A brief history of my writing career

I am reading Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul right now. It is a book that doesn’t just touch you; it feels you up and gets you horny with writerly passion. I was so turned on that I started reliving the most passionate ‘write moments’ of my life. I’ll tell you.

My memories of my early days (in Assam for some part) on this planet are amazingly, almost unbelievably clear. I remember most details of my life from when I was barely talking. Brownish-yellow frog that sat on a brick right outside the bedroom window at night, scary bearded goat that always made me cry out in fright and run away, bored looking street dog that I lay on the cold verandah floor with — everything.

This was a time when I was not clinically certified to hold a pencil. The instrument fascinated me in much the same way as my father’s shaving kit did. It was something my father did and hence was worth pursuit. So I stuck a pencil into an eraser and pretended it was a razor. I continued doing this till well into standard three (back in Orissa) and had to stop when my mother decided she had seen enough stabbed and mutilated erasers (I also used to claw at them for some reason). But more about that later sometime.

I remember the first time I ever wrote something. It was gibberish, but it was gibberish done in style. I didn’t know how to write, so all languages looked the same to me. I saw someone’s notebook and decided I wanted one all to myself. I got an old half-used one from one of my cousins (if I am not mistaken) and ‘wrote’ on it. I filled up several pages using a blue ballpoint pen. They all had well indented paragraphs and a decent margin on the left. I fell in love with my work so much that I kept the notebook with me at all times. But it soon passed and later appeared to have been of no consequence. Especially since I have, at various points in my life, fallen in love with little plastic bottles, pieces of metal, and odd-looking rocks.

After I actually learnt to write, I wrote my first real stories at the age of 8-9. This was very Champak-inspired fare and usually involved acts of bravery by kids my age. Later, Raj Comics happened and I graduated on to slightly more fantastical realms. I created characters called Raze, AllRounder, LaserBlast (don’t you dare ask for details) and many others which live on only in my notebooks from those days. I even got my friend Dibya to draw these characters out and stuck the pictures in with the stories. We had fond dreams of starting a comic book company. I write, he draws. Sigh!

While all this went on, my regular mundane life revolved around school assignments which consistently got me points for creativity. I liked the back-patting and the claps. Marks were a bonus, although I couldn’t care less for them. I found the concept revolting. Still do. I suspect this is where I started loving essays.

Towards standard eight, I was so fired up with passion that after finishing off my studies for the day by midnight everyday, I sat and wrote till two or three in the morning. These were mostly science fiction and fantasy stories, dated, titled and stapled into send-to-publisher format. What drove me was the relief it brought to me in the cold black hours early every morning. The feeling was so peaceful and empowering that I practically spent the whole day waiting for midnight! It was what I was living for. I still have all those stories in a big fat pink file with a Batman sticker and my name on it. Forty-something in all I think.

Post standard 10, my mother got my father to get me a membership to our local library. It wasn’t much but it was all we had. I found the sections containing fantasy and science fiction and even general fiction (with the possibly fortunate exception of Sidney Sheldon) sadly ignored. Every week, I dug out cobwebbed Asimovs, Bradburys, and compilations like The Hugo Winners (1984 edition, thank you very much) and took them home to lovingly pore over. The librarian was rude, and got ruder as the weeks passed as she found me loitering around those little-visited corners for hours every Tuesday (book issuing day).

Then that too passed. There came two years of my life during which I wrote nothing. These were the two years of my BA in English Literature! Of all things… $#$@%&&^%…

After English Literature was dead and done with, I tried to write again, but found I couldn’t anymore. I can’t begin to explain the sadness this brought. I felt handicapped and without a purpose. While I could still relate my experiences in words with reasonable clarity, I found the gates to other worlds closed to me. I had made that fatal mistake that everyone who mistakes writing for something ‘innate’ makes. I had erred on the practice front. In addition, real world concerns like career and job pressed in from all sides.

It was around this time that I bumped into an able mentor. He was loud and mad and utterly without supposedly ‘real-world’ logic. Yet he set my imagination on fire like little else ever had. While my favoured worlds continued to elude me, I got back that which is at the root of all good writing — passion. Also, I started imagining a career based on writing. It was around this time that the blogging bug bit me and I put my newfound passion to good use. I developed a pace and a tone in my online writing that literature assignments gave little chance of using.

Shortly thereafter, I went to Chennai and got into journalism school. Having never really been in the news loop, the information overload blew me away (media still overwhelms me). Journalism didn’t help.

Soon after coming to Mumbai, the good man Navin gave me a domain name and web space with wordpress installed on my birthday. The fact that I didn’t know what to do with it at all is evident from the name this site so proudly sports to this day. But I had a feeling this was something I would have to take seriously and handle responsibly. I was sure I wouldn’t let this turn into a diary, like some of my older blogs. As I went blogging the first few weeks here, I found myself paying more and more attention to spellchecks and rewrites than I had ever done before. In time, I founding myself worrying about wordcounts and layouts too. I started caring for this site a lot more than I had thought I would.

In the midst of all this, one fine day (or evening) I wrote a story. It was based on something I had once seen my little neighbour/nephew Golu do. It was short and beautiful and I loved it. I put it away and read it again the next morning. It looked a little less beautiful and I fixed it up as well as I could. In the end, I was so happy with it that I thought it would be a shame not to share it with those few people who come visit this site.

I did. I am happy I did. Seriously. The story appears to be of questionable merit to my eyes now. But it jumpstarted some rusty old engine deep inside me.

Now I write something practically everyday. I publish it on the site if I think it is worth it. If it’s not, I tend to it on my desktop, waiting for it to grow into a healthy story or essay. The reason I feel obliged to post more often is not because I want Google to crawl me more often. It is because I wouldn’t dare lose my purpose this time over. I am a writer.