The Idea-smithy

Adventures of a Paper Plane Pilot

Erotica Writing With Ramya Pandyan At The Hive

This Sunday I introduce a workshop on Erotica Writing at The Hive. My interest in sexual and sensual writing was probably sparked off when I first read The Vagina Monologues. That book is a more clinical look at women’s relationship with their gender and sexuality but it was a door. A little later, I met Chuck Palahniuk’s visceral writing, first with Fight Club and then with Snuff (both of which I enjoyed tremendously). Fight Club twists you inside out as a reader and brings you face to face with your mental and physical demons. Snuff took that to another level and met the fears and shame we all place deep within our cells, with dark humour.

Then 50 Shades of Grey burst on the world. I’ve written about what I thought of the books. But it did more than tell a particular story. It forced readers and writers to think about sexuality in stories. And after that, I think, how can you not? Sex, sensuality and gender are such integral parts of the living experience, how can a writer whose job it is to hold up a mirror to our humanity, ignore it?

I’ve explored the genre in a more focussed way after that, with famous works like those of Anais Nin, less popular ones like L Marie Adeline and a lot of amateur writing. And more and more I became convinced that it would be impossible for me as a writer to proceed, unless I faced upto and overcame my inhibitions and shame about writing about sex and sensuality. It continues to be a journey but I feel certain that I wouldn’t struggle as much with writing a first kiss scene as I did, in my first book back in 2009.

This workshop is an attempt to bring other writers to tap into that vital source of inspiration and material — their own senses. I think it’s also important to open up a conversation about what erotica is. As reactions, I’ve received some versions of “Hahahaha, are you going to teach people sex positions?” But there has been a lot more cautious interest than I had thought. People are curious, watchful. And that makes it possible for me to see the first kind of reaction for what it is — fear/discomfort disguised as humour.

This Sunday ought to be interesting. Here’s what I have planned for the workshop:

  • Tapping into sensation for inspiration
  • Imagining characters as feeling, sensual beings
  • Describing physical impressions in a vibrant manner

I will be doing this via a series of writing and visualisation exercises. The goal for my workshop is that participants find it easier to write about physicality, sensuality and even (but not limited to) sex in their future work.

The workshop is open to people above 18 only. The event details are here.

Erotica Writing with Ramya Pandyan

On: October 11, 3pm to 5pm
At: 50-A, Huma Mansion, Chuim Village Road, Khar (W).
Call: 9619962969
Cost: Rs 1000

You can also email for details.


Mid-day ran a story about this workshop today.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Breaking Barriers With Art

Spoken Word Performance At Mukesh Patel School of Technology, Management & Engineering

It’s raining poetry and platforms to share it on! I’m not complaining though. Last week, I went to the Caferati Open Mic. This is the oldest of its kind in the city and the first one I ever went to. I’m afraid I messed up my performance a bit. But I’m going to blame that on the oil bath I’d had earlier in the day. It always tends to make me a bit groggy and slow and quite unlike myself. Even as I went up to the mic, I was in the pleasant haze of “It’s all good; everything’s awwight.”

Evidently my good mood must have made up for my lacklustre performance because I was approached by a group of youngsters. They were having a cultural festival at their college, they said, and would I come down and perform please? I laughed and I said,

“That’s a silly thing to ask a poet. Most of us, give us a table to stand on and say, PERFORM. And we’ll do it.”

Anyway, my breeziness had settled by the time I walked into Mukesh Patel College of Engineering two days later. A poetry performance to a bunch of engineers? This calmed me down a bit.

The event was themed ‘Equality’ so I picked Superwoman to perform. Besides, it had been awhile since I’d done that and I thought it would resonate with the young, vibrant crowd in the room.

I think it did. They let me stay on to do one more piece. And of course I had to sign off with my signature piece, Paper Plane.

This day made me very happy. There was the endorphin/adrenalin high of performing. There was the quaint campus charm of performing to an audience that’s seated on the floor around you. And I was very, very happy to be a part of something that broke down the rigid barriers between science and art. I met a lot of students who were talented singers, standup comics, dancers, musicians and poets. One of the other performances sparked off a loud debate on women’s rights, the LGBT movement and more. In the midst of the shouting match, one of the students leaned in and said,

“Very sorry if this sounds stupid. But I heard you saying something about ‘rape culture’. I don’t know what that is. Can you explain it to me?”

That was the highlight of my day. Art is fun and a real morale booster for me. But moments like these remind me that it also brings people together, transforms thought and shapes our lives.

It was a beautiful day.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

My First Publisher

Performing at LitCon 2015, Mithibai college

Tuesday was really special. I had a chance to perform at Mithibai college’s LitCon festival. The alma mater makes everything a magical experience. Even though the building has changed beyond recognition, it has echoes of my adolescent self, climbing out of windows, sneaking vada-paos into chemistry labs, reading books hidden inside journals during class. I had a complete college experience, from landmark conversations with strangers to friendships with the kind of people that I’d never have known otherwise, an experience that only enriches you.

I never did anything of note in the six years. But when I was in my second year, groaning and hating every bit of it, something happened. In typical teenage carelessness, I had neglected to thoroughly research my choices. B.Sc. in Mumbai university required students to pick a combination of three subjects in first year, two from those in second year and then one from that in third year (which would be the major). The only science subject I could tolerate was mathematics and that was available in only two combinations. Both combinations had physics, a subject that I loathed even more than I liked mathematics. These two combinations were PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) and PMS (Physics, Mathematics, Statistics). I didn’t feel like applying my brain enough to understanding why Mathematics and Statistics were different so I picked PCM. It wasn’t till the start of second year that I discovered I couldn’t drop Physics, as I had intended. Apparently the only second year combinations available to me were PM and PC. If I had taken PMS, I could have opted for MS but my harebrained choice had pushed me into having Physics for one extra year.

I coasted through the entire year, feeling bleak and utterly defeated. Physics laboratory really was the worst because I couldn’t bunk it the way I could bunk class. And my poor work was even more glaringly obvious there than in the crowded classroom. I found refuge in my rough journal.

The rough journal was a college given volume, bigger than the typical school notebook and smaller than registers. It was hardbound and made of thick, good quality paper. The icing on the cake was that every page was ruled on one side and plain on the other. Even in those days, I had an eye for good stationery. It enticed me so much, I’d spend the dreaded laboratory hours doodling and falling back into a habit I had thought I’d drummed out of my system since it was deemed useless for my future — writing. I wrote about what I felt, I unentangled the things I saw around me that I had nobody to talk to about and I poured the alternate life I could only dream of, into words in that rough journal.

At the end of every lab session, we were supposed to take our books to the teacher and have her sign off on our work. I’d finish my writing just in time to hear the bell go, frantically copy someone else’s readings and get it signed by the teacher.

One day a lady stopped me in the corridor. I knew her only as an English teacher. I had never been in her class but she was friends with my Physics teacher and I had seen her visit the laboratory several times.

“Did you know there is a college magazine?” she began without preamble. And then she asked me if I’d like to write for it.

I gaped. No one had ever asked me that before. I was a science student, after all. My brain was supposed to be filled with formulae and equations, not stories and words. And there was a sizable Literature fraternity for such activities. Why would anyone even care about what I wrote?

“Can you show me something you’ve written?” she asked, her eyes keenly searching mine.

I gulped guiltily, thinking of the nonsense I spent my laboratory time on, instead of the experiments I was supposed to be doing. Then I told her, I’d bring her something to see.

The next day, I carried my poetry book. This was a journal I had been maintaining since I was 7 and first toyed around with words on paper. I’d painstakingly copy whatever ‘poem’ I had written during recess or whenever, in my best handwriting into it. It was covered with a shiny red sheet of wrapping paper with silver stars on it. Once, I had thought it was marvelous and wanted to use it only for this book. When I became a teenager, it started to look pathetic and silly so I put it away and stopped writing. I hadn’t touched the book in years.

“Can I go through it and give it back to you at the end of the day?” she asked.

I paused, a part of me reluctant to even show her that poor little book. But then, I decided, it was time to let it die out. Writing got me into trouble, gave me all kinds of dreams that made reality seem unbearable. I really ought to be studying and concentrating on my lab work. It was time to let that red register go.

“Take it,” I told her, “You can keep it.”

She looked very, very surprised as she took the book.

“I’ll give it back to you on the weekend,” she promised.

I didn’t think any more of it. The whole incident seemed so surreal.

But on Monday, she came looking for me. I was surprised that she even knew my classroom. Remember the science stream had over a dozen subjects and each classroom had at least 70 students. And that was just the science degree students, not counting the other streams and the junior college kids. But in that buzzing, bustling crowd of a college, she found me.

“I spent all weekend reading it,” she said, “It was lovely. I could see the journey of a little girl growing up to be a young woman. And I got this for you.”

And she gave me a book. It was Antonie St.Exupery’s ‘The Little Prince’ and it was inscribed, “Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams die, life like a broken winged bird, cannot fly”.

I still remember the scene as clearly as if it happened just a day ago and not 17 years in my past. This teacher who didn’t know me, had never taught me, standing there in a cream coloured saree and curly hair all around her face. She was holding out my red register of poems but she was holding it between both her hands with a kind of respect, a gesture I had never seen anyone accord to something I had written. Many, many years later, Manisha Lakhe would tell me,

“Treat your notebooks with respect and regard. They are the tools of your trade.”

And I would think back to this moment, to this teacher who showed me how I should treat my writing.

One of my poems was published in the college magazine that year, a non-rhyming list piece titled ‘Unanswered Questions’. The next year another poem ran with my name too.

Four years later, as a postgraduate student in another college, I would help revive a dead college magazine, be a member of its editorial committee, propose and run a new column. And a year after I finished my education, I would set up a blog that went on to change my career, my identity and my life. But it all started with one red register covered in childish handwriting. And one teacher who believed in a dream that I didn’t even know I had. She was my first publisher, the first person to call me a writer.

All these years later, I had a chance to share that story on stage. There were dozens of students in the auditorium, smarter, more aware and mature than I remember myself being. And in the midst of all of them, was the head of the department, Mrs.Suma Narayana, the lady who first asked me if I’d like to write.

I had a chance to perform three of my favorite pieces — The Dating Thing, Flamingos and Paper Plane. Thank you, Isha, for giving me a chance to bring my words back here.

Designing Your Own Happy

I primarily left the corporate world because of the people. I couldn’t bear the idea of living the rest of my life, centered around pettiness and politics and that’s all I saw around me. I drifted gradually into more creative circles. I met artists, writers, musicians, actors, performers. I also met a lot of people who were doing other things independent of the corporate world. Entrepreneurs, new industry pioneers, people who had either quit or said no to more traditional and lucrative (read responsible) life choices. Yes, there is no such a thing as a compartmentalised career, especially not in a place like Mumbai. What you do for a living defines the other aspects of your life and the roles you get to play in society too.

Here too, I found disillusionment in human beings, in how often we allowed ourselves to fall into small-time manipulation and bickering instead of chasing things that really inspired us. My sabbatical hit shock after shock. My father said,

“What do you expect? It’s people. You’ll find that everywhere.”

I had had about a decade of people experiences before I walked this path. Why then, did I expect the world outside the corporate structure would be different?

Here’s why. No one becomes an insurance agent or a market researcher or a project manager for the love of it. Sure, a lot of people find tremendous satisfaction in the jobs they are doing. But how many of them would continue doing so if they didn’t have to or if they didn’t get paid to do them?

On the other hand, I left what may have been a more comfortable life behind because I saw a tiny opportunity to spend it doing what I loved instead. I would have and I did write even when I wasn’t getting paid for it, even when I didn’t have to do it. Much before the internet and blogging were realities, I was writing. I imagine these worlds are populated by people like myself, who were pulled out of their steady lives by the dream of something that touched them more. I didn’t expect to find the kind of spiritual fatigue, the weary psyche that causes people to politic rather than inspire, here.

I’ve known a poet whose primary objective is to play victim. I’ve spoken to a standup comic who spends more time brooding over how his successful peers only got that way through contacts. I’ve been with a performer whose sole objective is to maintain the identity of an angry, downtrodden rapper to the exclusion of all else. I’ve hung around with countless entrepreneurs who’ve used their business/project as an excuse to write away all kinds of terrible behaviour (cheating, disrespect, fraud). And I’ve met countless writers who are — plain and simple — assholes. That’s it, that is their whole entire identity. An asshole who happens to write.

The last gives me a little clue into what’s happening, perhaps because I know this group best, being one myself (writer, I hope, not asshole). Most of us don’t really, truly know what we’re chasing. We give it the best, easiest or most socially acceptable label we can find. It’s not cool to say I’m seeking more popularity than I have here. Or that I want to be pampered and my life doesn’t give me that. Or that I think the world owes me a favour but if I have a regular job, I’m expected to give as I take so that doesn’t work for me.

It’s really the same things that people in the corporate world are searching for — fame, money, success but also acknowledgement, belonging, approval, respect, identity. The kind of structured universe that the corporate world is, just enforces some kind of order and following of rules with or without enrollment. Maybe it’s true. Those who can’t abide by that have bigger problems.

Then again, I guess it’s okay as long as you get what you’re looking for. There’s nothing poetic about a drama queen but that’s fine if you’re looking for attention, not beauty. Resentment is not funny either but maybe you’re not looking for a reason to laugh yourself. As for the angry rapper, well, maybe my idea of unhappiness is his idea of fulfilment.

Me? I chose peace and happiness. I’m not the best writer around but I’m being the best I know how to be. I’m not the most successful or even the best known but I try to remember that I was inspired by the thought of a lifetime of writing, not a fat bank balance. It’s feeling like things are more better than worse and I feel that way. Happiness is not a 24×7 party and I’m just glad I get to go to it.


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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Independence Poetry: Feature @ Celebrating Faiz

Here’s something I penned and read (I hesitate to call it a performance because of the lack of polish or practice) at The Hive’s ‘Celebrating Faiz’ event this Independence Day. I’ve only gotten around to posting it now because I’m not as embarrassed by how amateurish it sounds.

And this is the unedited script of what I read:

Yesterday we talked about independence
About British Raj and the freedom struggle
Of martyrs and sacrifices
We watched Karma and Rang de Basanti
Shahid Bhagat Singh (both versions)
We listen to the radio play

Ma Tujhe salaam
Ae mere watan ke logon
Mere desh ki dharti
Tamizha Tamizha un nalum nam nalen

Because this is what it means to be Indian on Independence Day

I wonder what the people whose work we celebrate thought of it
What was it like to be Indian before August 15th, 1947
They were politicians, activists, writers, soldiers, freedom fighters
Driven by their own personal politics
And one common ideal

Of being their own people
In their own land
Of owning their lives,
Their rights

My independence is not that
I was born into a country that was already a democracy
I was never restricted entry because of my nationality or skin colour
I don’t need permission to meet in public spaces
To say what I think
To buy, sell, work, live

These challenges and victories over them
This is my history
But history, as glorious as it may be
Is just legacy,
stories from the past

Independence, on the other hand is a living, breathing thing
It’s personal
And it’s a prickly, uncomfortable creature
A monster living inside the head
It refuses to be confined to history textbooks
It’s not hanging on the wall in fading photographs of people no one has ever met
It has moved from Shahid Bhagat Singh
It is struggling to solve today’s problems with both Gandhigiri and Rang de Basanti
It’s chanting a battle cry against internal and international prejudice
Chak de, India
It’s working quietly to bring light to one remote village using a water pump

Independence is what refuses to let you settle into complacency

We celebrate freedom
And that means, to redefine what free means, constantly
Otherwise, we’re just raising a glass
Of non-alcoholic drink (because it’s a dry day)
To our ancestors’ achievements

As life changes with every person who lives it
Every personal boundary we encounter
Every no, every restriction that we face
And choose to push against
Is an assertion of our freedom
Our own fight for independence

I don’t want to accept the reality of today
Anymore than the people before me did
I want to reinvent what it means to be free
Freedom to love who i will,
caste, age, sex, geography regardless
Freedom to study what I want, to follow my passion
Freedom to speak, to dress, to act, to sleep, to eat
as I choose

Freedom is a dream without a horizon
And I’m chasing my own boundaries
This independence day, I’m celebrating that restless monster
That tells me,
You dare to find your own freedom.

Read This At My Funeral

A life was changed
Many things were broken
Status quo

Many languages spoken
And learnt
And built
With grammars
That bore plurals for things that hadn’t before
States of being

And in ending
Yet another rule broken
Another grammar rebuilt
When I say
Life is ending
But I am not yet over

I pass into
Your atmosphere
Your ground
Somebody’s eyeballs
And a hundred different memories

Which will each
And build new grammars of their own.

#DIYCreativeClub: Throwback

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This is for CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Throwback’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.


#DIYCreativeClub: Hope

Today, the world. Tomorrow, a better phone. For @cassyfry's #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today's prompt is #Hope Bombay represents one kind of glittering, distant dream for a lot of Indians. It's home to Bollywood. Thousands of hopefuls flock to this city daily hoping to have their words, their voices, their faces or their bodies discovered. Andheri, besides being the city's most populous suburb, is also the Mecca where all tinsel town hopefuls have to pay homage. I spotted this young man hastily brushing his hair into the perfect set using his phone as a mirror. And in a blink of an eye, he turned and was gone, vanishing into the sea of auditions and casting calls and other delightful sharks in my Island City. #struggler #andheri #bollywood #tinseltown #selfie #metrosexual #metrosexualgiveaway #model #aspire #aspirant #actor #artist #bombay #mumbai #twitterpoetry #people #dandy #men #man #boy

A photo posted by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

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For CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Hope’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

#DIYCreativeClub: Back To School

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For CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Back To School’

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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