“Makrand, please! Try to understand my point of view!” Pankaj spoke into the phone.
“What other point of view could you have than saving your own skin?” Makrand snapped.
A brief silence followed.
“This is when you should apologise, don’t you think?”
“Look Pankaj. I’m sorry mate. But I am not willing to-”
“Your will does not matter at this time! You have to take desperate measures during desperate times. And this, right now, IS desperate!”
“What if I refuse?”
“Then your job is on the line.” Pankaj sighed. “All the sales team wants is numbers! Look Makrand, between you and me I know this is stupid. You are a very talented writer. But please, please silence your ego this once. Just be back in the game. Just for a couple of months, until we get our readership back, write what the readers want to read.”
“And what do the readers want to read? Oh, I’ll tell you. They want me to write stories of modern city girls being forced to marry. They want me to stop being creative and whine about the atrocities against women. And not even the real deal! Oh because who wants to read what happened to some farmer’s wife in Khandesh, right? They want me to write bull-crap stories under the name of feminism when not even half of them understand what it means! Have you SEEN what the writers spew, Pankaj? Their readers are those women who are nicely tucked away in the warmth of their perfect families only to dwell on shitty stories of kitchen politics and show their good-for-nothing support in the comment section. Have you seen…have you really taken the time to READ those blogs? And those comments? They are pathetic! PATHETIC, I tell you!”
“You’re being a little harsh don’t you think? These are real problems. And women DO connect with these kind of stories because they live them at some point or the other. They may not be national issues but they are real problems.”
“I know they are and I sympathise with them. But I’m a writer, Pankaj! Every muscle, every bone within me is born to write and write good! And you lot are just trying to convert me into a machine. A machine that manufactures the same stories, the same plots over and over again. Just to appease the masses. And now you want me to write listicles? Are you kidding me? 10 reasons why your BFF, huh, B.F.F. is your sister! 15 times Virat Kohli showed us that he’s the man! 20 things you should do before you turn 20. 15 reasons why you shouldn’t get married! Bah! You want listicles? I’ll give you one! A 1000 reasons why you should hire monkeys to do my job! There! That should be a good one, no?” Makrand paused to calm his nerves.
Pankaj spoke again, “Times are changing, Makrand. It’s not a George Orwell anymore that takes the crown! And our company doesn’t want to produce one either. We’re not a publishing house, Makrand. And I don’t mean to touch a raw nerve here, but you know what happened the last time you approached one. We all do things we’re not proud of on our way to success. I don’t want you to lose your job to some fresher who’s going to Google their articles. I want someone who keeps their head on their shoulders while working.”
“What do you want me do?” Makrand asked, surrendered.
“First, I want you to focus on topics that are a sure shot success. You know, tear-jerkers for instance. Stories on friendship, someone dying of an illness…”
“Those I write already..”
“No no, your writing is too symbolic, too advanced. You need to take it down a notch. Keep it comprehensible. Our target audience is not keen on knowing how well you perform as a writer. They just want articles that vent out their feelings. They are frustrated by the injustice around them. They want to see that reflected in your writing. They want you to make their point.”
“Right. So writing skills don’t matter.” Makrand made a statement as though taking notes, but his sarcasm got through.
“They do! But, not all that much. You know we need to keep publishing blog posts twice a week. We want posts that our audience agrees with. We don’t want to keep any room for disagreement whatsoever.”
“So you want me to step down from my skills, those skills that I think sets me apart from the rest, and write in order to get more shares and likes on Facebook. My experimentation won’t be rewarded. In fact, I might be sacked for it…for trying to do better.”
“If you do better then no one will sack you. But what do you mean by doing better, Makrand? We’re not distributing Pulitzers here. You know how we measure the success of a post, don’t you?”
“Yeah, by the number of likes and shares you get on Facebook for it.” Makrand drawled.
“Precisely. Oh and tweets count too.” Makrand ‘s bitter tone was apparently lost on Pankaj. He continued gleefully, “And the second thing I want you to do, is drop your attitude.”
“Oh come on Makrand! I’ve seen you criticize other bloggers left and right! You think you’re the only one who is true to his writing. The only one with principles and all…an honest writer. Well guess what? Everyone has the right to write. Whether or not they’re good at it. Any Tom, Dick and Harry should be given a chance to express themselves in anyway they like. Just because they don’t get their spellings right, doesn’t mean that they should not be allowed to write at all.”
“I never said people shouldn’t write! For crying out loud, they should!” Makrand cried, now unable to contain his frustration. He stopped for a moment to regain some of his control and said, “Okay, here’s the deal. What really irks me is that these stupid, horribly written sad excuses of blog posts get more likes than those that I pour my heart and soul into. I burn the midnight oil, I struggle to outdo myself with every next article, I…I know my articles are worthy of appreciation…a lot more worthy than that stupid…STUPID trash that they keep sharing on social media! Everyone can write. Anyone can write! If fact they should, I say, they should! But what’s happening to the readers??? What’s wrong with the audience, Pankaj? Can’t they tell what is good writing anymore? Don’t they flinch at bad grammar and misconstruction of sentences? Just like a writer, Pankaj, a true reader’s loyalty should lie with the language!”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, Makrand!” Pankaj hissed. “Its not always about the correctness or the righteousness! How many times do we have to go over this? Look mate, I know this is hard for you. But you must realise. What is the most important job of a writer? Connecting with his readers.”
“No it’s not.” Makrand cut it. “It’s staying true to their writing.”
Pankaj sighed. “Okay. What will you have me do, Makrand? Do you want me to go and tell the sales head that you won’t be writing for us anymore?”
“If that’s what you think is right, then suit yourself.”
“No that is NOT what I think! I do not want you to leave because it would be too sad and unfair. If it was up to me, I’d have gladly let you experiment with your writing. Okay how about this? For now, you write what we tell you to write. Plain, simple stuff. You know our readers don’t have the time neither are they in the mental state to read long complicated articles. If they had so much time, they’d be reading a book, not checking the social media. Most of our readers are office goers, Makrand. They just want something that can act as a background noise for their stressful day. They want things that they can agree with and quickly. Something that can entertain them during their 5 minute coffee break. Now you write and write like an obedient employee. And I’ll have a word with the management. I’ll try to convince them to open a new segment for you. Where you can write what you wish. All that excites you and makes you feel proud and everything that you just said. But this current segment has to change its course. It has to change from class to mass if we want to sustain in the business. How about it?” Pankaj asked hopefully.
Makrand smiled at the effort that his friend was taking to persuade him. He knew his morals were not going to bring him money. He knew he’d have to mend his ways and adapt. Adapt to the changing times. He’d have to throw his creative writing out of the window momentarily. He’d have to descend from excellence to average in order to survive. A small “okay” was all Makrand could manage to say to his friend. He hung up abruptly and got to work.
He turned on his laptop and started typing. He opened his article with the title, “The vandalized mosque”. Then frowned and erased it. Now he wrote, “10 reasons why you should befriend a Muslim.”
Feature Image Source: magxim.com