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Writers galore

By Nickunj Malik - Nov 08,2017 - Last updated at Nov 08,2017

The interesting thing about relocating to a new place is that one gets a chance to reinvent oneself. The past history is wiped clean and you are given the opportunity of starting all over again with a clean slate, so to speak.

Considering I have moved from one house to another nine times, by now I should excel at it, but sadly that is not the case. I get stressed and fall apart with each shift! Over the years, my husband has come up with innovative ideas to help me cope with the turmoil associated with our multiple transfers of residence. He once suggested that I throw a birthday party for myself in every new destination, as soon as I arrived, and proclaim my age according to whatever I wanted it to be. His enthusiasm was so infectious that I got carried away and actually turned 40 three times, in three different continents! With a lot of pomp and ceremony, I must add. 

Thankfully, the people of the host countries were very kind and went along with the charade, even though my family teased me relentlessly claiming I had literally found the secret of eternal youth. I eventually got tired of being frozen in a time capsule and decided to age naturally, but here I digress. 

Another thing I did not realise is how puzzling my profession was. Especially in Mauritius, where within moments of landing on the island, I met several people who shook their heads in disbelief when I told them what I did for a living. They asked in amazement if writing was an actual occupation because according to them, anybody who could string a few words together in a sentence, was a writer. 

With a sudden sense of camaraderie, a broad faced lady confessed that she wrote frequent complaint letters to the editor of a local community paper. Another bearded chap claimed he wrote out all the excuse slips in his family, whenever his children needed to be excused from school. One more couple said they typed inspirational messages on social media first thing every morning, and circulated it within their close group. 

As word got around, additional people came forward to tell me of their writerly connections. One girl in grade five, who won a prize when she wrote an essay on the zoo, and a yoga instructor, who deciphered and translated ancient Sanskrit texts into instruction manuals of unusual exercises, for his students. 

They were all writers in some manner or another and could not understand how I was any different from them. 

“For most people writing was almost a non-profession because everybody had written something or the other, at some point in their lives. We had all heard that oft-repeated cliché about everyone having a story in them. So what was the big deal about being a writer? It did not require special skill. It didn’t require training, either. After all, creative writing classes were a recent phenomenon; for centuries, writers had used nothing but inherent talent and experience to ply their trade,” I read aloud, from a piece written by Madhulika Liddle, an Indian novelist. 

It made me understand the Mauritians better. 

“You get paid? Like in a regular job,” suddenly asked the writer of letters-to-the-editor. 

“Excuse me?” I was taken aback. 

“Yes, per word,” I answered.   

“What is the breakup?” she questioned.

“For example, if you type -The End?” she went on.

“I make two dollars,” I smiled. 

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Comments

A scintillating oscillation between vacillation and occupation. Apart from the "time tested" method of coping with the trauma of hopping continents, the tongue in the cheek of the gawping admirers is hilarious. One could excuse them for thinking how a person could make a living out of writing. I am sure most of them would have expected you to tell them that you get paid for sticking your neck out of the car window to yell at obdurate honkrs of horns, next!

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