When we were kids, my mom would entertain us with stories from our ‘childhood’ and hers – growing up in the magical, mystical yet harsh reality of Kerala. Dad also had a plethora of stories. Stories from his rather wild, free and extremely mischievous childhood… his Airforce days and gentle tales by Vaikom Mohammed Bashir, his favourite author. He also loved to (still does) recite poetry – English and Malayalam. A particular favourite of his was the Malayalam poem (depicted as Kathakali and Ottamthullal performances) about Hanuman and Bhim (Bheemasenan). (Check the link if you are interested in this particular story.)
A few years down the line, I had the wonderful blessing of studying in a school that believed in literature. Charles Dickens, R.L. Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Edward Lear, Oscar Wilde, R.K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand… and so many more – they were all familiar friends by the time I was 16 years old. Somewhere along the way, I read our epics in their entirety. Ramayanam (as any South Indian kid will call it) didn’t do it for me. But the Mahabharatham… ah!! it stirred my soul and my imagination. I fell in love, hated with all my heart, felt helpless and stood humbled and awestruck.
Not surprisingly, the stories started forming in my head. However, I used to brush them off as my teen imaginings and daydreams. When it was time to select a college major, I opted for commerce, because science scared the daylights out of me and English… English… “what are you going to do with a degree in English?” asked the voices in my head. And I listened.
My first job with a trading firm (a job that I got through my dad’s contact) was a revelation. The first day an elderly person surrounded by files (this was before the advent of laptops or emails) told me what I was supposed to do. He then went out to meet fellow traders and trade at the stock exchange – I presume. I sat surrounded by files and looked at some of them… did not understand any of them and spent the rest of the day looking out of the window at a digger dig a foundation in the empty lot next door. I was fascinated.
And then it happened. I started writing poetry. Just like that. Two to three a day.
This series of daily occurences were repeated for the next four or maybe five (I don’t remember) days. Then I called up my dad on the landline (no mobiles either in those days) and told him that if I stayed on at this office, surrounded by musty files with numbers for one more day, I may throw myself in front of that digger.
I quit and within a short span of time walked into the offices of a neighbourhood newspaper – Anna Nagar Times. I have never looked back since then.
I will not bore you further. But over the years along with the poems, I have also been working on a story here and a story there. Those characters and imaginings were finally being put down on paper – partially because the cacophony in my head was getting to be too much. I have finally built the courage to share some of them – some short stories, and dialogues and a few excerpts from a novel I am working on.
I should let you know at the very outset, that I don’t know if these are any good. However, I would love it if you could read these posts and give me your feedback so that I could hone my story writing skills. Will be posting a short story tomorrow to begin with.