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Dream on...

Did anyone say life is not a dream? Writer Ashwini Bhatnagar begs to differ. Stop dreaming and we are dead, he tells HUMRA QURAISHI.

ASHWINI BHATNAGAR'S second book, "Magic Of the Fanciful: Essays From Journalism" can't be called a sequel to his first - "Shadow's Word: Images, Memories, Patterns and Ideas" - but it seems a continuation all right.

Ask what got this hardcore journalist writing essayist prose, and he replies, "Ernest Hemingway is every journalist's hero. He brought to journalism the refinement of literature and took to literature the dusty pell-mell of journalism, adding to the glory of both in the process. And, as in literature, so in journalism: The story begins with the writing of `one true sentence'. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there."

He continues, "Journalism, to my mind, is writing that true sentence. It is, therefore, neither about power nor about glamour. It is not social activism either. It is about true writing. Power, glamour, activism, et al, follow in its wake. They attend on true writing, even though true writing has no use for them. Though journalism is chiefly about reporting the facts of the day, its inner strength lies in the `idea.' From the daily `story idea' to ideas on liberty, fraternity, equality, democracy and the way we live, journalism is all about ideas. It sustains itself on them. Journalism without ideas is dead journalism. But there can be no idea without perception. Perception is an integral part of an idea."

Bhatnagar's essays cover topics from seasons to R.K. Narayan's creative oeuvre to Phoolan Devi's destructive streak; the 2003 World Cup final to socio-political situations in Japan, Afghanistan, Kashmir; as well as life in Mumbai or Chandigarh. In the essay on on dreams, he writes, "To dream is to sleep. It is to shut yourself from the outside world and travel along the terrain of the self's consciousness. The consciousness contrasts sharply with wakefulness and seems unfamiliar and incredible. The aloneness of journeying through our own self also makes us afraid. We, therefore, refuse dreams. Or worse, refuse to believe in our dreams. That's why they become bad dreams and nightmares. There is terror in dreaming. It shuts out the world and creates a scare that is akin to that of a child who is locked away in a small dark room. But once the darkness is got used to, light begins to exist. The apparently cramped conditions yield hitherto unknown space. An exploration begins and a dream is discovered. The magic of the fanciful comes into our hands... To dream is to be young. It is about wanting enough to make the `world conspire with you' in its achievement. Dreams make age wither and time stop. They have their own chronometer, their own space. They have a life that is both entwined with ours as well as is wholly separate. Dreams live for themselves. But we live because of them. We die because we give up on them. We refuse to be fanciful and young."

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