Back in the summer of 1999, for reasons unknown to me at the time, I began writing a poem. To be honest, it was my very first attempt. Considering my limited proficiency in English (I couldn’t read or write it fluently), what emerged on those blank pages was a rather comical Hindi poem about Lord Hanuman and his tail, and how he effortlessly set fire to Ravana’s Lanka. Yes, it sounds quite amusing, doesn’t it?
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As terrible as it may have been (though I was blissfully ignorant of that fact), I mustered the courage to recite it to my brother, sister, and father. What followed was a barrage of jokes at my expense that seemed to go on forever. While the timing of their playful teasing might have varied, one thing remained consistent in their banter: “Dude, you can’t write… stop embarrassing yourself!”
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Perhaps it was my ego, my unyielding Leo sun sign, or the pain I felt, but I vowed to prove them wrong. Coming from a Hindi-medium school background, I needed a miracle to master the nuances of the English language and its verses to bury the humiliation of their taunts. Although I continued to write poems in Hindi, I kept them to myself. Soon enough, I had filled three diaries with the strangest creations, things I never thought I could conjure.
But that wasn’t my ultimate goal.
As I continued to fill my diaries with verses, I started reading English newspapers (I was the only one in the entire neighborhood doing so at the time) and spent countless hours in internet cafes, chatting with strangers and engaging in English conversations on chat. Only my mother knows how much she spent on my STD calls to connect with my online friends, all in the pursuit of comfort and fluency in the English language. I was still far from perfect, but at least it was a start!
Then, the change I had been waiting for finally arrived.
During one of my online chats (where, incidentally, I managed to find an online girlfriend), I stumbled upon a website, www.poetry.com, which was inviting writers from around the world to participate in an online poetry competition. The winner would not only receive $5000 but also have their poem featured in the annual book and turned into a song. Hesitantly, I began crafting my first English poem (with plenty of assistance from an Oxford dictionary to find the right words), penned it down, and submitted it with little hope. My next step was to forget that I had even submitted anything.
Several months passed, and I had long forgotten about the submission. Then, one fine day, a postman arrived at my father’s shop with a letter bearing my name. It was from poetry.com. While I hadn’t won, as expected, they found my poem worthy of inclusion in their book and for adaptation into a song. The letter sought my permission for this. What did I do? I don’t think I need to answer that.
I share this story to underscore that despite warnings from my family members – my brother, sister, and even my father – that I would never be able to write or excel in this field (and honestly, I battled my own insecurities), I took those warnings as a challenge and continued writing tirelessly.
Not to brag, but the person who once couldn’t even construct two sentences in English has, over the last seven years, worked with prestigious brands like Gucci, www.stylekandy.com, HT CITY, Images Group, and served as an editorial consultant for Indian magazine TLF and South African magazine Sutra. I’ve freelanced for the London-based online magazine http://chasseurmagazine.com/ and had a weekly column with www.idiva.com, to name a few accomplishments. Not to mention, I launched my own online fashion and lifestyle platform, www.stylerug.net. I genuinely believe that those early warnings from my family members were instrumental in shaping my journey to where I am today.
The moral of the story is that sometimes warnings come to us as catalysts for change in our lives. If we understand them and work towards overcoming the challenges they present, we might one day find ourselves thanking those very warnings for knocking on our doors. The key, however, is whether you are up for the challenge when it arises.
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One of my friends once said, I am in love with words and a zoned out poser... well, I will keep it the way it has been said! Besides that you can call me a compulsive poet, wanna-be painter and an amateur photographer