It is about 10 in the night, and I just received a text message:
"Though I am a couple of hours early... HAPPY BIRTHDAY. When you celebrate have one drink for me."
The sender, a well-known person, is lodged in a prison somehwere in South India. I don't know if he has really committed the crime for which he landed in jail, and it does not matter to me. What matters to me is that he became the first person to wish me this year. Not many people remember birthdays: I am very bad at it too. I mean people do remember birthdays, but they tend to forget that the day has arrived. They are like: "Oh shit! Today is 15th?! I forgot. So sorry!"
The relationship I share with the man in prison is that of a writer-reader. He religiously reads Sunday Spin, the column I write in the paper, and writes long letters to me. Two weeks ago, I was going through a letter of his when the peon placed another letter on my desk. I tore upon the envelope, and found that it was a letter from a serving judge, who said extremely nice things about Sunday Spin and wanted his views to be published.
And then it struck me: in one hand I was holding a letter from a man lodged in jail, and in the other a letter from a judge's desk. It would be an understatement to say I felt important. When I started writing the column two years ago, I had not imagined that people would actually react to it. Till then, I was writing mainly about politics, and the occasional slice-of-life piece as and when I felt strongly about something.
Sunday Spin helped me strengthen my faith in myself: perhaps I am not that bad at all, maybe I too can reach out to people. So every Tuesday night (since Wednesday is the deadline), I toil for a few hours to put together 650 words. At times I like what I write, but people don't. At times I churn out something half-heartedly, but people say nice things about it. Most often, I don't even know what I am going to write about till I pour a drink and switch on the computer. Like tonight. Once I finish writing this post, I will have to sit and write a column, and I have no idea what I am going to write about.
But gone are the days when I wrote whenever I wanted to. Now I write because I have to, because I have a column to feed, and when I sit in front of the computer, I can see dozens of faces looking over my shoulder while I type. Some nod in approval, some smirk, and I keep wondering how to make all of them happy. Painful.
But then, I am loving it. A journalist or a writer usually does not earn much by way of money, but when you know you've touched or stirred a heart, you feel very, very rich. Money can't match the gratification.
It is 11.32 pm now. I will be entering the new day, my birthday, while in the process of writing Sunday Spin. And when I pour yet another drink, I shall raise a toast to you, dear reader. Don't ever go way: be around. I need you.