I have a confession to make.
Contrary to what many may think, I wasn’t good at writing! In fact, as a kid, I usually got scolded for scribbling illegibly in my answer booklets at school. I was a lazy, arrogant and ignorant boy who usually lived in his head most of the time.
I am sure many of you remember the TV series House M.D. I remember watching an episode where one dialogue left an incredible impact on me.
House: “Are you going to base your life on who you got stuck in a room with?“
Eve: “I’m going to base this moment on whom I’m stuck in a room with. That’s what life is. It’s a series of rooms, and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are.” (emphasis is mine)
It made me think of all the people I got stuck with in various rooms. The diverse circumstances and places where I met them. How every interaction played a role in shaping my life. Today, I remembered the dialogue again.
A series of rooms are also the reason why I became a Blogger. And how I started my writing journey. I felt I had to share it with you. This is the story of how a 12 year-old fool fell in love with writing and eventually started using it to take him places.
It was the year 2000. While the whole world was talking about the dot-com bubble, I was grumbling about having to go to piano classes. Those were the days when almost every middle-class Indian parent made sure their kids attended camps, sports coaching or music classes of one form or another during the summer break.
My dad was no exception. He had grown tired of me blowing his hard-earned money by spending time online (Remember the crazily expensive VSNL dial-up connections?). His company had an Officer’s Club where they had a summer camp arranged. Just to use up the remaining funds, they had called some dude to teach piano to all the employees’ kids.
Dad asked me to make a decision. Either I attend the summer camp and weekend piano sessions. Or become a watchman guarding the apartments we lived in. So off I went to become the next Mozart!
The classes were held twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was obvious to any ant, mosquito and human sitting in those piano classes that I had no talent for the instrument. I usually ended up talking to the other sods and distracted them by telling them made-up stories about ghosts and scary places near their homes. The piano teacher decided that I wasn’t worth his time, given the money he was being paid. So he decided to get rid of me and asked me to come that Saturday for some extra lessons. He told me I could leave home early if I wanted to.
I didn’t waste a second and ran home thinking I would bunk the weekend class and cover it up with a lie later. And just like a bad horror movie, my dad had arrived earlier than his usual time and was happily drinking tea. You can guess what happened later. I blurted out that we had all been left early and had an extra class on the weekend. He was obviously delighted at not having to deal with me on the weekend and made sure that I woke up on time that Saturday.
As I made my way to the Club, I noticed that there was a festive air. There were kids whom I’d never seen before, playing and jumping and falling like stupid kids usually do. The club was wrapped in cheap craft paper of various colors and there were parents anxiously guiding their little ones into different rooms.
“Bastard!” , I muttered to myself. The piano teacher had lied to me. He knew I stayed far from the club and had to walk 30 minutes to reach it. This was his cheap revenge. I was fuming. I said a mental goodbye to the club and started walking back.
“Oye, you’re Apasangi’s son right? Where are you going?”
I turned to see a friend of my dad standing there smiling at me. This day was going from bad to worse.
“Yes Uncle” I innocently replied, smiled and explained how I had arrived thinking there was some class and was heading back
“No problem, no problem!! Good you are here! We have special competitions arranged for all kids. I am sure there are some for your age group too. You will participate, no?”
This was the definition of a rhetorical question. If I had not said a Yes, then I would have to listen to my dad’s sermon later as to why I wasn’t going to be of any use to this planet or it’s citizens. So I resigned to my fate and went along with him as he made me sit next to an older girl who was busy writing something on a sheet of paper.
‘Great! I’m stuck in a room full of boring people’, I thought to myself.
“You ready for the essay competition? You must be in the 10-14 category right?” she asked.
I just stared. She was kind of good looking. I decided to say something awesomely intelligent
“Humm” I grunted. I don’t know how that sound came out. I was pretty sure I had atleast 3 sentences planned as a reply.
“Why don’t you give it a shot? For the 10-14 age group they have an essay writing topic too. Topics are put up outside. The winner gets a special prize! Go!” she smiled sweetly and went back to her writing.
I quietly went and saw a bunch of kids jostling each other to note down some topics. Since I was twice their height (only thing I was born with), I could see them easily.
The Board read:
A Bearded guy announced “Please go and be seated in Room B. The competition will start in 5 minutes!”
The entire crowd started moving towards a Room located in the interior part. I followed them to see what would happen. We were all asked to sit on the floor. I was given two blank sheets and a writing pad.
“Please write legibly. Extra points for using relevant examples” the bearded guy said. He looked at his watch.
“OK, it is 10:57 now. You have 3 minutes more before starting!” he shouted.
It was then I realized that most of the others in the room had prepared for this. Their eyes were half closed as if in a trance. They were bloody memorizing what to write. They had mugged up their essays and come to vomit it out. It was a no-brainer that most of them had been told beforehand what the topics were.
I suddenly became very angry. I don’t remember what triggered this anger. Was it the unfair competition? The piano master? Or the bearded guy’s face? I honestly can’t recollect. The only thing I remember now is being stuck in a room full of people I didn’t want to and a competition I hardly knew existed.
“Begin!” the bearded man said and clapped.
I looked around as people around me were dumping text from their head to the paper in furious speeds. One girl was sweating and trying to wipe it off her nose with her hanky while writing non-stop.
All that anger made me focus. I thought about what I could write. The obvious choice was Pollution. It was easy, predictable and I had to only look around to find a relevant example as there was a lot of trash lying in the room. Also, I had written essays on pollution for the last three years. (I don’t know how many of you know this. But Indian kids are made to write essays on Pollution from the age of 9 to 14. The other common thing being the life of B.R. Ambedkar :D)
But most people around me seemed to be writing about this. The guy sitting next to me had written half a page and was drawing some clouds. Guess he didn’t know what ‘essay’ meant. The next best option was writing about my career. At that time, I always imagined I would become a Private Detective. It felt stupid trying to convince a few grown-ups how I would do this. Especially when I had no clue myself. (Detective, Clue – Get it? He he…. Not funny? Anyways)
“10 minutes remaining!” the beardy bellowed. He seemed to be enjoying this.
My sheet was still blank. So I started. Wrote the topic title ‘My Role Model’.
And then it happened.
With hardly any pause, my mind started to produce words faster than I could write. I realized I’d started writing about Mahatma Gandhi and three important events which made him transform into the messenger of peace and non-violence. I wrote how his thoughts and actions inspired the country to achieve freedom. How his life made me decide to devote myself in whatever way possible to the service of others. And how this attitude would help bring peace to the world.
“Last One Minute!” the final warning was announced.
There was some space left under the Topic Title. I filled in “An Eye for an Eye makes the whole World Blind – M.K. Gandhi”
I swear to God. All I remember after that was handing the sheet over, eating some lunch and heading home as if in a daze. There was a wonderful sense of fulfillment and happiness I had never felt before in my life.
It never occurred to me to ask about the essay competition later. Writing itself seemed to be so wonderful that nothing else was needed as a reward for doing it. So a couple of weeks rolled on and I went back to being the random inhabitant of earth. It was a Thursday evening as Dad came home from his work with a huge smile on his face.
“Do you know what your son has done?” he asked Mom.
Mom gave me an ugly look and asked “What did he do now?”
“He has got the first place in Essay Competition. One of the judges works in my department and she was praising your son’s writing skills!”
He was damn happy. He came, thumped my back and said “Good! Keep it up!” and went to tell the news to my Grandmother and my baby sister. They were all ecstatic. It was an awesome day indeed.
And that’s how my writing journey began.
As I grew up, I started writing in every essay and literary competitions possible. I became part of College editorial boards, literary committees and debate clubs. I spent time in rooms and rooms of like-minded souls who loved writing and talking about Books, reading and writing. Before I knew it, I was getting by in my Management course just because of my ability to confuse the Profs with my mastery of the language.
My brush with Blogging began while I was pursuing Engineering. I did it occasionally (nikshepd.blogspot.in) and stopped after I got my first job. But as they say, your true passion calls out to you from even the netherworld at times. And I have realized writing through the medium of a Blog is what keeps me going.
So here I am. Writing this post and talking to you through it. This is what gives me peace of mind and true fulfilment. And I assure you it will only get better with time. I’ll try my best to add value to your lives but I hope you’ll forgive me if at times, my writing falls short of the ideal.
Be aware of the fact that the people you end up getting stuck with in rooms matter. Next time it happens, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open. For you never know when life will make you stumble upon your true purpose in life!
I hope your calling finds you soon. Keep Looking.