Friday, January 29, 2010

A writer's rising


I was 16 when the writing bug bit me hard. Getting my poems and reflective essays published in local magazines was encouraging. But as much as I found myself attracted to the idea of making this form of self-expression a full-time endeavor, the thought of letting down my parents held me back.

I halfheartedly prepared for management courses, studied computer networking for a year, and even tried my hand at teaching. Anything but writing.

Ok. Time to ‘fess up. I was still writing on the side. Small freelance op-eds for the local daily; a couple of reports for another national magazine; my journal. Just pursuing my “hobby” as I’d tell mom.

Sneakily, I had applied for a writing position with a publishing house in Mumbai. Within three days of my application, the hiring manager called. A 45-minute phone interview ensued. I was shaking with nervousness. If I got this job it would be a resounding validation of my skills. I could convince mom and dad that I was good at this – that someone thought my writing was worth a paycheck.

48 hours of suspense. I checked my e-mail every hour on the painfully slow dial-up connection; made sure the telephone receiver was kept properly. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or drink. And then it came. The offer letter. They wanted me to start in a week.

Surprise. A tinge of disappointment. Anxiousness. Those were the three emotions my parents exhibited when I broke the news. Two days later, these would be replaced by excitement – a mild sense of achievement. Happiness that their only child was taking flight.

I had found my wings.

I learned many new skills on the job, but within nine months I was keenly aware of my shortcomings. I had no real grounding in journalism. “You’re supposed to get married at this age, not go back to school,” said dad when I told him I wanted to get a master’s degree.

In the U.S.

I quit my first job, flew back home, and started preparing for the GRE and TOEFL. “It isn’t the writing bug that’s bitten her,” mom would say. “It’s the love bug.” She was partly right.

An unexpected e-mail from halfway across the world had made its way into my inbox in the wee hours of a winter night. He had read my poem on sexual exploitation of girls and wanted to know what kind of a nut-job I was. What business did I have thinking and writing about such serious topics at my age when my peers were out shopping for bangles or discussing the latest Bollywood heartthrob? He was moved (and curious enough) to write me. I responded. Within a week of exchanging 50-odd e-mails and four-long IM conversations per day, we knew we were meant to be.

He loved my writing style. Encouraged me to speak my heart. Inspired me. Challenged me. Supported me. Was my worst critic. My best friend. Still is.

After a year of drama, intense preparation, and lots of rewrites I got into all the six colleges I’d applied to. I chose to go to the University of Iowa. It was hard – more for my parents than me. I was looking forward to a new life. They were pining for their baby girl.

We made it through.

2004 was a milestone year: I graduated with a master’s degree in journalism, got my first full-time job in the U.S., moved from the mid-west to California to be with my husband (we’d gotten married the year before), and got a driver’s license.

Six years later, I continue to enjoy writing as a profession. I write about students, professors, philosophers. Through their stories, I inspire interest in education.

My parents say I had the brains to become a lawyer, an IAS (Indian Administrative Services) officer, an engineer, a banker, or anything I wanted, but I chose to be a writer. (And truth be told, they’re proud to see my byline now and again.)

It doesn’t pay as much as all the other “choices” I had, but it’s satisfying.

And with my blog, I can take a break from PR communication, and write about things I’m passionate about. My ponderings. My observations. My two-cents on the goings on of this crazy world. It’s where I find my solace.

It’s where I hope you can find some inspiration, too.

4 comments:

marcime said...

Hi Mansi - welcome ! You have a lovely story - one that I have heard countless times from my Persian/Indian friends - glad there is a happy ending... I am looking forward to reading what you have to bring to our little (little bit bigger...:) writing collective.

Sai said...

What an interesting journey, Mansi! So happy you found your calling, and your joy. Your story sounds so familiar, especially the IAS bit! When I was in high school, I would top my class each year. And I was constantly told by teachers and friends that I should become an IAS officer. Imagine their dissapointment when I chose to study the arts in grades 11 and 12, instead of Maths, Science, and Commerce. Thanks for sharing your story!

Katherine Jenkins said...

Mansi-Very interesting journey. I can see that this might be a great book one day! Happy to have you here!

Mansi said...

Thanks, all, for your warm welcome. I'm sorry for the late acknowledgment, but I've been swamped. It's really exciting to be part of a group of like-minded folks with similar passions in life. I look forward to being inspired by all of you.