I still remember the feel of a medium sized soft cover exercise book where I wrote my first half cooked story. As far as my memory goes it was a love story, milk chocolate types. But, I hadn’t yet learnt the art of melting and moulding chocolates. And since I was aware of this fact, I kept cooking, but I never offered anyone to even taste them. But in those days of non-digital era every fortnight I would wait for the newspaperman to deliver colourful and lively editions of children magazines like “Champak”, “Chandamama” and “Chacha Choudhury”. Now I wonder why they all started with “CH” though. While Champak dealt with stories of animals of Nandanvan, Chandamama had stories about brave and intelligent kings, queens and their subjects. Chacha Choudhury declared as the most genius person on earth by the famous cartoonist “Pran”, partnered with a He man type creature “Saboo” who hailed from the planet Jupiter (God knows why never tried going back) and solved mysteries. The stories were no doubt engaging but they had a distinct Indian flavour. After reading them in my leisure time I would lie down on the bed, with my feet up on the wall and would plot new stories.
My first exposure to English books was when I got promoted to class II. A library period was introduced in our school time table and one fine morning we were led to a room on the upper floor where we had never stepped in before. Ah! the smell of the books. I fell in love with them then and there and never ever felt alone. Till date, being surrounded by books makes me feel at home. I miss my summer vacation days when I would spend afternoons after afternoons with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and sometimes Hardy Boys. The secret hiding place in the outhouse of the famous five, the passwords of the Secret Seven and the tree houses enchanted me so much that I dreamt of living in one of them one day. Though the dream hasn’t yet got fulfilled, I am sure it would one day. But what attracted most to me in these stories were the difference of the culture and lifestyle in comparison to ours. The fact that boys and girls sold newspapers in summer to earn pocket money, that they went for fishing and picnics almost every Sunday with their cousins, that the family painted their houses by themselves, that they all lived in lovely bungalows surrounded by white painted fencing near the woods were all something absolutely new for me.
I wrote on and off with no regular pattern but kept writing something or the other. My stories mostly had a tendency of getting longer and longer, till I would lose patience and leave it incomplete. And then I would start another. I almost ceased writing as I approached my secondary board exams. And then there was a long halt before I restarted penning my thoughts. But I kept reading.
Born in the city of joy, literature was all around me. But, let me tell you that the reading and writing bug was passed on to me from my mother. She never wrote any story, but regularly used to read and write poems in Hindi. She had a diary covered with a maroon plastic jacket and she would show her writings to me sometimes. I must say, she wrote amazingly well. Till date, on every card and money envelopes, she writes a short poem expressing her blessings and good wishes.
I fell in love and got married and joined my husband’s business as a kitchen designer. But I would always tell my teacher who was more of a friend to me, that the zeal for writing is still burning inside. And that I am sure that one fine day I would start writing. I was confident that my heart will tell me when I am ready for it. And it did.
I was nearing forty, when it suddenly struck me, that I have almost lived half of the expected life span. And that I should now start writing otherwise it might get too late. Someone told me that I should try writing short stories so that I can finish them up before getting bored. The idea stuck with me. I started writing short fiction and travel stories. My first write up got published in Times of India. I was elated. Oh my, my! It means my writings are readable. It means I can write. I thanked God for this lovely gift that gave a new meaning to my otherwise monotonous life.