Some people say that you didn’t win the silver; you lost the gold. However, being the first runner-up at the Lit Digital Awards 2020 is far from a disappointment to me- in fact, I consider the moment I found out I won second place to be one of the happiest moments of my life. Ever since I was a child, I loved scribbling. Even before I knew my ABCs, I would scrawl untidily on the walls in what I thought passed for human handwriting but more closely resembled the progress of an extremely drunk person from point A to B. Nevertheless, words always fascinated me. Whether it was listening, starry-eyed, to the bedtimes read out by my parents, or devouring my new English Literature textbooks during the summer holidays itself, even before school reopened, I consumed words faster than I could walk. And then, I began to produce them. What started as random, four-line ‘poems’ that I would tear up before anyone saw them progressed to half-written stories that were abandoned when the characters died a natural death during exam season. However, it was the height of all exam seasons- my Class Ten boards- that led me to write my very first novel, The Warriors of Javida. I would let off steam (pent up due to hours of maths and physics and organic chemistry yuck) by reading every fantasy book I could lay my hands on at the library. However, I soon finished them, and my Rick Riordan- and- Prince of Persia- obsessed self needed a new outlet. That’s how I started writing a story about a mystical prophecy buried in the sands of Javida which turned out to be my stepping stone into the literary world.
However, there were still times when well-meaning teachers and neighbours treated my interest in literature as a hobby. The career I was meant to pursue was one of the Holy Trinity of Indian Academics- engineering, medicine, or chartered accountancy. I rebelled and opted to major in English in college. I guess the saying that ‘when you like your work, it becomes fun’ is actually true. When I wrote the national-level entrance exam for a central university after my BA, I secured a high rank in the first all-India list released, and maintained straight As throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. I don’t really recall ever feeling upset or stressed with my studies- it was literature, and I absolutely loved it. After my studies, I worked as a copywriter, news blogger, English teacher, and now have settled into the role of Editor in the publishing industry. In my free time, I read and write as much as possible, and I feel blessed that my job is such that it involves reading books for a living! My happiness at winning second place at the Lit Digital Awards 2020 is unparalleled because at the age of 24, after having released 3 books, I was finally able to prove to everyone who shook their heads when I opted to immerse myself in the field of literature that literature is not just a ‘soft subject’ meant for those who don’t have a strong academic record. It is a solid career path, a life, a legacy of one’s own, where you share bits of your mind and soul with the world through your writing. How many ‘conventional’ career options let you do that? To have been recognised for my talent by such qualified and experienced judges is truly a humbling experience for me. I consider it to be the validation I sought when I was younger and still taking baby steps into the literary world. It is also a major inspiration for me to keep writing, keep improving my work and make my mark among Indian authors. To conclude, I would like to quote John Keating (played by the late Robin Williams) from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. Since it was my book of poems, Sanitised Hallucinations, that won me this recognition at the Lit Digital Awards, I feel it is especially fitting: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”