Perks of writing.. an Arabian nights experience

Perks of writing

I have been churning out stories and rhyme since school days, and publishing them anywhere that would agree to do so, from school, college, neighbourhood or company magazines and newsletters, to national dailies and prestigious magazines, from Facebook pages to blogs, webzines to anthologies and even one book, a short novel.

The output has been prodigious, like the population of India, and the quality varied  again like the population of India.

But it has neither earned me money, fame or awards, beyond the pages of social media and blogging competitions, and money for beer, and maybe some chips through royalty and compensation from the bigger newspapers and magazines.

But what it has earned me is a great deal of appreciation from individual readers, and many good friends whom I have met through writing.

I have mentioned earlier  being feted by book clubs, readers sending gifts, going out of the way to meet me and getting my signature on the book, taking me out for lunch and dinner, inviting me home, making me chief guest at school functions, inviting me to weddings and festivals, and giving rave reviews on Amazon and Facebook pages, basically showering me with affection. They range from Ceos to principals, university deans to doctors, professors, students, bureaucrats, homemakers, techies, lawyers, taxmen, a pilot, a couple of stewardesses, some entrepreneurs, chefs, journalists, and even a few wannabe writers like me.

Some memorable readers who took the trouble to meet me and treat me, and became good friends include the owner of an iconic restaurant chain, chairman of a bank, and a real life princess among others

Appreciative readers who became virtual friends  range from Brazil, via US, England and even Russia, spanning all six continents and even include writers from the neighbourhood country we love to hate.

A large proportion of these demonstratively appreciative  readers happened to be women, perhaps because their ego doesn’t come in the way of showing appreciation, or maybe just more women read.

Today’s story is about one of the most exotic such encounters.

There was this PhD student and Urdu shayar from the walled city of a historic town who claimed that she loved everything that I wrote and especially my book, and we became Facebook friends, which happens with most of my readers who contact me, as that is the easiest way to contact an unknown person.

 She never used her photos and told me that she wears a hizab out of choice. She wanted to meet me whenever I visited her hometown.

So the next time I was in that city on work, I informed her, and we planned to meet up at a famous library

However my work took longer than anticipated and by the time I was free, she had to leave as she lived quite far from the area and the library was shut.

I told her that I had taken the next day off and was planning to visit the tourist spots in the city, most of which were near the walled city.

She told me that she would meet me in a roadside tea stall, that is well known for being the haunt of one of India’s best known painters.

I did not know how to recognize her, but she said that she would be carrying my book.

Excited over meeting someone in what seemed like a plot from a spy novel, I found the place but felt very awkward among a sea of flowing gowns,  skullcaps and bearded people, with a few burkhas thrown in, in my jeans and tees.

I felt that everyone was staring at me. My mobile pinged, with the message.. look behind, and turning around I found a smiling face peeping out of a hizab  holding my book.

We had tea and buns, while everyone definitely stared at us, and talked about her life and work.

I had planned to sign the book in Urdu, and had practiced earlier, but my sample signature on a paper napkin had her in a fit of giggles , so I stuck to English.

Afterwards she gave me a guided tour of the walled city as only an insider can, including the historic mosques and buildings.

I felt like I was in some historical novel myself, walking around the ancient streets where everyone was dressed like we were in some medieval costume drama, or in some middle eastern kasba, being escorted by a beautiful woman in a hijab, only her eyes being visible , adding to her mystery and charm.

At dusk she had to leave, and I had to go back to the 21st century, leaving behind the Arabian nights scenario, and return to my hotel

We haven’t met since, though we are in regular touch through social media, and that one encounter with the mysterious woman in a veil remains an exotic memory, one of the greatest perks of writing.




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