I went to Bangalore with one goal:
FINISH THE DAMN BOOK!
And, finish I did.
The book is currently with a few kind readers. I intend to have a finished manuscript by the end of the year, maybe sooner. The question for many writers is where to write. Some write at home and have a study; others prefer writing outside home. That’s my preference.
So, where did I write in Bangalore? Honestly, just about everywhere, but I did have five favorites.
Editor’s note: This is not a paid post.
Every Saturday for 12 weeks, I climbed two concrete flights of stairs into Anita Nair’s Attic.
At the top was an artist’s loft filled with tables, movie and book posters, a small kitchenette, bookshelves, and a swing that I don’t think anyone ever sat in.
Each week, Anita conducted a workshop focused on a different theme: structure, plot, characters, etc. She also reviewed our work and gave invaluable feedback.
Each week featured speakers from across Indian publishing. Writers, publicists, and editors all spoke to us about their experiences.
And, each week, we wrote. These brief assignments, no more than 30 minutes in length, were designed to help us think critically about our work and hone our writing skills.
Anita’s Attic is where I wrote the first draft of my synopsis—on the fly and in a blind panic. Although I probably won’t use it when the time comes, that writing exercise forced me to explain my book while under pressure and under deadline.
I highly recommend the course to everyone. The structured environment and weekly writing feedback helped me find my focus.
Don’t let the Bangalore location stop you. We had two writers from Chennai attend this course. And, of course, I moved continents. The season 5 dates (July to September) were just announced. What’s stopping you?
Café Coffee Day, The Square
I see your eyes rolling at this choice already. “How corporate,” you say. Maybe you were hoping for some trendier or hipper place? Who are you kidding? Since when have I been hip or trendy?
The CCD The Square is the flagship CCD, located directly under the corporate headquarters. It is also conveniently located down the street from my apartment. I did not even need to cross the street to go there! The kids who work in this store are some of the sweetest I have ever met. Ajith, Pooja, and Divya are just three of the many staff members there. They know me by my signature drink: the spice brew. It features the cardamom zip of a masala chai in a coffee. I might also have ordered the chicken lollipops and jalapeno poppers a few times. But, who’s counting?
I wrote and edited large portions of the book here. This is also where I cried while trying to work through difficult passages.
And, met a few friends.
The British Library
Now, we’ve moved from corporate to absolutely boring, right? Wrong. Doesn’t it sound so cool to say I wrote my book in the British Council Library? It conjures images of neoclassical architecture, green table lamps, and barrister bookcases, doesn’t it?
Actually, I remember it for the street dogs who guarded the entrance. Very well, I might add.
The space has a nice hum of noise without too much volume. Food isn’t allowed, of course. You have to go elsewhere to consume your chosen beverage.
The library is open to the public, but requires a membership fee. I had to show my passport and residency proof to join. Best 1600 rupees I spent in Bangalore.
It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 to 6. Closed Mondays.
The library has free Wi-Fi and about a dozen workstations. The library collection is small, but does have a nice collection featuring British authors. As I was leaving, they’d just received a new collection of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse books. The library offers many public programs including movie screenings and writing workshops. If you are thinking about studying in the UK, they have excellent resources.
JW Marriott, UB City
What kind of American expat would I be if I didn’t mention my favorite hotel? While I am partial to the Oberoi and Trident brands, I lived across the street from the Marriott. It was my home hotel. For those staying in the area, and looking for a gym, I recommend their Cross-Fit program. The class schedule includes yoga and Cross-Fit. It’s separate from the gym membership, and you get access to the showers, which were world-class. The last month I was there, I went to class, ate breakfast, and then went to the British library, just around the corner.
My favorite part of the hotel is the buffet: JW Kitchen. That’s where I met Tiju from Kerala, who deserves his own story someday. He was known to greet me with a filtered coffee.
We have a lot of coffee in Korea, but filter coffee is a special kind of foamy magic in a stainless steel cup. Tiju’s kindness to me over Thanksgiving is one of the highlights of my trip. I wish him well in all his endeavors.
Whatever you do, though, beware the delicious delicacies that are the chocolate cookies at Bengaluru Baking Company. They come with the cappuccino. This ala carte café has outside seating, which was wonderful as the weather turned from hot to warm. The menu features sandwiches and, of course, baked goods. If you ask nicely, and show them your identification, they will give you the Wi-Fi password.
Here’s the big reveal:
When I lived in Bangalore, I told people I stayed in UB City. They might have thought I lived at the mall itself. There might be some truth to that. The UB City restaurants are great.
But, the real truth is that I lived at Melange, a serviced apartment opposite the mall.
I had not publicized this detail for security reasons. I stayed in a studio apartment on the ground floor. It was safe, and the Melange staff took excellent care of me. The advantage of a serviced apartment is that it’s like living in a hotel. If the Wi-Fi went out, I called them; they fixed it. They booked cabs and made suggestions about where I could go for services I needed. I sent my clothes out for dry cleaning, and they cleaned my room daily. All my needs were met at a time when I just wanted to focus on writing. Uday and the entire staff helped me do exactly that. I did, of course, write in my room, but I prefer to write around people while remaining anonymous. You never know when something that happens in a café will spark your imagination. It was a nice home base for me, especially when I travelled. I didn’t worry about security of my belongings as the room included a safe where I kept my laptop and other valuables. If you are thinking about a short-term stay in Bangalore, I recommend Melange. They have two locations: UB City and Richmond Circle.
After gallons of coffee, dozens of red ink stains, hundreds of hours, and over 45,000 words, voilà a book is born.