The Price of Becoming a Writer by Mahendra Waghela

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Somewhere Else by Eleanor Leonne Bennet

The Price of Becoming a Writer

by Mahendra Waghela

I am supposed to give a 400-word bio with an abstract of my talk on ‘Writing Fiction.’ So here it is.

Born in socialist flavored independent India of ’68 . My earliest conscious memory: I was two and half, a soft bundle of flesh and bones, when I met with a nasty fire accident in the kitchen. Me lying on the rough coir mattress; my tummy swollen like a tender football because of the internal burns; my worried mother crying next to me; my father pacing under a naked yellow bulb; and the smell of death seeping through the mud walls of our hut.

I went to a government funded primary school like anybody else and hated it like most of my friends. Without delay, I was put in a better school – something to do with my father’s quick promotion at the chemical factory nearby. Smooth sailing for a while. My father died on the workshop floor accident near the boiler room. Miserly cash compensation from the factory – a kind of barbed gift for my 17th birthday. I had to start working. I became a dumb store clerk passing his days in a warehouse on the edge of this no-electricity-on-Wednesday town. Couldn’t attend college. Much against my wishes and better judgment, I was married off. Reason? My mother’s failing health. The marriage proved to be a turning point. I finished belated graduation because of my illiterate wife’s taunts, found an almost respectable job in the bargain.

My boss caught me reading Anna Karenina during the lunch breaks that led to another 180 degree turn in my life. Tolstoy to technical brochures and poetry to product details for the press releases. I was shifted to marketing department and gained some weight. I came in contact with a half-crazy, half-genius advertising copywriter whose agency worked for my company. That bearded baboon encouraged me to write. He was the one to check my first and the saddest story before I sent it out to a ragtag magazine. Whatever gave me the idea for my story? Stomach this: My wife was carrying our first child when she was taken to the hospital. They never returned.

I converted my most private grief into a public story; that seemed like the only way out of the black pit I was trapped in. It’s almost certain that I wouldn’t have become a writer if I hadn’t lost my wife and my child in a single stroke.

Talk about the price of becoming a writer.