The Gritty Wordsmith

Bold and Beautiful and not to forget talented- here’s introducing our next featured artist Prakruti Koratagere. Here she is giving us a glimpse into her life.

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Bangalore, but my parents were based in Muscat, so I was raised there for about seven years. We shifted back to India for good soon after, and I’ve been here since for school, pre-university, college et al – and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. I graduated with a degree in journalism, psychology, and English literature in 2010 and went on to do my master’s in investigative journalism at a university in Australia. I returned to India by the end of 2012 and have been working as a crime reporter for a daily ever since.

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How and when did you get started as a writer?
Right from the start, it was love at first sight for me and English. Starting at an early age, I began devouring whatever books I could lay my hands on, including my older brother’s English and poetry textbooks. Pretty soon, I started writing too. I must have been seven when I wrote my first poem in school. I remember being in the third standard when the Kargil war was going on, and my first poem was about the bravery of soldiers. I showed it to my teacher and she loved it and encouraged me to continue writing, so I did. I wrote over 40 poems and limericks in school; I even maintained a journal for a few years.

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What is the hardest thing about writing?
Not knowing when to stop! Once you start, you need to constantly remind yourself of the word count (if there is one) and the number of topics you intend covering in one article or piece. If you find yourself struggling to complete something you are not enjoying, maybe you shouldn’t be writing about it at all.

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Do you ever get writer’s block?
Of course I do. Anyone who claims to be a writer and says they don’t is lying. Even the best writers of the Romantic and Victorian eras in the 18th and 19th centuries experienced writer’s block. It’s perfectly natural, though vexing, but I’d like to think that getting over that initial block leads to an ultimately good, well-rounded piece of writing, because you find yourself thinking about how you should structure your piece and what you should avoid, leading you to sometimes randomly find the best way to start it without even meaning to!

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Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block? 
Never give up. Whether or not it’s a topic that you’ve chosen to write about, you will be able to accomplish what you set out to do only if you don’t think of it as a task. Think of it as silent emoting that should evoke all kinds of thoughts and feelings from your reader. Pour your heart out, your opinions, memories… dig up facts, rationalize arguments, do all kinds of research possible before actually sitting down to write. Some people shut off from the world and hole themselves up while starting to write; I actually think talking to others can help ease your nerves and give you ideas for a solid start.

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Tell us about your life as a crime reporter, specifically, being a woman in a field like that
Crime reporting is fun but exhausting, and definitely not as glamorous as people presume it to be. It’s not always about blood, gore, and the various organisations formed to tackle terror or specific crimes, though there’s an abundance of all that too. Crime reporting is essentially very humanised reporting in that we have to talk to a wide range of people and coax them to open up, admit to, or say things they would generally never reveal to a stranger.
While covering a big case, we talk to victims, often those accused of the crime as well, the police of course, and any other experts necessary. It is our job to make the reader see exactly what we see, but to also feel things that we don’t. It’s true. One of the biggest cons of being in this field is that we get desensitised far too quickly. We see and cover so many accidents, murders, rapes, threats, dowry-harassment cases, suicides, robberies, and all sorts of violent and non-violent crime on a daily basis, that after a point, we go rather numb.
This is not to say we don’t feel compassion or empathise with victims – we’re human after all – it simply means our emotions are not as fresh or raw as anyone else’s.
Being a woman crime reporter has its advantages, but it is those same pros that can work against you and become disadvantages. It all depends on how you handle it. Because the vast majority of our police force comprises of men, some tend to really respect and willingly share information with you; but still others try to take advantage of the fact that you’re a woman and begin taking a dangerous, unprofessional route by feeding you information or giving you story leads all while trying to get you into bed.

The one thing I can say for certain is that crime reporting is a job like no other – there’s no telling when I have to enter the office and when I can leave on any specific day. Anything could happen, and it is this dynamism that makes all the tiresome running around, meeting people, visiting crime scenes so worth it, because this is as far from a 9-5 job as you can get.

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What was one of the most surprising things you learned in your line of work?
Surprisingly, I learnt to never just accept something at face value – whether it is a complaint accusing someone of something, or a statement by a senior police officer, or the lead for a story being given to me by a third party. Everyone has ulterior motives and their own agenda, and nothing is as it seems. Only experience and patient research can serve to dispel something that seems too good to be true. To avoid being fooled into becoming someone’s pawn, it is crucial to stay alert and be realistic, rather than optimistic or pessimistic about anything.

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Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I actually studied science in pre-university because I had always wanted to be a doctor or veterinarian. Unfortunately, that door sort of slammed shut during the latter part of PUC when I didn’t pay as much attention to my books as I should have. I have zero regrets about it though, because I’m pretty sure I would not have had the life experiences I have had now or befriended the people I have along the way otherwise.

What is your favorite movie?
Too many to choose from, but the animated film Up is an all-time favorite. At the core of a hilariously well-made movie you will find beautifully woven in lessons of love, life, learning, courage, chasing your dreams, and most importantly, always believing in yourself.
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Obviously you must read a lot. What genres in particular do you enjoy? And any favorite books?
This one’s tough! I love all sorts of fiction, especially (surprise, surprise) horror, crime-, and mystery-themed novels. Science fiction, comedy, history, fantasy fiction, surrealism… I prefer reading books of these genres.  I also love comics and the occasional manga! Well, any genre will do, really, as long as I pick up a book and can’t put it down. Then you won’t see or hear from me until I’ve finished it. I have far too many favorites (I turn to a different book every time I’m in need of solace), but if I had to pick just one, it would be A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Your favorite author would be?
Argh, why are these questions the hardest to answer? I have too many, but Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, P G Wodehouse, Isaac Asimov, Haruki Murakami, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are right on top. I would be lying if I didn’t add Tolkien and Rowling to the list too – those two are the reason for my beatific childhood.

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Any interesting writing quirks?
I’m an unabashed grammar Nazi, and I am extremely nit-picky about every letter and symbol I pen, which makes me a proof-reading demon. If it’s not perfect, I lose my mind.

Also, when I’m not using a pen, my writing/typing HAS to be double-spaced in Cambria font with a paragraph spacing of at least 1.5 lines.

What are your plans for the future? 
I know I eventually want to build my career around attempting to understand why people commit crimes, how they can be prevented, and what kind of physical or mental predispositions could result in someone becoming a criminal. Understanding the psychology of a serial killer or rapist, or even a cyber-terrorist is by no means an easy task, and that is a path I hope to tread someday.

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A quote that inspires you?
“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

This is a simple yet powerful, and meaningful quote by one of my favorite poets, e e Cummings.

What advice would you give for upcoming writers?
Never be crestfallen or lose hope if you think you’re not as good a writer as someone else. Every writer has a style unique to them, whether it’s being plain and simple, or elite and complex, just make sure your writing doesn’t appear forced or unnatural. If you’re passionate about what you want to write, it will come to you naturally. There’s always room for improvement, so fret not and be patient. And PLEASE proofread your work over and over before publishing or submitting something. I cannot stress enough the importance of correct spelling and punctuation, as well as good grammar – your reader may not be able to tell the difference, but you will still know.

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We can’t get enough of this grammar Nazi, crime reporting a.k.a fierce doodle and we sure are thrilled to be featuring through this month.

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