Saturday, July 22, 2017 | ePaper

The reason I became a writer

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Lesley Biswas :
I knew exactly what I would tell him when we meet. I had mentally run over it, over and over again, the past two-and-a-half decades. That he was my inspiration, the reason why I became a writer, followed by the infinite source of joy that he continues to be. Sanjay Manjrekar was in the city to release his first Bengali Rabindra Sangeet album, titled Amar Bela Je Jaye and had graciously agreed to my request to do an interview.
But, when I met Sanjay Manjrekar, the flamboyant Mumbai batsman at The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, me, was the last thing we talked about. For a fan it always is about their hero and never them. And, there was another reason why I was meeting him.
"I want to become a writer." Back in 1991, I was fourteen years old the first time I told my mother about my dream. "And, interview Manjrekar," I had then added. Immediately she caught on that in a country teaming with a generation of teenage girls vying for his attention, I had thought up the most ridiculous idea to make the cut. Not to mention I grew up at McCluskiegunj, a tiny hamlet in Jharkhand where dreams were considered incongruous and I'd come up with a whopper. Careers meant a stable future and writing was still relegated to at most, could be pursued on the side, while doing a real paying job.
"Teachers get many holidays," mom had said earlier, while discussing career paths. "You could also run the family hostel business, or," she'd added, somewhat reluctantly since it entailed leaving my family and hometown, "become a ground hostess (Airlines)." Looking back, it might have been on a whim that I'd wanted to become a writer and perhaps I would have even got over it; settled into one or the other career options mom had mentioned, if Sanjay Manjrekar had not returned my fan mail with his autographed picture. I took it as a sign to believe that dreams, however big, do come true. A conviction, that never ever left me, even at times when giving up seemed easier than chasing my tall dream.
I was sixteen, when in 1993, I came across a section in the Sportsworld magazine where readers could submit sports quiz. When my quiz was published, it carried my picture and address. I got over sixty letters, mostly marriage proposals, but a letter from a freelance writer with whom I later corresponded, helped me understand how to get published. A correspondence course in writing further sorted out the basics and in 1996 I began freelancing for The Teenager magazine, writing mostly on cricket. Just when my family was beginning to understand my passion and the big interview didn't seem far off, that same year Sanjay Manjrekar bid cricket farewell. Suddenly to the world his talent and achievements no longer seemed to count. All my pitches to publications on Manjrekar were rejected.
It further didn't help that we lived in a place cut off from the rest of the world with no Internet or cable TV and with dailies reaching us a day late, I gave in to my parents suggestion to consider other options. After graduation, I moved to Kolkata, did a course in travel agency and hotel management; plus teachers training on my parents behest, but after marriage I decided to give my passion one last stroke. With focus on women's issues, especially human interest stories, now that I lived in Kolkata, the internet opened up a huge market where I was widely published. Soon I began freelancing with a national daily and a woman's magazine, among others. However, my dream to do a face-to-face interview with Manjrekar was too big to ever give up on.
But that day I wasn't there to count my accomplishments or recall how he'd inspired me. Nor tell him I only dated boys who were also his fan, (my husband being a Manjrekar well wisher). Now 39, even bragging how I'd travelled 190 kilometres to Jamshedpur's Keenan stadium, just to be in the vicinity, hoping he'd be commentating, which turned out he wasn't that match; it takes more than that for an adrenaline rush. Relaxed, the moment I saw him, he still looked incredibly charming. However, it was his credibility and the high standards he set for himself, that had intrigued me, something I'd come to validate. Also, to reassure myself that my lifelong pursuit was indeed worthwhile. We chatted about his passion for music and the dedication behind his album and he told me how, himself a Kishore Kumar fan, he had sung each number thousands of times. When he mentioned just what a big day it was for him, saying that it was his dream come true to sing the same songs Kishore Kumar had sung, who better than I could understand what it means when a fan's longstanding dream comes true? There couldn't have been a better time for my dream interview!
The interview done, only then I drew his attention to me. Suddenly, all the composure of a journalist seemed contrived. The only reality that felt true to my heart, was that of a star-struck fourteen-year-old Sanjay Manjrekar fan. I handed him the autograph that had changed my life. As he re-autographed the picture, offering a little insight into that photo shoot, I caught a rare moment when he smiled. Perhaps, the picture brought back fond memories which warmed his heart as well.
I never got around thanking him for all the happiness he'd given me, or to tell him that he'd been my lifelong fascination. It no more seemed important because I realized that when you eventually meet the person whom you've revered for a lifetime, his presence, just finding out that he is real, exactly how you had envisaged, and more, it's such a warm reassuring feeling and so deeply comforting that the fact you have waited your entire life for this day, seems all but trivial.
-  TNN

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