Where do I begin? For as long as I remember I have always wanted to
write. I guess the begins
from books at an early
age. I have been a voracious reader as a child. I began by reading comics
like Tintin and Asterix while also devouring the weekly
dose of Tinkle, Archie and Superhero comics (Batman, The Green
Lantern and Spiderman in particular).
indulged in my habit and encouraged me to keep reading. By the time
I turned eight I had read children's classics versions of Tom Sawyer,
Oliver Twist, Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities and The Adventures
of Huckleberry Finn. I soon moved on to Ukrainian Tales (A
hardbound 500+ pages collection of short stories) which Pops picked
up for me.
I was also privileged to have a membership in two
close to home. At the end of every week my Mum or Pops would take me
down to one or both libraries to borrow books in which I would lose
myself all weekend. My Mum also brought me books which she believed
I should read from her school's library where she was a member starting
with the full range of Noddy books at the age of five; Aesop's
Fables a year later and the classics like Robinson Crusoe
a couple of years after that. I would finish reading my English Literature
text book on the day when all text books were given out, a week prior
to the start of a school year. After finishing this I would go and borrow
my cousin Ibrahim's (three years older in the same school) text book
and finish this too. Often my brother and I went over to our cousin
- Roshini Anand's home to play or watch cassettes of animated films.
I remember spending most of my time in front of her bookshelf, taking
out one book after another and finishing it end to end.
Pops would take us to the hairdresser's every fortnight as he believed
that if my brother and I had shorter closely cropped hair we would be
less naughty. A mistaken belief as the complaints from neighbours and
teachers continued pouring in. I sometimes think it was a plot by my
parents and to get my
brother and me out of the house every other Sunday morning so that they
could have some peace and quiet. Anyway, even here I was accompanied
by a loyal friend - my book - recently bought or borrowed from the library.
I remember reading the Adventures of Robin Hood, a 200+ pages
book one morning from end to end while some people fell asleep, some
read old editions of Filmfare and my brother got up to his usual
tricks (vandalism or making faces and funny gestures at others while
imitating them or giving them nicknames) in the hairdresser's waiting
room. Thanks to him we had to change four or five hairdressers while
we were kids as after a few weeks of tolerating us the hairdresser would
refuse to take in my brother or me if we were unaccompanied by our Pops.
My and Mum would also take us to another library (where my uncle
was a member) in Commercial Street, when my brother and I the two imps
in the family accompanied them on weekly shopping expeditions. To avoid
the embarrassment of having the two of us bring the house down in every
store we entered they would leave us at my
shop - he was the General Manager of Raymond's (a post retirement
job to keep him busy in his cousin brother's store). My Nana was one
of the finest gentlemen one could meet. He was part nationalist in his
ideas and beliefs having grown up during times when we were colonised
and part English in his mannerisms, his dressing style and the way he
articulated himself. To my brother, the posh and opulent store Nana
managed was his Disneyland. He opened all the drawers on Nana's table
and tried scribbling with all the pens and pencils he could get his
hands on when he wasn't running around the marble floored store from
one end to another, hiding in the dressing room or playing jester to
salesmen who were entertained by his antics.
My Nana was gentle in every sense but was also known to be a firm father
and stickler for discipline. His disapproving eye and slight frown which
could quickly make his own children and people who worked for him fall
in line, could manage little beyond a faint smile and pretended to ignore
my brother's impish behaviour. Sometimes I'm sure Nana felt ill at ease
but managed to smile, this is the quality time he got to spend with
his only grandchildren growing up in Bangalore. He was in fact charmed
by the little brat 'Ali Baba' and me - the reticent mischief maker (the
source of ideas and encouragement for Ali's pranks) whose visit to the
store is something I'm sure he waited for every other weekend. I would
sit next to him lost in my book which in all likelihood was an Archie
or Superhero comic or later Famous Five or the Hardy Boys series. Customers
or other store managers he knew would stop by for a chat and ask him
- "Is this your grandson?"
He would nod with pride and his slight smile and would gently tell me
- "Beta, say hello to uncle."
I would look up in deference and mumble a "hello uncle," with
a look of 'please don't disturb' on my face to which my Nana would add,
"He loves to read. He is just like I was when I was a kid."
I still remember my wish to Pops when at the age of six I was told that
I have measles and I would need to stay in bed for a couple of weeks.
Pops asked me with affection, "Tell me anything you want. I'll
go and get it for you."
"I want 'To Riverdale and back again', the libraries don't have
it, neither do my friends. But I saw the book in Gangarams when we went
shopping there with Mum for my textbooks," I said playing spoilt
brat as usual.
Pops came back with the book an hour later. He managed to pick up one
of the last copies in the bookshop. It's an evening I still remember.
This was a rare novel in comic book format, a limited release; one which
very few came across or even knew about. I remember going back to school
weeks later and telling my friends I know what happens to Archie, Veronica
and Betty many years after they leave Riverdale. My much treasured book
was stolen a few weeks later when I took it to show it off to friends
and classmates. That's the last I saw of it, the loss of which made
me sulk for days.
On my trips to the library with my Mum or Pops, the portly librarian
would smile at me broadly as he saw me enter. He would reach in to a
draw and pull out the latest Archie comics and later the latest Agatha
Christie, Jeffery Archer or John Grisham novels. "Here Ahmed Sait,
these are the latest books for you," he would say with his portly
Sometimes he would look at me like he had failed me or had done something
wrong when he had no new book for me or on days when I had to browse
through each and every shelf, my eyes scanning through dusted copies
of books to find an interesting story which I was yet to read.
My frail Dadi would tell us magical stories from the yore (stories of
angels, kings and queens, battles and demons) on evenings when my parents
went out (once or twice a week). This was her desperate attempt to quieten
us down and prevent a World War III like situation between me and my
brother. Sometimes she would forget the story if we interrupted a lot
and asked her many questions as we often did. Later, after we grew a
couple of years older we would sit and read stories from Tinkle and
translate these for her. She could barely see at this age and wore her
glasses only when she went visiting my Aunts or other relatives. Like
me she had an insatiable thirst for new stories as well. In fact she
would first borrow my copy of the comic to try and understand the story
from the illustrations. Both of us would wait for my subscribed copy
to be delivered every fortnight.
Why have I written all this? I wouldn't have written a book if I didn't
have the people I did in my life. My grandparents and parents who loved
me unconditionally and told me stories or bought me books or took me
to places where I could borrow them to satisfy my unquenched thirst
for more stories from a world I did not know. This is where my journey
began...these are possibly my first influences...the people who nurtured
my love for reading. I believe the genes of my parents and grandparents
in me is what makes me write and makes me read voraciously (much to
the dismay of my suffering wife). Like me they read a lot (or in my
Dadi, Nana and my Pop's case they used to).
My Mum reads any book which can move her to tears (the Mitch Albom,
Khaled Hosseni and 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' variety) when she gets
time from horrid and regressive television soap operas which move her
to tears (quite unnecessarily in my opinion). The tradition of reading
and writing continues in the family with my wife being the newest member
who has joined the fray. I often see her writing in her diary. I'm not
sure what she writes as most of her writing happens after she and I
argue over something ;)
Well if you believe that there is a
in you and it's time to get started, here are some links which might
help. These are sensible words and tips from people who know better
and have done it themselves. Again these aren't steps or advice that
I followed or wish for you to follow. I find it very difficult to write
up or compile lists of what to do and what not to do. You would find
a lot of material worth referencing online. Read all of this as opinion
and suggestions and maybe you'll find something that helps or maybe
you'll find your own path like I did.
your first novel by Victory Crane
your first book... by Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life
you want to write a novel? By Robert Twigger on the First Post
Karan Bajaj, a talented and intelligent storyteller in my opinion has
offered some sensible advice on getting a book published in India. Stop
by at www.karanbajaj.com to read his
useful and valid opinion (in hindsight good advice based on my own experience).
I don't have anything more to say but - try and read my book if it interests
you or read some other book that does. But do read and encourage others
to do so - it is the only gift we as humans have which can inspire us,
entertain us, which we can cherish and immerse ourselves into like nothing
else. The right kind of books can make us more aware, more knowledgeable;
help us escape from a dreary and mundane existence for a little while
in a world more exciting. They have been my constant companion through
adolescence, my first crush, my initial failure to clear CA Final exams,
the years in SIBM where high paying jobs was a focus for many, through
falling in love for the first time and dealing with heartbreak or getting
over a failed romance; through dealing with the loss of a loved one
or coming to terms with life and getting used to people in a new city
where I am away from the people I love (as I often have been time and
again for the past six years).