To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it before. All I know is that a daily juggling with words has become so intrinsic to who I am, that it is now almost like any other bodily function. One that I know would kill me to stop.

As far back as I can remember, I have written every single day. The volume has varied. On some days, I have churned out an entire script, on others a semi-decent first draft of a half-baked story and then, ever so often, just some stray thoughts punctuated with doodles and squiggles. Some of it has grown into something real, grabbing a fair share of applause, while the rest has remained unfinished and half forgotten. Crumpled into paper balls and discarded or stored somewhere in some word document, ostensibly for ‘later use’.

How did it all begin?

But when and how did it all begin? I shut my eyes and look back. To another time. To another Me. I recall how as a painfully shy ten-year-old, with a head buzzing with questions and ideas, I had made a prodigious discovery – I could actually get heard without speaking. What joy!  I could now say things to people that I wouldn’t have dared to otherwise. I could spend hours getting my thoughts just right, unlike what happens in normal conversation. What’s more, I could be someone or something totally different every single time. I had discovered magic.

I could now say things to people that I wouldn’t have dared to otherwise.

A forever love story…

I felt a strange power as I played with words, spending hours trying to string one to the other, combining and contrasting their various hues and textures as I conjured fantasy worlds of magical creatures, travelling circuses and teenage detectives. Revelling in the accolades that were coming my way, I felt my shyness dissipate. So now, everything I wrote I would read aloud, rolling the words in my mouth, tasting them for hidden sweetness or sharp edges. Around the same time, I discovered the stage and the power of the written word when performed, obsessed me. It was the beginning of a forever love story.

I wrote and directed my first play when I was 16 and the adrenaline rush that it gave me to see it staged before the entire school, was phenomenal. Every smile, every laugh, every jolt that my lines generated are tattooed in my mind’s eye, inked by some empyrean artist. I was truly ecstatic. Poetry too kept me hooked and I still remember the thrill of seeing my first poem published in Kolkata’s local newspaper, The Telegraph, when I was all of 17. More bliss.

Every smile, every laugh, every jolt that my lines generated are tattooed in my mind’s eye, inked by some empyrean artist.

Then the actual romance happened and my obsession with words blossomed with a new intensity. What was too darn mushy or cheesy to tell him, was handwritten in flowery notepads, in even flowerier lingo. Somewhere, safe in my house, there lies a box filled to the top with all my romantic outpourings for the boyfriend I later married. Someday, my kids will read them, but thankfully I will be too far away by then to see them blush or cry or maybe just double up laughing!

The mad Ad world

Then, of course, there was the other kind of writing. The type I got paid to do. Headlines and body copy obsessed me as I plunged into the mad Ad world. Writing now was unlike anything I had ever done before. Concise and to the point, but of course provoking enough to hook a hapless target. Even today, having left the Advertising world, I still can’t help scribbling alternative taglines for practically every brand I see advertised, despite the fact that no one pays me to do that anymore. Darn!

Even today, having left the Advertising world, I still can’t help scribbling alternative taglines for practically every brand I see advertised, despite the fact that no one pays me to do that anymore.

Not that I mind too much actually. I’m happy now doing the kind of writing I love best. For myself. If it gets performed or published that’s just a bonus. Today, I write because I must. There’s just too much that I need to say and I need to put it down soon, before the next thing that I need to say takes over.

Writing forces me to reason, to empathise and internalise. I write because, in this mad world, it’s the one thing that keeps me sane.

A creative consultant and theatre personality, Vanessa Ohri is the author of Play it Right. She is also the co-founder of a Gurgaon-based theatre company. Her short story, The Deluge is featured in Escape Velocity. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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