A postcard from the edge

Monday Musing

[ Asok Pillai ]

Not everything happens by chance.

My introduction to journalism came in the form of The Times of India newspaper my father used to subscribe to. Not to sound too high-brow or anything, but I was twelve when I started reading newspapers.

My first article was published in the Meghalaya Guardian daily in Shillong when I was fifteen. It was part of a debate competition. 1990 was the year. When I was eighteen, I once taped together foolscap sheets from a blank dista notebook and turned it into my version of a newspaper and mailed it to my brother, who was in Shillong at the time. He showed it around to our friends and everybody was blown by my farcical ‘newspaper’. The Seppa Times, I called it, and – well, basically it was meant to be a humorous letter. I told my brother about the things that were happening in the family and the neighbourhood, but in the news format, dateline and all.

In a nutshell, I had been preparing for journalism long before I ever joined the profession. Talk about manifest destiny.

I say this with the benefit of hindsight, of course. Back then, I didn’t really have any plan of becoming a desk journalist. I just took it for granted that I would be a rich old writer someday, somehow.

And here I am, neither rich nor old old, but getting there, a step at a time.

Now I’m learning how to write a novel. Or a novella, whichever comes first. I’m learning also that it takes blind courage to leap out of the ordinariness of this world.

Surely there has to be something beyond this for me. Sometimes, standing on the edge of journalism, I can just imagine it, the natural progression: a book that will sell like the proverbial hot cakes and make me an overnight millionaire: the great Indian novel. Ah, yes, I have the ‘mood’ of the novel in my mind, but I’ve written barely five paragraphs in the last seven weeks. You might call it my labour of love – literally.

I’m among the variety of journalists who dream of becoming authors in the long run. I don’t care much for fame, but I want the mon-nay!… lots of money. The idea is to write a book that will be judged by its merit and set the literary world on fire.

Why not? I mean, if Chetan Bhagat can do it,-

Fans of Chetan Bhagat, please accept my apologies. I overestimated your intellect. The fact is that the rest of the readers, the serious readers, are waiting for a book that will fill this huge gap created by Bhagat. And I, like thousands of others, am throwing my hat into the ring. I must write a manuscript, by god, and have it published on my own terms. That’s the challenge I face.

While I’m looking out for number one, every month-and-a-half or so, along comes my turn to write ‘Monday Musing’, and I must tear myself away from my daydream and concentrate on MM, because MM comes with a deadline. Missing deadlines is not looked upon favourably at the Times, and I’ve submitted most of my MMs on the dot. I intend to keep it that way. So the great Indian novel will just have to wait.

Writing is fun, but its hard fun, you understand. One has to keep pushing the envelope as one writes a manuscript, or even the next ‘Monday Musing’. The trick is to make haste slowly and break it to them gently. In that sense, this MM, too, is a labour of love.

Sort of.

It took me four days to write it.