Memories and Musings: Memoirs of Easaw Joseph John

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It was as a freshman at the Madras Christian College that I was first bitten by the writer’s bug. In a manner of speaking, that is. And thereby hangs a tale. I remember trying my hand at writing a short story without having the faintest idea of what the conventions of writing fiction are. In fact, you would hardly worry about how to outline a plot or find an apt setting for it if your incipient effort took its cue from a certain foolish infatuation for a fresher from a sister college whom sheer chance had brought you face to face with. That happened at a Students’ Christian Movement freshers’ social. I shall not go into the adolescent inanities of the story, but when I fantasised that I met her at the Madras Marina as the sun was setting on the horizon where no sun ever sets, you can well imagine how as an eighteen-year old teetering on the brink of youth, still wet behind my ears, I could not get even my bearings right to create a convincing backdrop for the tryst.

Later, as an undergrad in Kerala at a time when the communists were winning the hearts and minds of the impressionable youth in colleges and letting them loose as their “dogs of war” against their so-called class enemies, I could not help being drawn into the fray after I had watched it from the sidelines, as it were, for days on end with increasing anger. So finally, along with a few others, I waded in and tried in vain to swim against the rising political tide.When adrenalin begins to rush, discretion often gets caught in a logjam. Those were clearly not the best of times to be creative. Although I still entertained the urge to write, fighting ‘red’ shadows seemed more exciting for me at the time. My hopes of trying my hand at writing, therefore, had to wait.

It was during my graduate studies in English Language and Literature that I became au fait with literary genres and the infinite scope of mainstream literature. And, of all the styles of writing, I was more drawn to poetry and in particular to the Romantic poets. While writing in general helps one to discover and display the possibilities of language, it is the metrical line that lends itself to rhythm and also conveys emotions far more concisely and effectively than does the less responsive prose. So, I decided to test the waters of poesy and indeed managed to get one or two of my short poems published in the college magazine. In fact, on one occasion, I even had the opportunity to read a poem of mine over the Trivandrum station of All India Radio. I may add that I received the going rate for the effort; all of fifteen Rupees, which was like a windfall for a cash-strapped student in those days! I did not, however, persevere with it since I realised soon enough that my poetic reach could not exceed my grasp and that I could be no more than a versifier at best, try hard as I might. What then?

If wishes were horses most every aspiring penslinger would ride, if not the poet’s horse, at least that of the writer of stories. But because I had once made a botch of my attempted story line and therefore was chary of writing fiction, yet inwardly prodded to reduce my pencil-led need, I decided to plump for the softer option of being a memoirist, hoping that my attempt might not run the risk of being no different from my attempted storyline.

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