A Dream, Maa, and Destiny...

March 2017. The sun peeked through the window and created shapes on the table. A 23-year-old me closed the laptop and trudged towards the kitchen. Ma was cooking a dish. I called out to her. She turned back.

“I’m going to be a writer,” I said.

“If that’s what you want to do, go ahead,” she replied and concentrated back on her cooking. No look of surprise, no questions as to why I have decided so, no worries about the finances of the household. Just pure acceptance. Thus, in a small 1 BHK rented house, a writer was born.

Prior to 2017, I had no intentions of becoming a writer. Born in a middle-class family, I did what the so-called bright kids do. Studied science. Scored good marks. Prepared for competitive exams. However, destiny had something different in store for me. And who can reject destiny?

While I was studying in college, we separated from our father. It wasn’t a formal divorce. My government employee father didn’t need to pay any alimony to my housewife mother. Thus, from a life full of amenities we plunged into the desperation of bringing food to the table. Moreover, we had to move to a new city because our house wasn’t ours anymore. It now belonged only to my father.

Ma’s ornaments kept on turning into small gold tablets as she sold them to meet daily expenses. My elder sister scoured the town to search for a job. After a year, she did find a job but with such meagre salary that it was hard to go by the month.

I began to give competitive exams but to no avail. Then as destiny would have it, a batchmate of mine offered me a content writing gig. I had never heard of the work. But I wasn’t in a place to choose. Thus, I accepted the offer. A week later, when I earned for the first time in my life – a meagre Rs. 270 – I was ecstatic.

I wanted to share the news with a brother of mine whom I had met on Facebook – Chris Reeves. He listened to my blabbers, congratulated me from the bottom of his heart, and suggested,

“Why don’t you write stories too? It’ll help build your writing muscle.”

I said if he wanted me to write stories, I will write one.

“Write about how we met online and became brothers,” Chris said.

So it was. I wrote a two-page short story titled Thousand Clouds Apart. While I was writing the first paragraph, a voice from inside me whispered this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

You know how people tells you that once you know your dream, everything else falls into place. They forget to tell you a key part – everything falls into place only when you work for it. Thus followed days and nights of learning, confusion, doubts, and hopes. No one in my family or friends was a writer. I had no one to go to for guidance.

Thus, the internet was my only friend. Every day, I would write stories in the morning. For the rest of the day, I would scour the internet for information. At nights, I would stay awake till 3 in the morning gathering as much knowledge about this unknown world of words as I could.

There were times when I thought none of it will happen, I would never make it. That I better get back to giving government job exams. But then someone from inside me would whisper, no, this is what you were born to be. I would take a deep breath and delve into the world of stories again.

“Will your stories give you a single rupee?”

“Leave all of it and try for a government job.”

“When there won’t be food in your stomach, these stupid dreams will fly out of the window.”

These are but a tiny fraction of what I heard from relatives and acquaintances. Between all the taunts and humiliation, the one reason I could hold on to my dream was my mother. She told me, let them say whatever they want to. Do what you love and do it with all your heart. Success will follow.

The dream came to life for the first time when on a December night in 2018, I received a mail from The Kolkata Review that they have selected one of my short stories for their February 2019 issue. That was the beginning. From then on, my stories kept on getting published on literary magazines and writing platforms – Remington Review, Verse of Silence, Tell Me Your Story, among others.

Meanwhile, I had begun to write a novel which I completed in 2019. The circle of learning how to write a synopsis, author bio, and concept notes began again. I sent out the manuscript and waited. After three months, the rejections began rolling in. One after the other after the other.

Finally, a year and 15 rejections later, my first book Land of the Lonely was published on the Delhi International Book Fair in January 2020.

While I couldn’t attend the event, whenever my publisher would tell me someone bought a copy of my book or send me photos of the same, the joy was something I could never describe. The book found its home in readers from Delhi, Kolkata, and even in Jammu.

In February 2021, came my second book – The Night When the Books Float. A short story collection this time.

I was content with writing stories. However, in 2020, my publisher suggested why not share what you have learnt in your journey. Thus, I began to take writing workshops to help other writers to write better. So far, I have worked with more than 300 writers, many of which are already published.

Now, I am working on my third book, another novel, and taking writing workshops. After all, is there a better way to live than among stories?

I would like to conclude with an appeal to anyone who has a dream. Hold on to it. Never leave your dream’s hand, for it will never let go of yours. Know you have a blessing because many never realize their dream. Know too that having a dream is not enough. You must work for it day in and day out. For months. Years. You must love what you do – not just the parts where everything is going smooth, but the bumpy rides and moments of heartbreak too. And you must believe you can do it.

Thus, believe, work hard, and hold the ones who support your dream close. Be kind. To yourself. To others. If people remember one thing about you, let it be your kindness. Remember, to be a good writer – or any kind of artist for that matter – you must be a good human being first.

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