I was quite shy as a young girl. I am an only child but was a part of a much bigger extended family consisting of aunts and uncles and numerous cousins, this shyness used to embarrass my mother on countless occasions. All the while my cousin used to dazzle and charm the guests who used to visit, I would try to fade away inconspicously into the background.
The guests were all suitably impressed with my U.S-return cuz and would gaze at him adoringly and praise him to the skies while Amma would push me to the front, almost forcing them to notice and acknowledge me.
This state of affairs continued for many years with my cousin dearest(called DC henceforth) managing to outperform and outshine me in almost all areas almost all the time. This despite the fact that I always performed well academically and in most other areas, except sports.
All that changed when I was in the 9th standard when a woman(well, a girl actually) called Claire came to the school where both DC and I studied. This English girl was doing her graduation in Literature from Oxford University and had come to India on a student exchange program. For some reason, this girl was spending time with the kids in our school and helping them with grammer, introducing them to literature, stuff like that.
I still vividly remember the day she called all of us and said we're going to have a contest. She gave us 4 words (I do not remember them now) and asked us to write a poem of 4 lines using them. Most of the kids did not have the slightest clue what the words meant and wrote rubbish and gave in those little chits of paper with their names and their 'poem' on them. DC, as usual, swaggered away after giving his, secure in the knowledge that he would, as usual, win. I quietly slipped in mine.
Claire came back in an hour and read the results. Imagine my surprise when DC did'nt figure in the top 3. I did'nt make it, but, hey, neither did he!! I would'nt have to hear endless tales of heroism and praises heaped on his already swollen head at dinner table that night!! Yay, I was happpy!!
And then, after announcing the first 3 prizes, Claire said she has a special prize to give. Because the given words had been used to evoke a haunting quality to the poem. And she called out my name!! She gifted me a sketch pen set which was jealously eyed by the 40 kids sitting around...but best of all was the look on DC's face!! Priceless!!
But for the first time, I realised that I had a talent that was uniquely my own. Where I did'nt have to claw my way to be noticed. Where words would pour out painting whatever image I wanted to paint for the reader...happy, sad, melancholic...
I had decided I would take literature and become a writer. (I thought I NEEDED a degree in literature before I would be allowed to write.) The dream stayed on till my 12th standard when scathing peers and sarcastic parents told me to get my head out of the clouds and get myself into a professional college.
The dream was reborn in college under the encouragement of a boy, a boy who would later go on to become my friend, lover and husband, to whom I first expressed my love the only way I knew how, through words. You write beautifully, he told me. You should try and get published. I wrote some more and some even got published in college and local magazines.
When I came to Bangalore and started working as a software engineer, those dreams were again shelved. When kuttan was born and I sat at home, hubby gently prodded me, in his words "to get off my ass and do what I never can do....write!!"
I wrote a couple of times desultorily and tried to get a few things published but nothing much happened. This was the time I got in touch with C.K.Meena. C.K.Meena is an author and has her own column in Hindu. I have always enjoyed her writing and her straight-from-the-heart, no-nonsense attitude that used to shine through it. I briefly corresponded with her and she was very encouraging and gave me a lot of tips on who to contact and publishers names etc...
In the meantime, life intruded again and I came back to work. However, the dream continued. Someday, I told myself. Someday I will leave this all and will have enough time and will power and the energy it takes to belt out article after article unfazed by rejections. In the meantime, how do I hone my skills? And that's how this blog was born.
Recently, I happened to find Meena on Google chat and, on an impulse, said hello. It had been over a year since we corresponded and I did not expect her to remember this wannabe writer who wanted to get her articles published. To my surprise, she not only remembered me, she also asked me if she could read my blog when I told her what I was doing.
Well...do I want a month of Sundays? Of course I did. This was my favorite columnist and a respected author and journalist who was offering her time and advice. I had only one thing to say to her..'Please dont be kind Meena and give it to me straight..'. In less that 15 minutes, I get an email from her. Excerpts from the email below:
I find it just what a blog site should be. It is heartfelt, honest, chatty, confessional, and descriptive. I found the blog on the rabbit race quite funny! I like the way you are self-deprecating and are fully aware of your obsessiveness and don't take it too seriously (it would be dangerous to do so).
When it comes to dare-I-say Real writing (the kind that gets published as middles, columns, short stories and so on), what one does is to be more conscious of the words one uses, to avoid repetition, to edit and prune, to craft sentences for the best effect, and so on. But I am sure you are aware of it, because the piece you sent me earlier on the dilemma of working or staying at home showed that some care had gone into the writing.
Regards, and all the best.
Well Thank You Meena!! The dream lives on. And it is like Claire has given me her coveted sketch pens all over again!!