By Prathap Suthan

Arranging words one after the other doesn’t make you a writer. And putting them coherently in lines without making grammatical mistakes isn’t writing either.

Of course you can write. Anyone who went to school can write. And everyone who took an exam can possibly write as well.

In fact, the nice greying man at the post office can write. The elderly lady at the bank can write. The slightly portly doctor at your nearby clinic can write as well.

So can the cop at the local police station who will file your case sheet when you get booked for Whatsapping your boss along with Facetiming your girlfriend’s constipated hamster, all while driving.

Unfortunately, none of the above writers can write. None of them are genuine writers. None of them can write with the kind of ink that makes tears moist.

None of them can take a couple of words and put them in random order and change the way the world thinks about sport. Or war. Or peace. Or influence large tracts of barren land in your brain to think in a very specific way.

They can’t move ice-hearted people to jump into boats to save a thousand dolphins headed to a secret atoll somewhere in the Japanese archipelago to get their heads bludgeoned and guts pickled.

“Mein ne Urdu apni maan ke doodh ke sath pi hei!” (I have consumed my mother tongue, Urdu with her breastfeeding me). This is how I express love for the sweetest and most civilised language of the world; of course never to look down upon other languages as these all travel in the same boat. While my mother used to recite Urdu songs like, Chanda mamun door ke… and the lovely stories, it all got percolated into my soul and gave me the impetus to write kids’ stories while as a kid only.

Amitava_KumarWhen I was promoted to the rank of professor, the library at the university where I was then employed asked me to send them the name of a book that had been useful to me in my career. I chose VS Naipaul’s Finding the Center. The library then purchased a copy, which was duly displayed in one of its rooms, with a statement I had written about the book:

This was one of the first literary autobiographies that I read. Its very first sentence established in my mind the idea of writing as an opening in time or a beginning; it conveyed to me, with its movement and rhythm, a history of repeated striving, and of things coming together, at last, in the achievement of the printed word: “It is now nearly thirty years since, in a BBC room in London, on an old BBC typewriter, and on smooth, ‘non-rustle’ BBC script paper, I wrote the first sentence of my first publishable book.”