Mumbai Memoir 30- From Buckingham Palace, with Love!
My journey as a writer started when I was a student in 9th grade. My school, Young Ladies High School, Mumbai, was celebrating ‘Guru Din’ (School Principal’s Day) for the first time. We had to write something in praise of our Head Mistress which would then be shortlisted for a ‘live’ presentation in our school auditorium. I wrote an English poem titled ‘Our Principal’, which to my surprise got shortlisted for a ‘live’ recitation in front of the Principal on ‘Guru Din’! With numb hands I stood in front of the audience which comprised of my respected teachers, school mates and admin staff. Gradually the confidence ‘trance’ kicked in and the artist in me took charge. The moment I finished reading out my poem I was overwhelmed with joy, as a roaring sound of applause gripped me tightly. It was a euphoric feeling that helped me connect with the writer in me! There after I voraciously started writing amateur poems on various topics like-Life, Village, Money, Nature, My Grandma etc. Anyone observing me then would tell that I had totally fallen in love with the English language!
When in college, I chose to explore Humanities related subjects at K. C. College, Churchgate, Mumbai. Psychology, English and History were my favourite subjects. Besides reading fiction, non-fiction and poems at the college library, I also had developed a habit of expressing my day to day feelings in writing form. Most of my close friends had to leave for good after 12th grade and I had no one to turn to and share about life. Writing down my feelings in a diary was the only way then that kept me sane. It was Catharsis for me, which continues till date on the personal front. This habit eventually helped me to understand how words have to be expressed in a manner that triggers the emotions of people reading your piece.
I graduated with B.A in Psychology majors and then M.A in Applied Psychology from University of Mumbai. Though I didn’t pursue a degree in English Literature, my passion for the language didn’t die. I wrote 3 academic text books after I passed my State and National level lectureship exams in Psychology. All three textbooks were in English and covered fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology, Human Development and General Psychology. After a couple of years a documentary film commentary writing offer came my way in 2005. It was from Films Division, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Government of India’s film department. www.filmsdivision.org Since it was English commentary writing, I thought of exploring the medium as a freelancer. After writing for few assignments, I totally loved the process of writing for films. Till date I have more than 50 films and newsreels for which I am credited as the English commentary writer or as Hindi to English commentary translator. In 2006, in context of the historical novel which I was working on, a journalist friend of mine introduced me to Mr. Jaywant Joglekar. Then in his late eighties, I realized the volume of knowledge Mr Joglekar had accumulated in his lifetime to fluently and precisely guide me on various historical facts www.lulu.com/spotlight/jaywantjoglekar. Instantly a chord was struck between me and Joglekar Sir and from that very moment onwards he became my writing mentor.
In 2012 I visited the United Kingdom to participate in a writer’s retreat that event named ‘Writer’s Holiday’. Its organized by a very enthusiastic couple named Gerry and Ann Hobbs. http://www.writersholiday.net/http://www.writersholiday.net/aboutus.htm Their dedication is seen in the way they put in personal attention while managing both, the Summer and Winter writing workshops. I had attended the Summer workshop at Caerleon, University of Wales, Newport. Those 7 days were the most intellectually stimulating days of my life! I met and vibed with many British writers who I got to interact with so closely. My pals Eugenie and John Bruce persuaded me to read out a native poem at the ‘Poetry Reading’ event at the retreat. I was surprised to hear that the managing committee was open to allow me to present a poem written in an Indian language. I read out a poem named ‘Aai’ (Mother) which is my work in Marathi (my mother tongue), the language of the natives of the State of Maharashtra, India. I first interpreted the poem to the audience and then sang it in a tune. I was touched by the response that I got from the British audience after I presented my Marathi poetry in front of them! Moreover I salute the welcoming spirit of that night’s audience and the managing committee of Writer’s Holiday to allow me to present a non-English poem. The kind gesture showed by them convinced me that emotions are core to all writings and language is just a medium that convey the emotions. I believe, if written from your heart, the intention and sentiments will touch the heart of the audience for sure, irrespective of the language you choose to write in.
Mari Nicholson (British Travel Writer) http://wizzley.com/cefalu-best-beach-resort-in-sicily/ and Pauline Suett Barbieri (British Poet) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpCLG5rkNAY , who I met at the Writer’s Holiday of 2012, encouraged me to write more often. It was Mari who recommended me to join Society of Women’s Writer and Journalist, which is U.K’s longest-established Society for professional women writers founded in 1894 http://www.swwj.co.uk/ . With my 10 years of professional credit as a freelance commentary writer, I instantly received full membership as the society’s Overseas Member in 2013-till date. It is through the society I met Lyn Funnell, the editor and owner of www.b-c-ing-u.com In January 2014 Lyn asked me if I could write articles about Mumbai (my hometown) in a diary/memoir format. Like always, I thought of testing my metal about exploring a novel form of writing in English. I gave it a try and the articles gained popularity as the year rolled by. In the course of exploring my home town I myself got aware of lesser known facts about Mumbai. I realized how the British Imperial governance, during the colonial times, was instrumental in creating a solid foundation for the city to turn into a prosperous megalopolis, as it is today. Earlier this year my organization Mind Matterz (A Psychological Guidance Unit) www.mindmatterz.net came up with a desk top calendar themed ‘Spirit of Mumbai’. The calendar displays 14 photographs from the collection which I clicked while writing for www.b-c-ing-u.com An earlier article titled ‘The Making of Spirit of Mumbai’ tells it all. Here’s its link: http://b-c-ing-u.com/2015/01/23/11678/ Good amount of sales occurred of the calendar that surely will help us contribute 10% sales profit towards social causes. Few calendars were sent complimentary to people who I wanted to acknowledge and convey my sentiments in the process. I always wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude towards the English language and also acknowledge the role of British governance (during the colonial times) on Mumbai (then Bombay) which positively influenced the city in many ways. Finally after a good thought, on International Women’s Day 2015, I decided to send the calendar as a gift accompanied by a letter to none other than Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. In the letter I expressed my heartfelt sentiments that I nurture for the English language and also acknowledge all the British influences that have positively influenced my life. I was not sure if I would get a reply, but deep down I knew that all things written by one’s heart reaches the heart of the receiver. And lo! The Queen’s office replied to me through a letter dated 1st April’ 2015 (which happens to be my organization’s anniversary)! Delighted with this good omen my team and I celebrated the arrival of the letter from Buckingham Palace! It was yet another euphoric moment for me as I read the letter from Windsor Castle appreciating my creative work and all those who have contributed to it! It was a proud moment to cherish as I shared this news to all my friends and well-wishers. Congratulating the arrival of Her Majesty’s letter, the most flattering compliment I received was from one of my friend and professional associate, Dr. Uttam Shiralkar, who lives in Birmingham, U.K. He quoted “Your feat reminds me of the song titled ‘Pura London Thumakda’ from the Bollywood film named ‘Queen’! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEseXWm0Sr8 It was a cute expression from him that conveyed ‘You have rocked London with your creativity’!
Beyond this milestone, before I continue my journey as a writer, I thank all of you who have encouraged me to write and to all who read my articles. Without you I would not have had a reason to write to Her Majesty, The Queen. Thank You!
*Please refer the scanned photographs for reading the content of my letter to Her Majesty, The Queen of Great Britain and the letter from Buckingham Palace that I received.
Photo credits/edit: Shraddha Sankulkar/Aditya Chichkar