Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wake-Up Call

 This blog came into being after much melodrama and suspense. Let me share how it all began. The emotional fool that I am, I penned a heartfelt piece after my only son left home for college. I shared the piece among friends. 

Friends being friends, appreciated the article and endorsed my writing skills. In a fit of delusion, I mailed the piece to the Times of India. Hoping to see the post in print, I was the first to wake up, sprint towards the door to grab the newspaper. Over time, hope diminished, life took over and I forgot all about it.

A few months later, while I was vacationing in Kerala, I received a call from a friend in Delhi. “ This article in today’s paper, is it your's?” With no access to the internet in a houseboat, I called my friend again.

"Read it for me. Does it mention my name?"
"Yes, it does."
I was overjoyed. As far as I know there is no other person by my name. Yet.

Remember when Shah Rukh motivates his ‘Chak De’ girls he says, “Yeh sattar minute tumhari zindagi ke sabse keemti hai, yeh tumse koi nahin cheen sakta? Those six hundred fifty odd words catapulted me from a perceived contrite homemaker to an acclaimed cerebral writer.Such is the power of words!

Anyway, I was a woman who had shot her literary bolt. Having tasted blood, my fingers danced on the keyboard like a women possessed. 

Unfortunately, other than my letters to various editors, not a single word was published. I had no literary moorings, but the trigger for enthusiasm was the appreciation I received for that one article that reached a million homes. Naturally, dil wanted more.

Slowly my prized newspaper cutting was reduced to a piece of yellow parchment. The thought that many would have eaten bhel puri with grimy chutney on my article at various road side stalls added to the disappointment. The inner voice said, 'Read more, Write less'.  I read several good books apart from the self-help genre I was earlier addicted to.
Writing sustained, albeit at a slow pace.

August 2010.

The house was swarming with relatives who had thronged to meet my brother and his family  from the US. Just after dinner, the phone rang. It was from the Times of India, Gurgaon office. A girl named Pooja was on line.

“My editor wants to meet you tomorrow morning. Can you make it?”

 I can come right away to meet your editor in any corner of the world, is what I wanted to say. I was that excited! 

The family huddled like Dhoni’s men. Hope bloomed and I foolishly imagined that the editor will vacate his seat, bend on his knees and say, “Where were you all these years? In my entire career I have not met anyone as gifted as yourself. We are firing Jug, Bachi and Shobha. Henceforth, only you will write for us.” 

My date with destiny was near and everyone chipped in.

“CV,” said my son. “Mom do you have a CV?”


“What if the editor wants hard copies ?”

The husband went out at night and managed to get some prints. My sis-in-law pitched in with her precious inputs on my CV. Suddenly my little niece raised the mother of all questions. “What  will you wear?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, it does,” was the chorus.

Finally it was decided that I should wear black trousers and a white top. My worst fear came true. The trouser did not fit. My mom strained her eyes to alter the dress much after midnight. “I could manage only half an inch. It’s a matter of few minutes. Hold your breath until the meeting is over. This is where your daily pranayam comes to rescue," she smiled. Trust my mother to come up with witty ones. 

Next morning was all about ‘All the best, do well, don’t be nervous’. The supporting better half that he is, my husband took a day off.  We drove to the editor’s office on the MG road.

To my surprise the receptionist said, “Madam, the editor is not in. He is in Delhi. There is some misunderstanding.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I got a call from this office.”

Flustered, I called up the editor.

“Who? Oh,yes. Sorry, I am busy today. Why don’t you mail a few articles and we shall see. Not more than two hundred words. We don’t have space, you see.”

I couldn’t see anything. I was holding my breath. Remember the trousers? And most awful was facing the expectant faces at home. What will I say? That my meeting was so inconsequential, the editor forgot? 

That is when I decided to write a blog.

“Call it Freebird. No word restrictions, no editing, no running after editors,” said my son. “Your own space. Fly free, soar high.”

Freebird was born in August 2010.

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  1. Really liked the story..
    The beginning of something/anything...is always a interesting one...and after all those years...when we stop and look behind our shoulders...it gives a strange feeling of nostalgia..following our gaze on the trails..to its genesis... :)

    Take a deep breadth...it has many many years to live...I hope... Keep Writing :)


  2. WOW!!! So its the birthday of your blog..Happy Happy Birthday :)

    and this dil too want to read more from you always...which not only makes me smile, laugh and think over too..Fly Free...

  3. Very interesting story!! And you couldn't find a name more apt for your newest baby - Freebird. Happy Birthday, Freebird!!

  4. AH well times of india's LOSS.. moreover its not worth sending your lovely articles to people who dont know the value ...

    The idiot of the editor How can they do that first phone and then forget and not inform , you had patience . If it was me I would have gone and SLAPPED the guy .. Sorry no hard feelings ..

    and WOW,, thanks to that guy we can read all that you write ..

    Congrats and many happy returns of the day to FREEBIRD :) well done looking forward to many many years of reading you..
    take care..


  5. What a beautiful write-up Alka. Came straight from the heart.
    A blog is your space, where you have the freedom to pick and choose what you like. Plus you get invaluable feedback and love from your readers. Which other medium can offer you that?

    And I am glad for the canceled appointment - TOI"s loss was our gain.

  6. this is brilliant!
    i would like to thank that editor and your brother without whom this blog would not have been birthed!

  7. @Kunnu...A deep breath and big Thank You for reading my story.

    @Poonam....Yup, Birthday it is. My blog and myself are both leos..

    @Bikram...Thank you. Your comment is a wonderful gift on my blogs bday. Thank you.

  8. @Purba... I am glad too..Also I met wonderful blogger friends like yourself and got to read A-Musing - my fav.

    @Deepak...Yes,and I got to meet great genuine friends.

  9. You have a son who goes to college?!!!!! I never could have guessed...for Freebird, most definitely does not sound like...err...well..a mom who's son is in college!!!

    TOI's loss is our gain, I'd say.

  10. Alka,

    Very interesting story. Good job with this blog. Congratulation :))) Though it is good have article printed in TOI, IE etc, I don't count too much on it anyway.

    You are a great writer :)))

  11. I knew about your letters to editor. Tchcha!!
    Latter part, the birth of Freebird; hides pretty much within it. No one would have known unless you'd have done this blog post.
    Wish Freebird to bloom in coming years. YAY!

  12. beautifully written....yes, this is your space freebird...keep flying high...


  13. You are a gifted storyteller, Alka. I always enjoy your posts. I am glad that you are blogging, else we would never have met and you would have deprived us of your wonderful posts.

  14. I hope you like your experience of blogging more then writing in a newspaper..you get instant feedback here..which is the biggest plus point of blogging...keep writing Alka...you truly are a free bird:-)

  15. Wow quite a story that was...hope u cherish this journey!

  16. thank god for that stupid editor-otherwise we would have probably not had the fun and subtle smiles at Freebird here...

    It is destiny that brings us where we are!
    imagine starting now, after your leaving for college and writing in as polished a way as anyone with years of experience in a literary background would...India has such amazing talent like you, Purba, Anshul-wish you guys could come to the fore!

    so glad that you write Alks, and so glad to have you as a friend too:-)

  17. beautifully written.cheers to the spirit.the love is writing and readers will come automatically :)

  18. :-)

    This just emphasizes the statement that 'the best things in life... are FREE'. :D

    Many many happy returns of the day with many more wonderful posts from you. :-)

  19. such a wonderful write-up...cheers...and hope\ they recognise these beautiful expressions and give you a chance...but truly its their loss>>>
    keep up the spirit!

  20. Where there is a will there is a way :-)

  21. @Cinderella...Thank you. I am young at heart mom...very hep..ha ha.

    @A...and you are a wonderful friend to have.Thank you.

    @Prateek...I owe one to you. Your comments mean a lot. A heartfelt BIGGG Thanks.

  22. @SUB...:) Thanks.I enjoy your thought provoking posts.

    @Rachna...Your comments are so valuable. Thanks for the encouragement.

    @Mishi...Thanks for reading my blog birthday post. Welcome to Freebird.

  23. @Ria...You are one of my oldest readers Ria...Thank you.

    @Suruchi...More than readers and writers I met wonderful people here..Yes, Biki, Purba, Zephyr, Anshul, Prateek, Ria, Rachna, Poonam and UUUUU.

  24. @Maniachunter...Welcome to Freebird and very well said.

    @Shobhit....ha ha...Yes, we bloggers are free from word limits, from deadlines.

    @Harman...You are one of my oldest readers and I BIGGG Thank you.

    @Giribala...Thank you for enduring my write ups. I wish I could meet you someday. More so after I saw you winking in the picture.

  25. The opening and even the middle didn't reveal what the blogpost hid. What a wonderful write-up, ALka! And wish you many more happy anniversaries of Freebird. Love your space.

    PS.About TOI editorial section, the less said the better. Will share my experiences sometime.

  26. Ahaan! Aint we glad that it did not work out! Because, then we would have had to read your thoughts in compressed words! :)

  27. Alka,

    My first visit to your blog and I read life n history of the blog. I loved it...:)
    You amaze me!

  28. this was wonderfully written...as they say 'great things happen by mere chance' most of the time! happy birthday to ur blog...and may d FREEBIRD rise high up to newer dimensions :))


  29. How wonderfully written. Your storytelling skills are so entertaining. Happy Birthday to Freebird: Wish you many many more thought provoking and blogging years!

  30. @Zephyr....Have been missing your posts lately...Heard you are in Bangalore.Hope all is well. I so wanted you to read this one.Look for ward to your TOI experiences.

    @Sakshi...Thank you for reading dearie.

    @ErraticThoughts...Welcome here. I am flattered. Suddenly all the effort seems worth it.

  31. @Subtlescribbler...Thank you and so very well said. You have been a regular Freebird visitor and I am indeed grateful.


  32. Somehow,I dont know why, everything good and great is born out of situations which went wrong. Thanks to the editor that behaved-the-way-they-normally-do, we have your company. Its been a learning experience all the way for those looking to learn from your excellence.

    The sad part is all what you could have written while you did not take up the blog experience :((((

  33. whoa !! I didn't knew about the Aug 2010 story.
    Happy Birthday Freebird.

  34. 1st of all big congratulations for the blog anniversary....
    and yes, in a way its news paper's loss and in turn we got a nice blog here....Lucky we are to have you here, every time you present your thoughts so well and in a very interesting manner....keep blogging...

    best wishes,

  35. A very very inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  36. above all your writings aren't meant for TOI, the tabloid of India..:P and you write better than all those page 3 celeb like chetan, shobha and jug. Freebird, quiet apt for a blog like this.:)

    Weakest LINK

  37. Loved your story Alka. I have always admired the way words flow in your post! You are such a talented writer. TOI missed a great writer!
    Keep writing and entertaining us!

  38. @Sritatsat....the line is worth its weight in gold....(Somehow,I dont know why, everything good and great is born out of situations which went wrong.)
    @Utsuk...First comment on my blog, though I know you have read many of my posts...Thanks dear.


  39. @Irfan...I am blessed to have you as a blogger friend. Thanks.

    @Sudha....Thank you for reading Sudha. Your comment means a lot.

    @Rachit...Ha, ha...Tabloid of India....true to some extent.Thanks for reading.

  40. @Vaish...Thank you for your kind words.Appreciate it.

  41. Great job Alka. I like your incisive, sarcastic mix of humor kind of writing. And, you know what you can always write a book. You don't need to run to publishers; go for a smaller publisher if you like. I think you have the talent and these days writing for newspapers or magazines is not a big deal though there is an undeniable high :). Great beginnings for your blog and best wishes.

  42. Congrats . Its nice to hear this story which eventually lead to the birth this wonderful blog .

  43. Brilliant, I think this is a wake up call for many who have their hopes pinned on an editor. Well I have had a few pieces published and my strategy is to send the story and forget about it, if it gets published good otherwise who cares. Anyways there is no point in getting the hopes high when publishing the article would depend on space available and the absence of anything else juicer happening in the world. I think blogging is a good idea and I enjoy reading your posts. Keep it up..

  44. Alka, really great story with the happy ending.

    But does it still hurt, for not having made it to the "writer" rather than being a "blogger"?

    I know some bloggers who became so big that finally newspapers started printing their blog posts, so may be this division between bloggers and writers is just artificial. :)

  45. @Rachna...Thank you.

    @Team G square..Thank you indeedd.

    @Vikram...You said it.

  46. @Sunil...No Sunil it doesnt hurt. Honestly. There are many who write beautifully but are unable to get it printed.There are no word restrictions and political inclinations here. I can spew venom on pollies( which I love doing) and get away with. TOI and HT have political leanings. They even edit my letters to the Editors.

    I get enough appreciation to keep me going.What you say is true.

  47. And now you really are a FreeBird :)
    Much luck and love to your blog.
    loved reading this piece..

    Defiant Princess

  48. @Cooper Jai...Thank you for visiting.

    @Defiant princess...Appreciate your spending time.

  49. Nice to know that u didn't stop right there and went ahead with ur writing :)Enjoyed ur family's efforts and ur spirit ! Great going ! Cheers !

  50. I loved this :) It's forthright, fun and warm...and yet I would say don't give up on TOI part too while you are having fun here.

  51. good to know about it
    nice story

  52. @incessantme....Cheers! hic!...:)

    @Maitreyee...Value your inputs. Great to re-connect. I saw your comment on one of my posts written 8 months back.

    @SM...Thank you and I wanted you to read it. Appreciate your time.

  53. Its beautifully written... Rejections are sometimes good, like that ad of detergent that say stains are sometimes good. Anyway I don't read Times..

  54. @Harish...Its just a fun take...The rejection did not offend me or upset me...I have a realistic understanding of my writing calibre. I have a long way to go. Thanks for reading.

  55. Wow. This blog does have a history to it. I like how encouraging your family is. Lovely to have such caring people around eh? And I love the name even more now that I know what it stands for and who suggested it. I keep pestering my mom to start a blog herself but she hasn't yet. Pity really, I think she is a great writer. Just like you. You have a way of telling stories that makes me feel involved. Keep writing.

  56. Alka,

    Ahaaa, I started the same way. I had two of my short articles published in Delhi Times and as you said YEH DIL MANGE MORE. A friend introduced me to o3.indiatimes space and there I started my journey. Then that space started giving problems so I came over here to share what I felt may help someone. I really appreciate your straight talk. Hope to keep reading you for a long time to come.

    Take care

    PS : Left comments on 2 previous posts also after catching up with pending posts.

  57. Haha....I found it a bit funny in a way. And no I am not a sadist.
    Anyway, it was good for you. They print bad articles anyway. I guess yours were too good for them. :)
    Congratulations to the Freebird on its anniversary

  58. its always nice to read origin stories :)

  59. @jack, snow leopard, pythoroshan....Thank u all for reading.

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