Middle aged writing

Humour

The first ‘middle’ I ever wrote appeared in Deccan Herald over 30 years ago.

The triumphant Australians could not have been more elated at decisively demolishing our hapless cricket team than I was to see my piece in print. I forbore, however, from running a victory lap round the neighbourhood. Settling for a less flamboyant form of publicity, I bought several copies of the newspaper and mailed my ‘middle’ to family and friends.

Freelance writers of the early ’80s will recall that each article had to be accompanied by a postage-paid on a self-addressed cover. If rejected (a frustratingly frequent occurrence), it was promptly returned to the sender. I was thrilled that my maiden offering had found favour, and basked in the compliments of those who had seen it. For those who had not, there was no escaping A Burning Question, copies of which I made readily available. As its name suggests, my ‘middle’ had to do with a serious issue; it dealt with dowry deaths.

“What’s next?” I was often asked, a burning question which inflamed in me the urge to repeat my feat. Emboldened by my earlier success, I dashed off a contribution on Wordsworth to Sunday Herald. Reading it over recently, I must ruefully admit that it is far from polished prose. At the time it was published, however, I was — in the words of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra — “green in judgement.”

Inordinately proud of my achievement, I was delighted when my brother-in-law — albeit guardedly — pronounced it ‘good’. Indeed, the young man could do little else! It hardly required his medical-school intelligence to discern that I was eager for instant approbation, rather than informed analysis.

The yearning for praise meant the earning of praise. Inspiration struck sporadically, usually when — like Macbeth — I sought ‘the season of all natures’, sleep. Dragging myself out of bed, I would rush in a somnolent state — not to a PC (of whose existence I was ignorant) — to find pen and paper. Occasional power cuts did not clog creativity. Lacking a UPS, I would — half tripping, wax dripping, idea gripping — bear a candle to the study, hurriedly setting down my thoughts before they slipped away.

If the stuff I was scribbling seemed worthwhile, I would toil tirelessly, reviewing and rewriting until I arrived at a few hundred words that met my approval. They were difficult to decipher, but I was fortunate to find a typist who made sense of my scrawl.

I missed him during my stay in Iran. Shiraz, Isfahan, Persepolis — I had many exciting experiences to share. But would our newspaper back home entertain hand-written matter? “It depends on the hand,” said my husband tersely. I took the hint, and — with assiduous attention to legibility — painstakingly inscribed my reflections on a fascinating culture. I posted A Letter from Iran, along with a cover affixed with Indian stamps (should Deccan Herald decide to deport it!), and reaped the reward of my labour. Bangaloreans received and read my Letter.

As I work on my current composition, it is hard to believe that there was an era devoid of the means of communication now at our disposal. One thing, however, has not changed, at least for me; typing remains a challenge. I manage with one finger which is not my third finger, but I call it, regardless of the nature of my compositions, my ‘middle’ finger.

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