How do I write…? Why do I write…? Growing up in a small home I was used to sharing my writing desk with my other siblings and the desk was large enough to preserve all our notebooks without coming in the way of each other. One day, I had scribbled my essay for college and gone out without settling the books in the drawer as our parents had trained us to and when I came home, my eldest brother who happened to have read the essay remarked, ‘Do you know you can write, I mean you have the making of a writer’.
I was too young to understand the implications but a few months later, my college professor asked me to join the magazine team. My story published in the college magazine caught the attention of a budding publisher who operated from the building adjoining to my college and hired me as an intern. Post my daily lectures I walked across to his office and spent two hours writing disjointed paragraphs of various stories he asked me to for which I was paid a monthly fee of rupees 100.
My story published in the college magazine caught the attention of a budding publisher who operated from the building adjoining to my college and hired me as an intern.
Then one day, I read an advertisement in the paper inviting college students for a walk-in interview at the ball room, Taj Mahal Hotel. The room was house-full and I was surprised when I got confirmed for the job on the very same day. I rejected the offer because I was suspicious but they kept chasing me as if I was the last talent in the country and I relented because they offered me a salary of rupees 500 a month. This must be in the year 1977.
Ever since I am writing….
I am often asked if I like what I do, some ask me how do I write and others why do I write…? I have no answers. I write because it comes to me naturally, I write because I feel happy, I feel cleansed or maybe simply because I am accustomed to writing. It is like breathing and when I don’t it is like something is missing in my day.
As children we wrote with pencils, as we grew up we learnt to write with fountain pen on lined notebooks. When I started working, we were given ball points and writing pads. I learnt to correct what I had written with red ball point pens. I learnt to edit my writing using a felt pen marking paragraphs and punctuations. Then after a good night’s rest I would scrutinize every line and write a final draft out of the messy multi coloured manuscript in long hand.
In the 80s we learnt to befriend the typewriter keys even though there was just one typewriter in the office. In the 90s it was time to look at the screen and think and in 2000 the lap top wire became the umbilical cord that was never disconnected.
Unlike a fiction writer, a journalist does not choose her subjects/characters; she is the lieutenant sent on an operation and does her best within the circumstances. There is a possibility however that doing the same kind of interviews makes her an expert on the subject. This happened with me.
I wrote exclusively and extensively on cinema and therefore my debut book and others that followed focused on cinema, a trilogy on Amitabh Bachchan, an authorized biography of Hema Malini, essays on the magic of movies and chronicling history of cinema.
I write because it comes to me naturally, I write because I feel happy, I feel cleansed or maybe simply because I am accustomed to writing. It is like breathing and when I don’t it is like something is missing in my day.
Only two out of the 15 books I have authored between the years 1999 to 2019 only two are fiction and feature Lord Krishna. The first, Krishna: The God who lived as Man about the deity and the women in his life is a translation from Gujarati to English. The book focuses on Radha, Rukmini and Draupadi but I got fascinated with Krishna’s youngest wife Satyabhama and unknowingly became partial to the character. This can and does happen and it is okay as long as the writer is conscious about it.
For Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession I conceived the concept and all the eight wonders – peacock, flute, the Kadamba tree, lotus, Tulsi plant, Kamadhenu, conch and the Peepal tree instinctively began to read about them till I could consume them no longer. All of them are obsessed with Lord Krishna and believe that he loves them the most. I remained obsessed with each of them till the book was complete and even now, I can never pass by a Peepal tree on the road without wondering if Krishna resides within the branches…I cannot pluck on a Tulsi leaf without wondering about her fate and if justice was done to her by her lord….
The lotus, the conch, the Kadamb tree stay within me even as I write this…. There is a possibility that the characters get as attached to the writer’s mind and don’t leave until the writer consciously bids them farewell to make space for newer characters….
Bhawana Somaaya has been a journalist for more than 40 years. She is a film critic, columnist, and author of 15 books. She has served on the Advisory Panel of Film Certificate in India and is currently the Entertainment Editor at 92.7 Big FM Radio channel. Somaaya was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2017. The views expressed are the author’s own.