Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DD's Travel Writing Bus - 1

"Don't come back till you know the name of the dog." 

If you went 'huh?' reading that, I wouldn't blame you. That quote was one of many lessons learnt at a two-day workshop on Travel Writing at the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) held last month. Dilip D'Souza - noted writer, journalist, activist, mouth organist (any more -ists?) - was conducting the same. I had briefly interacted with him on Twitter and always found his tweets and a few of his articles (hadn't read much of his work earlier, I must confess) insightful. The fact that he's also a Rahul Dravid admirer like me was one of the main reasons I started following him.

After deliberating for a while, I decided to enroll into the workshop, and was promptly told it was already full and that I should try attending something else. Disappointed, and slightly relieved at not having to wake up early to make the trek to town on my weekly offs, I tweeted to Dilip that I won't be coming. He, on the other hand, said people usually sign up and then drop out of such sessions, so maybe I should still come. 


I told myself I should just go. Maybe I'll learn something. Maybe I'll meet interesting people. And surely, I'll at least get to meet Dilip and exchange notes on our favourite cricketer. Decision made. I was off to town bright and early on a Saturday morning. A bit nervous, because I kept thinking "I'm not a writer. What if the participants and even Mr. D'Souza are those hoity-toity writer types?" 

Navigating my way through the stairways and corridors of Elphinstone College, the venue of the workshop, I finally found myself outside the classroom. Peeped inside. "Is that really Dilip?", I thought on seeing a man with a bright where-are-my-shades? green shirt. The participants, seated around a long table and beyond, looked completely unfamiliar. More nervousness. Someone gestured for me to come in. 

And that was the start of two days that had me bowled over. We went through writing exercises, excerpts from different authors and discussions. Even strolled around the empty college space on Day 2. We went WOW! when we liked someone's write-up, and offered constructive feedback when we found something lacking. That, to me, was a wonderful aspect of the sessions. Everyone was encouraging, and even those who were a bit shy or said they "don't have any stories" ultimately shared something or the other. So much so that the conversations didn't just revolve around "travel writing". In essence, it was about writing as a medium of expression and a way to tell a story. About creativity. About the importance of keeping our eyes open. The travel angle was obviously something all of us love.

The quote at the start was basically Dilip telling us to observe everything and look for the details. Sample these learnings too:

- "One needs to look at travel as a germinator of creativity."
- "There is no detail that is not worth writing about. Details make me work hard at my writing."
- "A good editor is a writer's best friend."
- "The fundamental of travel? Keeping your eyes open."
- "Write. Even if you don't have the perfect 'lead'. No such thing as writer's block."

and finally,
- "The best writing workshop is at home."

You can read DD's blog here: Death Ends Fun. He also writes regular columns for Mint and FirstPost.com among others. One of his books: Roadrunner: An Indian Quest in America.

PS: Some of the enthusiastic folks decided to float the idea of catching up on another day for a follow-up to the workshop. Email addresses and phone numbers were exchanged with a promise to meet again. As I type this, let me tell you *that* follow-up session did happen. Last Sunday. At a participant's home in Thane. The size of the group went down by half - about 13 of us and DD and his son made it this time. But a brilliant time was had. Watch out for Part 2 of DD's Travel Writing Bus.

1 Replies:

Sher said...

Such fun...too bad I missed it :(2

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