It was July 2011. I was new to Delhi, staying with my brother who was working in a software company while I was ‘preparing’ for the engineering entrance examinations
I had just prepared dinner, must have been around eight in the evening, when my “dada” (elder brother in Kumaouni) informed me about a robbery in our parental home. I come from Basai, a remote village in Almora district, Uttarakhand. I immediately called up my father to know more and was told that some thieves had broken into the house and fled with valuables and cash. Since my father is in the army and my uncles are both based in Delhi, the house was lying unoccupied. My mother, who is a state government employee, was also posted elsewhere.
This is how it played out: around four-five people were involved in the act. They broke all the locks — 10 to be precise — and the doors weren’t spared either. They scrounged through every nook and corner of the house, broke all the wooden lockers and trunks, and took off with the cash and some valuables. My mother called me and said that “it appeared as if the house has been plundered by a brutish beast searching for a small prey”.
The same night, around five quintals of iron had also been stolen from the primary school that was being built in the village. Since incidents of this kind never occurred in the region, people usually left their construction items like iron, cement, etc, in the open. There was belief among the people that our “Chaukot” (the local name of the area) was free from all such problems. But now we were forced to rethink all such cozy thoughts.
On an impulse, I noted down all the details in my diary that night without any conscious intent. Days passed and the panchayat looked into the case but without any success. The incident gradually faded in our memories and I accepted it as part of destiny.
Then after nearly two months, one fine evening, as I was flipping the pages of my diary, I read these details again. By then some more developments had taken place in the case and I jotted them down too. But reading them from the beginning till the end, I suddenly sensed the seeds of a good story in the whole incident. I immediately proceeded to connect all the events and build a coherent narrative.
Since childhood I have always had the desire to write but could never write anything beyond school essays. But despite being a greenhorn of sorts I mailed my ‘story’ to a regional English language daily from Dehradun, without much expectation of course. But I also wrote a note where I suggested ways to improve myself and asked for feedback as well.
Days passed and then weeks but no reply came from the publication. But out of the blue one day, I received a mail from the editor that my story had been selected, and they are publishing it! It was 8 September, 2011, and my first published article was finally out. I was on cloud nine at my long cherished dream finally coming true. This truly marked the beginning of a new era for me. Soon I wrote another article and then another, and yet another for the paper.
Ironically, what was a tragic incident of robbery for my family — in which many of our ancestral artifacts were stolen, later turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me.
I am still a student, though not of engineering, and have since been writing for various regional and even national publications. And all because of that one incident which not only changed my life, but made me realise that writing, and not engineering, was my cup of chai.
-By Mukesh Rawat
- (This write-up was published in Tehelka magazine on June 07, 2014 and can be found here.)