Continued from: The First Ten Years
The Big Break (Literary)
The early part of my teenage years were spent trying to get Ph.D in “how to fail.” I had finished writing my first novel (Mr. X Killer) and was on a quest to get that published. Little did I know (at that time) that writing is the easy part and what comes after writing is the hard part.
I was getting rejected faster than I was making requests to consider the book for publication. I didn’t give up though. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking. It was one rejection after the other. There was variety in each of those rejections. The rejection responses would look something like
“Not interested, thank you”
“Please don’t send any of your work to us in the future”
“We have finalized our plan for this year. May be reach out to us early next year”
I don’t remember all the rejections that I got but after receiving more than hundred of them, I was very much used to getting rejected. It felt VERY normal to be rejected. In fact, it would be a “shocker” if I was not rejected.
Long story short, after three long years and more than 150 rejections, I was told by a publisher (his name was Nataraj Chowdhury and the publisher was Chethana Book House in Mysore, India) that he would publish the book. This would not have been possible without the help of a writer called G. Prakash who took interest in my work and referred me to Nataraj.
I was totally shocked when Nataraj told me that he would publish the book and he would also pay me money as royalty fees. It was simply unbelievable. It was a three-year journey and the book “Mr X…Killer” was the very first thing that was published. No article, no poem, no short story – but a novel. Looking back, it seems like madness but at that time it didn’t feel that way.
Things changed for the better after that. I got a job as a journalist in a local newspaper called “Parakrama.” It was an evening daily. That is the first time I was introduced to the concept of a mentor. I was given a bonus. I had two mentors – Rajendra (who was like the COO) and Suresh (who was the Managing Editor) took me under their wings.
Again, as a demonstration of how naive I was, I thought that writing articles for a local daily should be very easy when compared to writing and publishing a novel. I was right and wrong. I was right in terms of the size and complexity of the problem and I was wrong in terms of the thinking and maturity required to report for a local daily.
The newspaper business is very competitive and every article had to be really “tight” in order to ensure that we were competitive. We also had to be fast. We were the only evening daily in town and we had to “break” the news before the morning dailies broke that news.
It took me a while to get my first article published in the newspaper – probably after six months of “internship” over there – doing proof reading etc. I had an opportunity to learn the ropes of journalism on the job. In the next few years, I wrote a few hundred articles on wide ranging topics. It was a lot of work and a big price to pay but the prize of education made it all worth it!
While this was happening, I continued to write novels a few more of them got published before I was seventeen. The collection included “Agent Avinash,” a spy thriller and “Bandalikegalu” (parasites) a collection of poems. “Bandalikegalu” featured a collection of poems that had been published in local newspapers over the years.
That collection of poems was the last fictional work that I would write. Why? I really don’t know.
The Big Milestone (Academic)
Meanwhile, my parents were very particular about my studies. As I mentioned earlier, the writing adventures would have stopped completely if my grades had dropped. Looking back, that was a good thing. That forced me to create new ways of learning what was required to be learned quickly.
I devised my own ways of “accelerated learning” techniques to ensure that I had “more time to write” and do things I probably loved more than I loved my academic subjects. Without that pressure to do well in my studies, I would not have been “creative” in finding ways to accelerate my learning. This one thing has helped me throughout my professional career.
In my class X (which was a board exam,) I wanted to do well and had worked hard. On the day of the results, I scanned the newspaper to see if my name was there. Unfortunately, I didn’t find my name so I headed out to the school (which was a walking distance) to see if I can find out my individual scores. On the way, every neighbor I met stopped and congratulated me. I thought it was because they thought I passed my exam. When I reached the school though, there was a small celebration. I had not realized that I had secured the 20th Rank for the state. 20 amongst 400,000 people who took the exam.
Talk about being stupid. It was published in the newspapers and I had read the paper but was unable to spot my name in the list 🙁
I was delighted for two reasons – one because my parents were happy and second I would get a bigger license for creative pursuits. As you can imagine, my parents wanted me to be an engineer or a doctor not a journalist. This event convinced them and the other family members that I did have some brains.
Meeting My First Mentor
Again, this was accidental. Since Dad’s job was in a remote village, I had to look for a college in the city. My choice was to study in National College, Bangalore but for whatever reason there was a delay in my application. Long story short, the seats were all filled up.
Disappointed, I headed back and on my way back, I stopped at Tumkur to meet my cousins there. One of my cousin, Srinivas suggested that I should look at joining Sarvodaya College in Tumkur. That seemed like a good option to me and I joined Sarvodaya College for my class XI and class XII. I never would have thought that this would make a HUGE difference in how my life has turned out today.
I met my first mentor there – the principal of the college – GR Seetharam. Mr.Seetharam was not only a superb teacher but a great mentor. I would visit his home during evenings or weekends and we would spend time talking about school topics, books and life in general. Over the last two years, I learned a lot from Mr. Seetharam on wide ranging topics. Mr. Seetharam shaped my thinking about studies, the reason for studies, life and work.He also introduced me to several of his friends who taught me a thing or two – about school, work and life.
The mentoring worked very well. In the next state exam (Class XII) I secured 2nd Rank for the state. 2nd amongst 160,000 students who took the exam that year.
Engineering and More..
The final step in my formal education was to get an engineering degree and I joined Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE) in Mysore to pursue Electronics and Communication Engineering. I wrote more because during my first year of Engineering, I was also teaching Mathematics (part time) back at my old school (Sarvodaya College in Tumkur.) I was also teaching “C” Programing in the evenings at a Computer Training Institute in my second year of Engineering.
Although I was studying Electronics, computers fascinated me. I realized that if I was going to be working on computers for a long time, I would need to know how to type fast. So I joined a formal typewriting course and practiced typewriting for more than six months. This, again, turns out be one of those “lucky” decisions I made during my studies. I cannot even imagine what it would look like if I had not attended this course.
This engineering course was another defining moment of my life – mostly because of all the wonderful people that I met during these four years. It’s been a LONG time now but I am in touch with a few dozen batchmates. Some of them are close friends even today and with some of them I am collaborating on multiple projects in US and abroad.
Continued at “Moving Around“