Do people think I’m a good writer?

Ms. K: “24?”

“Yes Mam”

Ms. K: “Your annual project is ready for submission?”

“Yes Mam”

Ms. K: “Topic?

“The Prostitutes of GB Road”

Ms. K: “…”

A few days later, the project of student number 24 was discreetly removed from the presentations on the school Annual Day. In the class report card, number 24 was detained for not writing a project on a “sensible and appropriate subject.”

The subject was — the sex slaves of Delhi’s red light district.

At 16, crossing the lanes of the red-light district in her city isn’t something 24 was looking forward to — the stares, the teasing, and of course the insinuating comments. She went there to meet a police inspector, a woman responsible for rescuing ninety young call girls from the brothels singlehandedly.

The meeting was a jolt.

Blogging under a pseudo-intellectual name about Foucault’s ideas on Marriage, headbanging to ‘Disturbed’ or living the lives of her favourite characters — it all seemed hollow. A picture was being formed in 24’s mind’s eye. It was time for a detour, time to actually do something, with the only weapon she had — her red&black Nataraja pencil.

For years, 24 had hundreds of best friends — in every book she read.

Their conversations never ended. In school buses, during lunch breaks, on the rickshaw to tuitions, under the duvet — they talked incessantly. 24 brought a diary with a lock, if not a room of her own, she at least had a diary of her own. Pages after pages of black on white, where she talked to real and imaginary people, it gave her a sense of purpose. It made her feel like Anne Frank.

As a reader and a dreamer, she was doomed to write — successfully or unsuccessfully. The writing was just casual banter with confused ideas, it happened naturally. There were no deadlines, no fear of being read and judged. This diary was her secret or that’s what she thought, until one ‘dark and stormy night’ (Yes, 24 also read Mills & Boons!) she saw tiny, pink baby mice lying comfortably amidst the perfectly chewed remains of what was her personal diary.

RIP Personal Diary, Happy B’day Blog! (Read: insecurity)

Since the demise of that personal diary, 24 has never really recovered from public-writing fright. It has pretty much soured all relationships with her ideas and disrupted all conversations. All she cares about is — Do people think I’m a good writer?

Writing is no longer the merry-go-round of ideas and silly thoughts, but a contrived projection of ideas that 24 assumes people would like to read. The act of writing itself has become bittersweet. The process has become laborious, full of tensions and feverish frenzy.

She is no longer writing for herself, so much is at stake (or that is what she feels). She is writing to show, through her words, the grim realities of the marginalized, to make them feel the trauma of a nine-year-old mother or a naked street urchin selling Playboy magazines.

The fear of not being able to tell these stories convincingly has burdened her writing.

But 24 is not just a detained roll number on the school attendance register anymore, so she does what she hates to love — she writes.

Crossing, re-writing, crossing, erasing…till she realizes that she is almost about to the complete the desired word count, much before the deadline, re-reads the draft and feels it’s not that bad and that precise moment she gets a high which no cocaine/hash/ecstasy can ever give.