Twenty eight years after my first article was published, I am proud to say: ‘I am still around’ – And ready to start afresh.
There was pain and gain, too, though grossly disproportionate. There was fame and lots and lots of shame. I had to beg, and borrow, but stole only hearts.
For writers like me, existence has been a challenge from day one.
By Nazarul Islam
Pride sometimes, is a legitimate indulgence. For me personally, a small fish that I am in a turbulent ocean infested by sharks, pride is the only source of sustenance.
Pride for survival, therefore, is a reality and every day, in the last four years I have taken time to learn what my readers like to say behind my back. Celebrating the dawn of this day is a real relief to me first and a motivation to look back how my readers have responded to my published pieces. Juvenile, though it may seem, I have loved my indulgence in reading these sweet, sour and bitter feedbacks.
So, every year, I promptly reach for the trumpet, which is blown by me and for me to keep me dancing through what is often a futile and fanciful pursuit. In this pursuit, my future is the last on my mind. Are we aware, in human life and all its labored endeavors ‘forever’ is still finite?
In writing my stories, I somehow feel like running on the treadmill machine, pacing hard under sweat—covering distances in a frenetic pace and burning mental calories just to stay in the same place. Growth and progress are to be measured by the seemingly laughable logic of perennial status quo.
It is not surprising that existential and health issues continue to stare at me in all forms, and all times. Time and life only move forward. There is no rewind button. Racing towards my seventies, reading, writing, copying, pasting, fumbling, I find myself fooling around with words in a bid to create reading ‘delicacies’, that keeps me going. To be honest, all this has relaxed me more than ever.
Every day, the raw spices (masala) meant for writers, rain down, from the sky for me to pick up, smell the rot then write about it. A lot of my well-wishers, read this or say they read this, to amuse themselves. After that, my pieces are dumped out of memory bins. Next day, the same repeats itself with a different issue to be pondered about, before it is trashed the next morning!
I keep receiving emails mails from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and messages through Facebook with all forms of likes and emojis. Life has changed so much, in the last five years that I have to look for emojis, for everyday survival.
For petty writers like me, existence has been a challenge from Day one. I have come to terms at last that small fishes are in the same league as the sharks who thought themselves unshakable. But, small fries like me will still blow the trumpet and say our extinction, if it befalls us or the industry itself, was with distinction – the distinct factor being we were not supposed to last this long – something that my guru late S R Ghouri, was always aware of and drilled into me, and his many other disciples.
Now, let me set aside such morbid tidings. To me, personally, ever since I unsuspectingly grasped live wire called South Asia magazine, which brought me laurels along with cusses and curses. It has been a roller-coaster ride, enjoyable, entertaining, engrossing and enlightening, but with troughs outnumbering the crests.
For me and my platforms, there was never any carryover bread in the oven and we have to earn it every day in less than four hours flat. A typical morning starts with my fingers toying over the phone keys for ensuring the daily dough before moving on to the laptop keys for pouring out the daily dose. Here it is numeric-alpha, if you see what I mean. But the birth pangs ease and cease once the pieces are ‘delivered’ via the new technology.
I was able to rub shoulders with the high and mighty but the frictions have dwarfed the fun. Of course, it goes with the profession. But, being a small writer, I feel I am among the children of a lesser God. So, if the barons bent before the powers that be us (small fry) writers were supposed to break.
I assure, never once did I feel inferior or intimidated and instead was happy to wear my ‘smallness’ as a badge of honor. The heady cocktail of passion and the indulgence has made me immune.
In pursuit of hope, chasing an impossible dream—I have attempted nuttier things: Like for instance, with no access to money, power, muscle power or man power, I embarked on ventures — adventures really — in the ‘fond’ belief that the establishment in each of the countries, where my pieces are read would one day pip the rest of the print world, including the Tribune, the Observer, Today, New Age—to the wooden post.
There was pain and gain, too, though grossly disproportionate. There was fame and lots and lots of shame. I had to beg, and borrow, but stole only hearts — very few as they may be. I can go on, what with memories overlapping and the decades of the daily drill fusing into an amorphous jelly of thoughts, faces, events, information and all other phases a newspaper goes through.
So, how did I survive with this addicting albatross around my neck? For one, my guru’s dictum, ‘Target is trouble, so speak your mind’, which I have been doing, kept me going. His carefree, bordering on the cavalier, taglines, ‘Easy, Racy, Full of Life’ and ‘As long as it goes’, kept me constant company in what was essentially a solitary mental sojourn.
So, when problems overwhelmed, I stopped taking myself seriously; keeping the escapades of opinion young despite me greying in the fringes; and, above all, showing up every day, come what may, as if today is the first day. But the biggest motivation is you—who have stayed put through the rare thicks and the frequent thins.
Six years later, and twenty eight years after my first article was published in the Editorial page of Morning News, I am proud to say: ‘I am still around’
And ready to start afresh.
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