It is difficult to say when I started writing. I only remember that I started not by writing anything original, but by copying things I had enjoyed reading. As a child, I read a quite a lot. I copied down in a notebook the little passages, anecdotes, or even ornamental sentences I liked.
Sometime, I had discovered a couple of notebooks my father had stowed away in the locker of our then only cupboard, a space that was taboo for me to explore. These notebooks, aged over unknown time, bore an air of cloistered spinsterhood that provoked me to pry into their preserved maidenhood. As I riffled the virgin pages – crisp yet delicate to my probing fingers – I could almost feel in their rustle an intense frisson of coquettish pleasure roused by my unexpected intrusion. Thus invited, obliquely, I set about confiding in them my most intimate sensations of childish self-indulgence.
Meant for writing memos, the notebooks had alternate sheets, one of a fine ruled paper, and another of a coarse plain paper. Putting a carbon paper between them, you wrote and dispatched the ruled sheet, retaining the copy on the coarse sheet. Since I was writing to and for myself, I needed not do all this. Instead, I copied whatever I fancied, on the ruled sheets. I used the other sheets to doodle, often ending up with a caricature of some illustration from the book I was quoting.
Then in junior school, I was allowed to use ink pen. The yellowed ruled paper, with its faint blue lines, had a strange way of reacting to the ink that made the writing soon look faded. This amazed me to no end, making me wonder at my writing becoming history in a matter of few hours. I began to realize that with my writing I might be consigning a bit of myself into history.
At that time, my reading was confined to Bengali (my mother tongue, and a language spoken in parts of India and Bangladesh). Among my favourite authors was Sayed Mujtuba Ali, a polyglot of some sort, who had studied in France and Germany, and traveled widely in Asia and Europe, as I recall. His writings were interspersed with words, phrases and quotations in English, French, German, Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit and a few other languages. A person with a keen sense of humour, he had a good repertoire of native jokes that he utilized liberally to seed his writings. As I read him, I copied down whatever thrilled me. By the time I was finishing junior school I had several notebooks full of such quotations. My mother was the only person to take interest in my ‘writings’. She was able to read the unconnected quotations without revealing whether they made any sense to her. For good measure, she also read the book I was quoting from, thereby ensuring that her appreciation or otherwise of my work had the right bias.
High school introduced me to Bengali literature, which mostly consisted of stories and poems of the Nobel laureate Tagore, and his contemporaries. I formed a view, which (with my limited knowledge of a few languages) I still hold dearly. It is that Bengali is one of the most suitable languages for narration, particularly in verse, of the emotions of union, separation, reunion, and various other emotions of all human relationships of the flesh as well as the soul. I, therefore, undertook to enrich in my private sphere the already rich language, by turning out poems and occasional stories. These were but poor adaptation, or parody, of whatever I read. I had graduated to writing in my school notebooks, with which I managed to avoid inciting curiosity about my secret passion. I shared my writings with my best friend in school, who sadly thought divining the original poem or story I had adapted was the best way to compliment my work. Faced with this unwelcome challenge, I ended up becoming more and more insular about my writings.
When I left for college, I left my notebooks in my mother’s custody. However, during the many times my parents moved house after I left, they eventually discarded or lost my notebooks.
My first break with writing came in my last year at college, when the association of Bengali students decided to bring out a magazine. I wrote a short story about a new couple, wedded through arranged marriage (quite common in India). On the morrow of the nuptial ceremonies, the groom receives a letter from his bride, delayed by weeks in post. In that, she implores him not to marry her, as she had once run away for a man, a monk, who had rejected her overtures, and embraced celibacy. As little can be done about it now, the groom puts away the letter, and proceeds for the pre-arranged honeymoon with a heavy heart. During their stay at a lonely hill station, it becomes obvious to the bride that the groom is not attracted to her. While she cannot quite understand his genteel detachment, her frozen emotions begin to thaw. Gradually, their awkward and formal relationship softens up. When they are returning, on the train, he realizes he is in love with her, and that she knows it, as much as she knows that he has the letter. Secretly, he tears up and throws away the letter he had brought along. Seeing the shreds disappear from the train window, suddenly he feels a pang of regret, realizing that he had destroyed her ‘first letter’ to him.
I wrote no more in college. After graduating, I spent a long time at home, looking for a job. Jobs were scarce, making it a very depressing time. I had my school days’ best friend to keep company. An employed young person in my neighbourhood invited me over for a cup of tea from time to time. I took to writing, but wrote in fits and starts, sharing my poems and stories with them. After several months, I got a job and left home. I lost track of these writings too. I only remember about a poem I had written, which I rather liked. It was about a pair of exotic birds that flew in every year with the onset of winter, to roost in the clock tower at the town square of a small town. This heralded the arrival of a season, which to the town’s folks implied the passage of another year into cold oblivion.
Now, after my retirement, I have started to write again. I write both in Bengali and in English. After reuniting with my college mates on Facebook, for some time I mailed my writings to them, and their friends. A few responded, but most did not.
I realized, again, that I just had to write for myself. I switched to blogging.
At the moment, my favourite subject is human relationships of all kinds, but particularly between man and woman (in general, and not necessarily concerning any specific couple). I also like to reflect upon the influence of time and natures on us.
My favourite formats are poetry and lyric story.
I still appreciate if someone likes my writings. Nonetheless, I write purely for my own pleasure. That way I can write my history for myself of future.
Indroneer / 04 May 2014