Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Writing Past and Present

How hard can it be to write one's bio?

I've been reading, writing and counting for as long as I can remember. Aren't these the things geeks love doing? I remember Dad teaching me the ABC ad 1 to 10 when I was about a year and a half old. I wonder if I could even walk at the time.

Granddad (on Mum's side) lived in the centre of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. That's where I was born in the early hours of a probably very hot day in December 1961. Dad says Granddad--whom we called Papa because Mum called him that--wouldn't agree to Mum being taken to hospital when she felt the first labour pains. He also says that if he hadn't got that midwife when he did, he would have lost both his wife and his daughter--that's me! It appears everything went well, and I was a healthy 10 lbs girl at birth. Now, why am I saying all this?

Anyway, since I was very small Dad started teaching me and I can say with all honesty, that my dad is the best teacher I've ever had. He taught me Arithmetics, English and French and years later he taught me how to drive. He encouraged me to read and whenever I was idle, the punch-line was "If you've got nothing to do, either read a book or go to sleep". Oh, I remember the Granddad connection now. Granddad was the owner of a large-ish piece of commercial property comprising several shop units under and around the house I was born and basically raised in. The largest of these shops was his own and the others were rented. So, I grew up living over Nalanda Bookshop. One of its entrances was on the main street and the other at the back, just in front of the staircase leading to the living area. Apart from the fact that Dad bought me a new book (from the Ladybird series) every afternoon on his way up, I started taking the bookshop as a "longcut" to Granddad's shop on the main street. The owner was a kind hearted man who never complained about this "what I now consider to be bad" habit.

Since those days, books have constituted the major part of my budget. I lived in their world more than my own. I dreamt of a Christmas like those I read about and of the fairies that changed the lives of little children everywhere.

When I started writing, it was in French which came more easily to me at the time. I won a national prize in the 1981 edition of the Concours de Contes pour Enfants, sponsored and run by Pepsi. My story was published in the Sunday paper and in an anthology. Mum was very proud of my achievement.

Life had other plans for me. My love for science took me on another journey and I flew to Dublin to study Pharmacy. After 4 years of undergraduate and 3 years postgraduate studies, returned home with a Ph.D in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I had left my writing years behind me. In the years I worked as a pharmacist--retail, hospital and industrial--I never bothered about writing. Writing was limited to reports and accounts until that day in October when Poupie and Guizmo gave me my new life.

I came across Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" on one of my frequent trips to Bookcourt. I was looking at books in the "Spirituality" section and it hit me. As I read it, I realized that somewhere along the line since my great moment, I'd been blocked and I COULDN'T write anymore. Julia Cameron's advice gave me my writing back. Writing whatever was in my mind out cleared the fog and I started writing again. Slowly, the URGE of writing returned and I decided to take a Freelance Writing course online with Penn Foster. They were the only ones I could pay by installment. That's where I learnt about the SCBWI. Since I joined them, everything started falling into place. I joined what I consider the world's best critique group. From those ladies, I learnt almost everything I know about writing and I'll be eternally grateful to them.

I paused for a minute, wondering why I wrote all this. Oh yeah... I had to go back in time to look for publishing credit. I have none, except a 360-word Ph. D. thesis and that little story "L'Histoire d'un Enfant" prized in 1981. I hope it doesn't go against me in my marketing endeavors.

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