Background: I wrote this piece in April 2001, after my “funny” essay titled “Black, White and Various Shades of Brown” (1.2) was published in Sulekha Select. It was a multi-author book. Sulekha morphed into an all-purpose site and is now a different animal entirely.
I AM FINALLY PUBLISHED! And yes, I will use "all caps"! It just feels so good; I know I am justified in shouting.
Oh, okay! It may not seem like such a big thing to most of you, considering it is just one small satire in a book featuring over 25 authors. And it is not as if Indian authors are not being published every other day. But considering what I've had to go through to get here (don't worry, I am not coming up with a hard-luck story), it feels like a big thing to me.
When I started two years ago, all I knew was that I wanted to write. To make sure that I would write consistently every week, I started my website and became a regular columnist at a couple of other sites. For one and a half years, I was able to key my words on the notebook screen with prompt regularity, week after week, churning out rants and reviews, essays and satires, until everything fell apart in February. I hate cribbing, but with a 6.00AM to 6.00PM work schedule, evening with the twins and travelling all over the country on weekends, something had to give, and the immediate casualty was my non-medical writing.
Sulekha Team (mainly Venkatesh, I suspect) actually got it right on the noggin, in that small footnote on the first page of my piece that starts on page 38 and ends on page 42. With a good amount of sarcasm he mentions at the end "He is a doctor by profession and recently became a father of twins; both these nearly full-time occupations have added depth to his writings, but taken away the time that he needs to devote to his writings." Every weekend I promise myself that I will write a new piece. My notebook's subdirectory called MFM/Writings is littered with half-completed pieces; some of these were topical at the time they were written and have had to be abandoned since; the rest are waiting to be reopened and reworked upon. In the bargain my subscriber list and website, Sulekha and India Parenting have all been left in the lurch; the loss is mine, not theirs.
Venkatesh over the last three months or so had been corresponding with me about Sulekha Select. I had been replying to him at a spinal level, complying with his wishes, filling out forms, sending off some declarations, etc. Yesterday three copies of this book finally reached me at work. I opened the Elbee jacket, saw the books, a pressing phone call interrupted any "Sulekha" thoughts that might have crossed my mind and I forgot all about them. Today, when I finally saw the books again and took one in my hands, saw the elegant cover, my name among the author-list on the front page and riffled through the pages, it finally sunk in. I WAS FINALLY PUBLISHED! And as if that was not enough, I was in terrific company.
The immediate next piece in the book is by Nagesh Kukunoor who I know as the director of Hyderabad Blues, a nice hip film, which I liked immensely. Ramesh Mahadevan, who is one of the funniest writers I know. Mahesh Krishnaswamy from Singapore who is often Wodehousesque and great fun. And Ashini and Neeta are e-colleagues from a small writing group that was started a year ago, but eventually petered out as everyone became busier with other things. Ashini is a great critic and I remember how she completely nixed my sexist satire on Madhuri Dixit's marriage. Tanushri who hit Sulekha with a bang; I almost met her last year when Venkatesh came down to Mumbai, but I guess she was daunted by the travel from Vashi to Churchgate all alone at night and we never eventually met. The only other person who I have met besides Venkatesh (who I think is a bloody genius), is Abbas Tyrewalla, who will one day be very famous and we'll see him during a Filmfare award going on stage to receive a best lyricist or screenplay award. Sailendra Singh's wit is famous in the e-group SASIALIT, 144 mails of which are lying in my inbox waiting to be deleted. And of course Rupa Gawle, who stormed into Sulekha with her angst-ridden ABCD article; she never did reply to any of my mails though. And Satya (and Sangeeta), who gave me my first big break by making me a columnist at Sulekha (a decision I hope they don't regret or retract, despite my irregularity); Satya was in Mumbai for three days a few months ago and we couldn't just manage to meet each other; that's how crazy life has been. I know I'll have to go to Austin one of these days just to say hello and thank you.
When I started writing, my aim was to first clear the cobwebs, get the words flowing and then sit down to write the "great Indian novel". Only of course, the "great Indian novel" no longer exists. I know now that there is no way I will ever be able to achieve the kind of word play that Arundhati Roy and Pankaj Mishra possess. Yet I know that someday my novels will come through; they are just a matter of time. And when I start hawking those manuscripts to publishers (not everyone gets immediately snapped with a million dollar advance), this Sulekha Select publication will be my first reference. Thanks Satya, Sangeeta and Venkatesh.
And maybe from tomorrow, I'll find that little extra time and inspiration to pen my 500 words a day. Hell, even if I can do 500 words a week, I'll be happy. And if I consider the way this piece has virtually typed itself a sign, then I guess I will be able to manage. So what if it is 1.00AM in the morning and I have to get up at 5.00AM to reach work at 6.00AM for a full day's work despite it being Saturday, followed by a reunion of my old hospital department at night, followed by a 6.00AM flight to Vadodara on Sunday morning for a lecture, followed by...
It feels great! And to all of you at Sulekha, thanks again!
Addendum: In the interim, I was always thinking of writing the “Great Indian” novel. My profession though will not allow that for some more time. In the interim, this book has happened, so I AM FINALLY PUBLISHED as a book author as well. And my prediction about Abbas Tyrewalla has come true as well. Despite the failure of his last film, trust me…he is a genius and will do really, really well.
Addendum: This is a current addendum written in May 2023. So much has changed, though Abbas is doing well in the film industry. And I am still writing every week, though the novel still eludes me.
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