The founder and creative director of Cartwheel Creative Consultancy has built a reputation of writing thrilling short stories on Twitter. A quick chat.
In a world where people do not read but glance through paragraphs and breeze through stories, to make them drop everything and focus all their energies on every word you write is considered a mystical ability.
Writers, young and weary, pray and practice every day to gain this divine talent and each time they come across the works of these so-called gods of the word, they drop their fingers in awe and envy.
There are as many realms — fiction, non-fiction, biographies, essays, personal essays, short stories, narrative journalism — as there are gods who rule them. Ramakrishna Desiraju or Ramki is the lord of the Twitterverse where every now and then he gives us a glimpse of his ability to hypnotise and hoodwink us with his stories that thrill and keep us hooked till the last word, one thread at a time.
Ramki is a mortal but his talents may not agree to fit in this realm. The truth, I believe, is somewhere between “naturally gifted” and “sheer discipline” like a cocktail of Roger Federer’s artistic backhand and Rafael Nadal’s drowning in sweat cross-court forehand.
For starters, read this thread about NY Time’s spelling bee.
“It is part of advertising” reveals Ramki. He is the founder and creative director of Cartwheel Creative Consultancy, and before that, he held creative leadership stints at J Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson), Lintas India, Forefront, and Mudra Communications.
“We work with limited space and number of words… give a hundred words of copy, give a 12-word headline… we’re used to constraining,” remarks the seasoned adman.
He delves deeper into his writing and credits a big chunk to his ability to be observant. “When I am in a bus or a train, I like to eavesdrop on conversations, hear their backstories, chat with cabbies, they have many layers and textures…” This forms the fodder for this stories.
Coming to his tryst with Twitter, Ramki tells us of a time when his fan-following wasn’t big and he was sitting at a Starbucks restaurant waiting for his daughter to return from her class. “I live-tweeted what people were doing around me, people enjoyed it, it’s so cool and that’s how I stumbled on a thread as a format… I hadn’t written any story, it happened by accident. I did one and then did a few…”
The discovery of threads was an accident. Was tweeting by design? No, because he tells us if he was on Facebook, he’d have done the same thing on the Meta platform. “I was here (Twitter) and had an audience… lethargy ensured I did not want to discover a new platform.”
Ramki is aware of the expectations from his readers because of the incredible turns and twists in his stories. “It’s not that I choose to write stories with a twist, the first few had a twist and people loved it… Sometimes I don’t want to write a twist."
Every single tweet should be rewarding and not just when you reach the end, he remarks and says what his readers like is that they can emphasise with people in his stories.
Ramki may amaze us with his smart twists and turns but his stories are not written on a whim. “I work on it and put in a fair amount of work,” he admits and goes on to remark that sometimes people feel there is more but I bring it to an end. “Moving from one tweet to other, cues of the plus sign. I keep dropping tweets, and now people are trying to predict what's going to happen, I am playing a game with reader…”
This world of creative surprises isn’t something Ramki picked up on the job. He learned it before working at Mudra Communications, his first job at an advertising agency.
A business degree holder from IIM Ahmedabad ('87 batch), he must have belonged to those last groups at B-schools where graduates voluntarily joined advertising. He admits to this assertion and tells us about five or 10 of his batchmates joined advertising.
Ramki tells us of “maverick” Nagananda Kumar, the head of HR at Mudra, who met AG Krishnamurthy, founder of Mudra Communications, and convinced him to get people from outside an advertising agency and train them.
The program? “Get six people from India, keep them in a flat, let them watch books, read movies, do creative writing and all kinds of experiments and then send them to branches.” R Balki and Prathap Suthan were part of that cohort. “It was way ahead of its time,” remarks Balki and it also influenced the establishment of MICA.
From once in a generation program to losing writers to e-commerce firms and startups and OTTs, the advertising world in India is bleeding these days. What happened?
He tells us there was a time when you could write and didn't want to become a journalist or a writer, you joined advertising and at some point, people said “I could write a screenplay in my free time, some said I could write for radio and during this time, MTV and Channel V started… Today, there are so many options. You can do stand up, write for a channel, for your own,… people find their voice on LinkedIn, Facebook, there’s an audience for everyone.”