I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw in some magazine, where a man sat fishing on the bank of a stream sporting a sign on his back, which read ‘No nothing caught yet’. I found the image extremely funny and somewhat synonymous with my own condition, when people walk up to me and ask me as to how did I start writing. I am tempted to satisfy their curiosity by telling them that first I began on a ‘takhti’, then used pencil and paper, which was in time replaced with a fountain pen and copy book, but now having come to terms with technology, I punch keys on my laptop to produce something that is viewed by my editor as a weekly piece worth printing.

The greatest criticism of my ‘stories’ comes from my family and believe it or not, it is scathing in nature. A friend, who claims to be an accomplished psychologist (I have yet to verify this fact) advised me that before I was turned into a lump of ‘playdough’, I must rectify matters and reassert my intellectual authority. To that end he suggested that I get my writings vetted by my severest critic, before mailing them for publication. My first attempt at this met with all round applause as a family committee sat down to do something that reminded me of ‘Nazi Censors’. I nonetheless sent in my piece and proudly produced the printed version at breakfast next morning. To my utter horror, I was branded as an amateur, with no writing skills. My attempts to tell the ‘table’ that what they were reading was a product of their own corrections, but my words went unheeded. Having learnt my lesson, I decided to abandon any further ‘in house’ editing adventures and gainfully use nature’s farseeing wisdom to bestow a pair of ears in a straight line, on both sides of the human skull. I am now at peace since this alignment gives me the effective option of ‘easy in – easy out and no retention’.

As if human critics were not enough, my pet cat has decided to pitch in her piece on a daily basis. The moment, I open my machine and get into the mood to write, this creature climbs onto the keyboard to type out funny cryptic messages such as ‘rghbbnnsusmmssjeuhge……’. Unable to stop this favorite feline and conscious of the age old adage that labels me as ‘staff’ (“To dogs humans are masters, to cats they are staff”), I have now decided to gift her with an old out-of-use machine. When I announced my intent to do so, one of my offspring (whose consistent viewing of standup comic shows, has begun producing undesirable effects) commented that by doing so, I was creating a credible competitor.

My morale has however, recently received a huge ‘shot in the arm’. While inspecting an abandoned ‘bulbul’ nest in the ‘lady banksia’ creeper covering my verandah pillars, I discovered scraps of paper with writing on them. Closer inspection revealed them to be discarded pages from a small notebook that I carry with me in order to ‘save’ grist for my columns. I now have proof that ‘bulbuls’ are not only literate, but savvy enough to recognize talent. I don’t know how long this momentous discovery can be kept secret from my family, who have already begun investigating as to why I have increased the frequency of feeding feathery friends in and around my house.

The political atmosphere in my home is much like the one that prevailed outside it during the past week, as attempts to dissuade me from writing are met (much like our Former PM’s litany of “I shall not resign”) with words that have, more or less, the same meaning. In successfully taking this stand, I am helped by long gone mentors, whose written gems have inspired me and even prompted me to unconsciously mimic their style. It is however, my inadequacy to even come close to their genius that has made me their passionate disciple. They sit on my shelves in all their glory – Rudyard Kipling, PG Wodehouse and Art Buchwald, silently urging me on, regardless of failure.

The writer is a historian.