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Something in the middle

Something in the middle

Recently, my old school invited me to address a class of 11 and 12-year-olds to an interactive session about writing ‘middles!’

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Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 22:21 IST
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Recently, my old school invited me to address a class of 11 and 12-year-olds to an interactive session about writing ‘middles!’ The teachers had shared some of my pieces with them, and this group of 14 children had started this exercise with curiosity and some enthusiasm. They had been given the word limit and were now eager to know more about this ‘genre.’ We first talked about why it is called a middle. Is it because it is on the middle page of the newspaper and in the middle of that page? We even considered whether it is something that people read after they have read a long article or before they read a story. Something in-between? Something in the middle?

The questions from the children bubbled over and pretty much covered everything that I had experienced.

Does everything sent get published? How do they decide what to publish? How long does it take to get it published?

Then they moved on to more searching questions. Did I always write about myself and my memories of an episode? Did ‘they’ ever change what I wrote, and why did they do that? Did any of my middles evoke anger or a strong reaction from readers? Did I ever wish I had not written something?

Their curiosity was boundless. Did I always write humorous pieces? How did I think of what to write about? After the ice had been broken with all these queries, they seemed more willing to read out their pieces. I listened and marvelled. There were personal descriptions of nature, the sharing of deep feelings, the narration of mischief and fun, and evocative recollections of their ‘childhoods’. There were accounts of relationships with animals, with friends, and with other family members.

Suddenly, there was a buzz in a corner of the room. We looked around to see what had happened. One of the teachers had just ‘confessed’ with the student near him that years ago he had written a middle when he was just 18. All eyes and ears were on him now as he recounted the tale of an unusual tea shop in Pune, which he had frequented and written about, and how the owner had proudly displayed the cutting for a long time. The students gazed at him afresh. The ‘middle’ had come close to home for them now.

As we were dispersing, one of the children asked me quietly, “If we all send our middles to the newspaper, do you think they will publish them all?” Seeing the eager light in her eyes, I regretfully had to say, “I don’t know...”

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