Harshikaa Udasi: When Does a Writer Write?

Harshikaa Udasi wrote Kittu’s Terrible Horrible No Good Very Mad Day for the Children First writing contest. This is the story of how she wrote her story.

Have you read any of those features on authors and their writing nooks? Straight out of a dream, secluded, lovely, just what the doctor ordered to ensure the author would hit a century of books or, maybe, at least a dozen? I have too. I love reading how authors flesh out characters, how they build plot lines and how they go back and forth with their story to carry it to its end. I eagerly read their working schedules and the number of words they pen down daily to ensure they stay disciplined. It’s truly inspiring.

But to be inspired is one thing, to actually execute the task at hand, quite another. It was in the first week of November last year that I heard of the Children First contest and I was certain I would send an entry. I announced it to my very own Familia Chaotica (not very different from Kittu’s) and everybody cheered and hooted and all that. I was then in Deolali which is near Nasik in Maharashtra. There is this lovely old-world charm still attached to the place and this, I thought to self, would be the ideal place for me to mark the beginning of my journey as an author. It would go down in history as the place where Harshikaa penned her first novel! Lofty thoughts indeed, but Deolali is so idyllic that it was next to impossible to work there. It was all about sipping some chai, warming self in the early winter sun and rushing out to see which bird was making that unusually sweet sound.

Three days later, back in Mumbai and armed with the germ of an idea, I was refreshed enough to kickstart the process of writing. And I did. But my definition of kickstart was challenged. Have you seen one of those button-start scooters that have to be kickstarted once in a while? Have you seen people struggle with kicking it left, right and centre and the scooter’s engine still not firing? That sort of describes what happened to me. I had exactly five weeks to write that story and practically nothing was coming out. No. No writer’s block there just no me-and-laptop time!

Status: Worry setting in.

 

Like my dad always says, Mumbai is a place where even if you don’t want to pace up, you’ve got to because everyone else’s pace determines yours! So there I was, stuck in between mundane things such as answering doorbells to managing the maid who came up with the craziest questions to ask during this time, or maybe she was always doing it and somehow THIS was not the time for any. Then there were deadlines descending on me like there was no tomorrow. How could have I not realised that I had as many as six stories waiting to be filed!

Status: Out of hand.

 

But wait, there is more. My humanlet decided that this was precisely the time to sing sweet nothings into my ear. I mean it. Straight into my ear. On loop. If I’d even so much as begin to complain, a puppy face would be thrown at me. Have you tried working your way through a puppy face?

Status: What do I do? What do I do?

 

But the breaking news was yet to come. The husband reminded me that he had taken a break from work because…hold your breath….it had been pre-decided to paint the house! Groan! Now, along with everything else, there would be two or three random men in the house, a lot of dust, a headachy smell and a crazy amount of mess to clear at the end of every day. For the next 10 days.

Status: Going EXACTLY as planned. Yeah right.

 

There I was at Week 3 with the story building in my head and no chance to write it out. Perfect time to catch a flu, right? Two days flat out on the bed.

Status: Retired hurt.

 

That did it. As I have confessed to Sayoni, I started bawling, crying, raving, ranting and every other -ing that could possibly express how I felt. And I think that’s what made all the forces that were turned against me that moment to have pity and mercy. Almost magically (read with a lot of help from my husband who practically sent me to ‘isolation ward’) I began to write. I wrote at a stretch of 2 hours in one sitting – that’s huge by my standards that November). I even managed to go across town for a talk by Jeff Kinney when I was finishing up my writing!

And that’s how on December 7, dangerously close to the midnight deadline, I submitted my work. All I could think of is, maybe I should write a story about how I wrote this story. It’s dreamlike that I am actually writing this now J

(PS: If they ever have a list of weird places in which authors wrote their first book, there is a good chance that my ‘top berth of son’s bunk bed’ might ace the list. What say?)

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