‘That one email changed my life completely’

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Illustrations: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustrations: Mayanglambam Dinesh

I did my engineering just like a thousand others in this country and started working up the corporate ladder when I was barely 22. I was doing really well and I was confident that my life and career was on the right path. There were occasional bouts of self-doubt — “Is this all what I want from life?” But the number of zeros in my monthly paycheck helped me ignore those nagging questions. I was addicted to an urban luxurious life, and it was all going smooth, before I received an email one winter evening.

The sender was once a close friend of mine. We studied together in school. I was the shy geek and he was the charming bad boy. But strangely, we got along well. We kept in touch till the first few years in college. Then the phase came where your career mattered most and I joined the contest of professional success blindly, without any idea where my destination was. I needed a job offer and it was a question of self-esteem. I guess, it was the same for him too. We became happy in our new world, waiting every week for weekends, every month for a vacation, every year for a salary review. We gave up on each other.

His mail was short and simple. May be he didn’t have much to share with me anymore. Some basic courtesies like how I was doing, etc. But in the end there was something that struck me like lightening. He asked me how my writing was going on, when my first book would come out and, if I had written about his brother.

I read those sentences over and over again. Being there, sitting comfortably on that sofa in a moderate-sized apartment, I realised something I had left behind years back as a student — my aspiration to be a writer. Those silly write-ups, the act of hiding them from the rest of the world and sharing it with my best friend, a long discussion on what my first book would be about — it all flashed before my eyes within seconds. “Youth,” I had told him. “One day, I will write about them.” His eyes had glowed when he asked me, “Will you write about my brother?” My best friend, the bearer of my secret, wanted me to write about his dead brother who hanged himself at the age of 18 as he didn’t make it in a competitive examination. That sudden disappearance had shaken us both. My friend read the note left behind again and again. It stated, “ Sorry. I couldn’t do it.” That evening when I was consoling him, he beseeched me “Will you write about him someday?”

I cried with him and said “I will.” Ten years later that memory still gave me goosebumps. I realised that writing was something that I wanted to do but had no idea when and where that desire got suppressed. I had always felt strongly about youth problems in our country and was upset to see how teenagers lost direction in their lives, driven by emotions. But I didn’t know what to do about it besides mourning for five minutes every morning after reading the newspaper. As a teenager too, I had always wanted to be a writer, but then someone at some point told me the price of petrol and the EMIs that come with an apartment, and engineering happened as a consequence. But that email reminded me of a promise I made to my friend, a number of unknown faces, and most importantly, to myself. I realised, it was time to fulfil that promise.

Finally, I did. I decided to express my emotions on paper. As I started, I found inspiration somewhere deep within me, and in the next six months I finished my first book. My close friends and relatives convinced me to get published and now when I have done it, I don’t think I can ever quit writing. I will continue to write about the most complex yet potent asset of the country — the youth. That one email changed my life completely.

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