Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Friday, December 23, 2011

Encounter: A Different Set of Students

It is not all about fiction…

I am teaching a group of students who are studying marketing and advertizing as their main subject. This batch belongs more or less to the age group I usually teach, i.e. post-graduate students aiming to hone their writing skills. The difference here is that their aim is not to become 'writers’, but to have such a skill as an added advantage when they sally forth into the business world.

Well, I geared my talks keeping their interests in view, and as they learn from me, I also learn that each group of students is a different kettle of fish altogether. Delightful, yes, but quite different in their selection of waters for swimming.   

For example, there is great bonding in this group because they are exactly the same age, give a year here and there. They are interested in marketing, advertizing and public relations. Creativity and writing is a part and parcel of their greater pursuits. Despite the bonding, they come from different backgrounds, some have studied literature and some have studied commerce. They are dead serious about the classes, and almost everyone is present.

As we sit  in the sun in the ampitheatre (the cold chill of the class had prompted us to move out and it has been a good decision), the sound of the airplanes that fly overhead often disturbs us. So does the carol singing of the young kids,  preparing for the Christmas show, in the garden above the sunken ampitheatre. Despite the constant noise of some kind on the other, we manage to communicate and are happy in the warmth.

So we discuss books. What kind of books do they like to read? The feedback is revealing. One does not read at all, another watches 'only' movies, a couple of them read 'only' biographies and autobiographies. One of them says she does not like fiction at all, and then says she enjoys reading books by Amitav Ghosh! Turns out she is mixing fiction with fantasy.  So she likes reading fiction but not fantasy. Not one of them like any kind of fantasy, and all of them hate Harry Potter (especially the books). Now that is shockingly revealing! There is one book-worm amongst them who reads everything from Chetan Bhagat (all the novels) to the new breed of young Indian English writers (“ I Hate to Love You” and “I Too Have a Love story” types) to Sidney Sheldon and more. But she is the only one. A couple of them like ‘Sybil’ and recommend I read it, and one of them mentions "Love Story" and how passe it is. Someone asks me about "Catcher in the Rye" and what it is about.

In totality, the impression I got was of students who do not read a lot. And they acknowledge it with grinning nods. And ask me about the books I read. Hopefully, and I can see the hope reflected in their eyes, they will read some more now. At the moment,they are aware but not absorbed…regarding books. But ask them about advertizements and they will roll them off their tongue. We like the “daag achey hain” and  “get lost” and “jid karo, duniya badlo,”advetizements but we can’t understand the logic of this one and hate that one and so on. They are pretty vociferous about advertizements, so I guess they are in the right program. The ‘Creative Writing’ student groups (and there have been several) were into creative writing and reading and mentioned books they had read like flipping coins one after the other…non-stop. Much like this batch does regarding advertizements.

I love their smiles, enthusiasm and willingness to absorb and learn. They pay attention despite the distractions. They are a close-knit set with pen drives and netbooks and tight jeans and a certain degree of cockiness. And I just love to connect with them as they talk after class about a game called ‘sun’, ‘moon’ and ‘home’ and jump up and down the steps of the ampitheatre, playing the game and laughing like a bunch of school kids. Books are the furthest from their mind as they begin talking about a marketing survey they need to do.

I head out to lunch with my mom where the sarson-ka-saag, makki-ki-roti  and adrak-chai is waiting along with more of this sun and laughter.