths to recovery.  Our tragedy is not that misfortunes happen in our lives, but that we refuse to heal ourselves because our thinking is distorted by the strong emotions that these misfortunes generate in our mind.

            In some sense , this is like a Greek tragedy because we are born with the mind that is distorted by our emotions.  However , in some sense  , this is like a Shakespearian tragedy because we deny ourselves a chance to heal by perpetuating the emotional distortion of our thinking.  One final observation on this emotional distortion is that the resulting tragedy may sometimes appear in the form of delusional happiness. This is perhaps the most subtle form of tragedy.

          In the remaining part of this blog , I would describe how I came across this aspect of tragedy while writing my second novel. I have already mentioned that my second novel deals with the theme of reincarnation. I have also mentioned that the novel centres around a chartered accountant who finds that his girlfriend apparently experiences memories of her past births. As the novel  progresses , the protagonist changes his own opinion about the idea of reincarnation as his own emotional attachments to his girlfriend grows. I did not intend to write a tragic novel , at least not when I began this novel. However , I realized that it would end up as a tragic story whether I want it or not. When I thought about the reasons for this , I found the explanation that I have outlined above. Of course , given my sensibility, it would not be a melodrama.

         Since I did not want to write a tragic novel , I started introducing some  positive elements into the story.  I thought that I should dwell on the romantic undertones of the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend.  While making that choice , I was consciously  trying to eliminate one of the shortcomings of my first novel. In that novel , the women appear only in the context of the  protagonist’s emotional needs.  This , I thought , was definitely a shortcoming . A novelist , who wants to unravel the subconscious mind of a contemporary man , can not escape the romance and implicit sexuality from the narrative. However, in the surreal treatment of modern man, I could not have introduced that facet of the protagonist without compromising the thematic integrity. So , when I began my second novel , I was keen to explore that area of our subconscious mind. So, I made a conscious choice of enlivening the plot of my second novel and the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend was the most natural choice.

      However, even while doing this ,  I was clear that the romantic and sexual aspect of the  protagonist’s evolution should not end up being descriptive. Instead , I wanted it to emerge from the subconscious drive of the protagonist. In addition , I also wanted to explore the the possibility of these aspects of the protagonist spanning across the reincarnation. So  , I wanted the protagonist to get hint of his love being eternal to come from the the memories of his girlfriend about her past births. When I reached that point in the plot when the girlfriend recollects her past memories with the protagonist , I realized that there tragic fate of their romance was already scripted into those memories. In other words  , even the lighter and enlivening elements of the plot would reinforce the tragic undercurrents of man’s subconscious mind.

     Having failed to avoid the tragedy in my second novel , I thought of introducing some  some nobility of the soul in the protagonist’s mental make up.  I thought that this would enable me to imbue some positivity into the novel.  That is where I found the delusional aspect of man’s tragedy.  My protagonist tries to be noble in face of the adversities in life. However , at some point he realises that his own sense perceived nobility is nothing but the delusion created by his mind to compensate for the trauma that he had experienced in love. This is where my novel is at present.  I hope to depict his redemption once he realises that his delusion of nobility is far deeper tragedy than his unrequited love is.

        I  would describe in my next blog how difficult it is for male novelists to unravel a woman’s subconscious mind.

            

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #17.

        THE WISH FULFILLMENT :

            IS IT GOOD OR BAD ?

       In my previous blogs , I have discussed the compulsions of the plot and its characters in shaping the novel. I had suggested that there are inherent demands of the plot that unfold as the novel progresses. Similarly , the characters, being personifications of human emotions , have  their own momentum. This results in commandeering of the plot to its emotional climax. The role of a novelist is that of a witness and an arbiter of these multiple and divergent pulls and pushes of these factors. Moreover , when the novel is about reincarnation , there is an emotional continuity of any given character to be maintained across different births. As I have discussed earlier , the destiny operates by ensuring that karmic interactions amongst various characters are settled by forcing these characters to think in the manner that would cause the destined events to unfold. The destiny can only achieve this by ensuring that the emotions of any individual are consistent with that individual’s past births. This is because these emotions would ensure that the individual concerned would act according to her/his  past life memories. Thus, for a reincarnation novel, the emotional continuity is essential.

         From a novelist’s point of view , I am concerned about this emotional continuity. While writing this novel , I realized that for a character to act according to its emotions , these emotions must appear in the form of wishes. It is the desire for wish fulfillment that shapes the actions of all of us. We are not able to express our emotions very clearly but when they appear in the form of wishes, we can clearly understand and fulfil these wishes. If this reasoning is correct , then our collective belief in reincarnation must also be reflected in our attitudes towards wishes and their fulfillment. In this blog , I would discuss how we treat our desires and wishes as Indians.

        There are two contradictory attitudes in our present day culture.  We, somehow, exhibit an ambivalence towards our desires and wishes.  On one hand , majority of our religions have instilled in our minds that desires are some kind of impurities that soil our souls. Thus there is an emphasis on asceticism in our upbringing. On the other hand , as we became more westernised, we have absorbed positive aspects of wish fulfillment.  The  present day aspirational paradigm of individual excellence is based on the importance of self belief and self fulfillment.  In reality , this paradigm endorses and sanctifies the individual desires. Thus we have accommodated two contradictory attitudes in our present day culture. This ambivalence characterizes our mind set. 

          However, there exists a third perspective which explains why we are ambivalent . This is the perspective of  psychology.  From psychological perspective , this ambivalence is reflects on the inherent contradictions of our contemporary society. In psychology , wishes and desires are embodiment of lacuna in our self image.  We normally desire something because we subconsciously feel that we lack that thing. Of course  , our subconscious perception of what we lack and its conscious embodiment in the form of desires are not identical.  Our mind plays tricks and what eventually surfaces as a wishful thinking is quite different. This difference between the lacuna in our subconscious self image and conscious wishes is diagnostic of our mental health. Therefore,  from a psychological perspective, this ambivalence is normal as well as educative.  This ambivalence tells us how,  as a society , we are changing.

          From literary perspective  , there is another aspect to our wishes and their fulfillment.  This aspect is that of tragedy. In the classical literature , the tragedy arises because the protagonist fails to achieve the wish fulfillment. In modern literature,  particularly after the literature of absurd , the tragedy is not a failure to achieve the wish fulfillment , but it is the futility of wish fulfillment. The  protagonist , during the process of wish fulfillment , realizes that his self image , and therefore the content of the wishes , have changed during the struggle. The tragedy in this case is that wish fulfillment , when achieved , appears hollow to the  protagonist. The final denouement in this case is the realization by the protagonist that wishes and their fulfillment are irrelevant.

          As a novelist , I am more interested in the ambivalence itself and its psychological origins. It is necessary for any novelist that she/he must describe this ambivalence without being  judgemental.

       In the novel that I am writing now, I am facing this dilemma of depicting this ambivalence without being judgemental.  As I mentioned above , the characters in a novel on reincarnation must have emotional continuity. This continuity would surface in the form of strong wishes. In this novel  , as I mentioned in my previous blogs  , one of the characters seems to have memories of past births. The  protagonist of the novel , a chartered accountant , tries to analyse these past memories of his girlfriend in the context of this emotional continuity. He begins with scepticism.  However, as the plot unfolds, his own emotional attachment to his girlfriend starts interfering in his analysis. His journey from being skeptical to a believer is one of the themes of my novel. As a novelist , I would not pass a judgement whether his transformation is right or wrong.  I think the key point is that individuals are neither right nor wrong, they simply are.  

       This brings me to the the question in the title of this blog. Is it good to seek our wish fulfillment ? or is it bad ? I think the correct answer is that it is neither good , nor bad. The key insight into our behavior is that we are bound to have wishes.  More importantly , we are bound to seek fulfillment of our wishes. Neither having wishes, nor seeking their fulfillment  is optional.  We are constituted in a such a manner that we compulsively wish and with equal compulsion , we seek its fulfillment. Therefore, if there is something like destiny , then it must be it must be in the form of this compulsion. To put it differently , the notion of destiny is a  personification of this compulsion.

         In my next blog  , I would discuss how an individual changes her/ his beliefs under the influence of strong emotions. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #16

        ARE WE REALLY RATIONAL  ?

       In my previous blog , I had discussed the creative process that shapes the plot of a novel. I had discussed how personification of various emotions can create various characters and drive the story forward.  In that blog , I had mentioned that real creativity of a novelist lies in her /his ability to blend different , and sometimes conflicting , emotions to create a more realistic character. Such a character appeals to us because we ourselves are made out of several complex emotions.  Thus any character that has emotional depth because of blending of different emotions , would be more like us and therefore would be more appealing.

       In this blog , I would discuss how this blending of different emotions in a single character makes such a character a flawed character. Let us say that a character created by blending several emotions has sufficient emotional depth and is more realistic. While , as a novelist , I can tell you  that it is more  satisfying to create such a character , but the problem is that such a character turns out to be a flawed character. How does one  predict behavior of such a flawed character ? For a novelist  , this is  very crucial because the details of the plot of a novel hinges on how that  character would behave in a given situation. This problem is also faced by all of us in real life.  There are always individuals in our lives who are emotionally very complex and it is difficult to predict how they would behave. Of course , in real life , one does not have to follow a plot , whereas in a novel, the novelist has to create an interesting plot.

          I think the real problem with such fictional characters  is that their  ability to reason is influenced by their emotional frame of mind.  This is  true in our case also. Our ability to reason is also  influenced by our emotional frame of mind. Unlike computers , we think differently under different emotional framework. In this blog , I want to discuss whether we , as a species , are rational animals or not. Of course  , there are large number of books on various aspects of human ability to think  but I would sidestep the theoretical perspective.  I would write about this as a novelist and as an average ordinary human being.

       This aspect came to my notice while writing my second novel. As I have been writing about this novel in my blogs, this novel is about the theme of reincarnation. The story is actually about an average person , who in this novel , is a chartered accountant. He comes across someone in his life who apparently has memories of past births. Now , the protagonist  , being an ordinary human being , has no way to confirm whether this reincarnation is true or not.  Being a  professional, he tries to use his analytical skills to confirm whether the reincarnation is true or not.  The trouble is that he is emotionally very close to the person experiencing these past life memories.  As the story  progresses,  the protagonist is increasingly influenced by his emotions and his reasoning starts getting accordingly  distorted.

        As a novelist , I found it disturbing to realise that what if such a distortion could be happening with all of us. Therefore, I decided to observe how this  protagonist changes his reasoning as his relationship with the person experiencing the reincarnation changes. To my  surprise ,  I realized that human  rationality is not uniform or standard.  It changes with our emotions. We sometimes change our opinions over a period of time. This is actually a result of change in our  emotions. While trying to develop the character of the protagonist , I realized that there is more serious problem of how the emotions of the protagonist forced him to start believing in mutually contradictory reasons at the same time.  In order to do that , the protagonist started developing ingenious arguments. While  psychologists are familiar with this distortion of reasoning because of emotional disturbance , we do not recognise such a distortion in persons around us in real life.

       As a novelist ,  this was a good opportunity for me to try to understand human mind ,but as a human being, I was disturbed.  I realized that this could be happening to me as well. What if my own beliefs were also distorted ?  More importantly  , I realized that situation in real life was far more difficult.  In a novel, there is always a novelist who could keep characters in some kind of thematic control.  In real life , there is  no one who could exercise such a control. Maybe that is why our culture has invented a deity like destiny. By placing our faith in destiny , we we feel comfortable that our distorted reasoning is not of our own making.

        I would like to clarify that this view of our reasoning being distorted by our emotions is not necessarily a depressing view of human existence. This is because this very distortion also  produces heroic human beings. The  point behind writing this novel on reincarnation is that no matter what our emotions are , they would shape our reasoning. It might make someone a hero and it might make another person a psychopath.  The process of making both types of individuals is same. Interestingly  , sometimes an individual may be both , a hero as well as a psychopath. 

          I have asked a question in the title of this blog.  The answer to this question is that yes , we are rational , but our rationality is fragmented.  Our tragedies arise when these fragments of rationality conflict with one another. Maybe the correct answer is that  we are rational in parts but not as a whole. I would end this blog a serious comment on the nature of human tragedy.  In literature , we are taught that there are two types of tragedies , Greek and Shakespearean.  In Greek tragedy , it is the destiny that wrecks the tragedies in human lives.  In Shakespearean tragedy  , it is the human nature that wrecks tragedies in human lives. While writing this novel on reincarnation , I realized that both the types of tragedies are same if the destiny were to dictate the distortion of human mind . Maybe, destiny makes us think in such a way that our actions , based on this distorted reasoning , bring about tragic consequences.This is the core of Indian tragedy. It transcends Greek and Shakespearean tragedies. You just have to read Ramayana and Mahabharata to see how destiny operates.

          In my next blog , I would discuss how our wishful thinking actually tells us what we are. More importantly  , I would discuss how even wish fulfillment can have tragic consequences.