Very often as children we are asked to visualize what is the one thing we would like to become as grown adults capable of thinking, dreaming, acting on our own steam and living in this azure world of ours. For me the option was quite simple. From the earliest years of my life I remember walking around with a diary and pen scribbling my rampant thoughts – this at a time when I did not even know how to think, mark you. And rampant thoughts they certainly were and a melange of colorful thoughts that simply weren’t considered appropriate for children to have. I started penning down fairytale romances when one was not expected to be aware of these things, and with all the deviousness of children, would carefully hide them away as my secret passion to pursue in solitude, on my own some.
As I progressed on in school, there was just one subject that caught my fancy and gripped me in its talons. The English language and its many -splendoured hues got me inebriated like I could not believe it was possible to be. Suddenly there opened up these great vistas of the future, my mute and relatively retarded brain that had always seemed in hibernation suddenly appeared to wake up. Words, the wonderful world of words held me in a thrall. Then before I knew it, in my earlier years at school I had finished devouring King Arthur and His Knights of the Roundtable (prescribed as a non-detailed reader in school those days!). Then came Tolstory, Milton, Shakespeare, Byron and Shelley, Keats (ah, that eternal favourite) and so many more. Life suddenly seemed interesting and took on a star like quality. My English teachers were my all time favourites, and the feeling was mutual! I am actually still in touch with most of them! It was quite the opposite scenario with Math, so we won’t go there!
I became a bibliophile so obsessed….grabbing whatever books I could lay my hands on at the dusty second-hand bookstores lining the streets in certain narrow culverts and arterial roads in my hometown Chennai, or at the more sophisticated book stores. When this did not seem like the most affordable thing to do, I enrolled in the little community library we had a few streets away from where we stayed. Growing up as a teen in the 80’s it was easy enough to pursue a hobby like reading with single minded focus! This was an era before the Internet and smartphones which meant you actually needed to trudge up to the old reference libraries in town and spend days there grovelling on the floors and thumbing through dusty tomes on rickety shelves to actually even get a research or thesis paper done!
And the sense of excitement at completing my thesis for the master’s programme in communication is something that gives me goosebumps to this day! It was on a topic as tricky as could be imagined – the penetration of satellite television and what digitalization would mean for the mass media…aha, I know most people today would wonder why that seems like such an achievement. Of course, it seems like absolutely nothing today. Pull out your phones, Google the details and voila….you have your presentation in minutes. But imagine a time when there was neither access to such information (yes, I actually physically got sent off from so many television and radio broadcast stations for doggedly trying to get some inputs from the powers that be!), nor were the pediatric resources that were available current or relevant. Add to that the anxiety that people had about the “press” as even communication students were referred to.
Anyway, I digress. The point being that language and literature were always a single minded obsession. From editing the school and college journal to freelancing for local newspapers, it was almost a standing joke among my school mates that my career chose me…long before I had any rational thought or knew where I was going. A couple of decades down the line it seems almost unbelievable that they were right. Editing piles of stuff today and watching the relative angst my own kids and their peers go through trying to ferret out what would be the best career option, I am glad, so glad, that I had my affair to remember. Way before I could even kiss and tell! An affair that has lasted more than half a lifetime!