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Anything. I am ready to write about anything. That’s what I’d like to think. Remember the post on verbal diarrhea I wrote awhile back? Give me a word and I can take it from there and go blah-blah-blah-blah making a post of it. But in reality, can I really write about everything? I don’t really think so.

There are topics from which I keep a respectable distance even though words churn my insides clamoring to be let out, and annoyed at the incarceration, use teeth and claws to try and gnaw their way out. I maintain a stoic front in spite of the pain they inflict. Anything, but you, I tell them, in no uncertain terms, tightening security so they won’t find a way out. Then there are the times I am caught off-guard. A la Rip van Winkle, I would have been asleep, though obviously not for twenty long years, only a wee nap of a few days or months, missing out on important happenings around.

Long long ago, while in college, I took part in the yearly essay-writing contest in English conducted as part of hostel day. I don’t remember what the topic was, but I walked away with the second prize. The next year, I waltzed into the hall with visions of filling Foolscap papers with things I had to say on just about anything that could be thrown at me. Sister Emeline, the hostel warden, also a lecturer herself, walked in. The chalk squeaked as she wrote on the blackboard: ‘Emergency’.

I stared at the word long and hard. Not that it did any good. It wasn’t revealing any of its secrets to me. If it was my blog, I could have started off writing a post about the emergency father had to deal with while travelling in a bus with his family on a rainy day and all the children wanting to pee really badly. Or about the emergency care my two year old brother needed when he cut his arm and needed stitches.

I silently rued the hours spent with my nose buried in the novels of my favorite authors, not reading the newspaper or keeping abreast of current affairs. In my defense, I was eighteen and lived in the world of my dreams. But whatever, I began writing, even filled two whole Foolscap pages spinning yarns the way I do, without really saying anything of substance. I knew the gamble wouldn’t pay off and the chance of winning that year was zilch.

You see, there is no dearth of emergency related stuff to write about. But the emergency Sister Emeline meant was THE Emergency, the one imposed on the country by the then Prime Minister in 1975. It was 1977 and the Emergency, lifted. Horror stories were coming out one by one from different parts of the country. It was THE hot topic of the season and I did not know anything about it, except a few bits here and there heard while others talked and I had listened in passing. Definitely not enough to base a serious essay on.

Sure enough, a few days later Sister Emeline, who apparently had hopes for me, stopped to ask, ‘What happened, child? I expected better from you.’ I curled up on the inside. The chance to bask in the glow of her approval was lost. But…wait, not lost completely! That same year, I won second place (always second!!) in the Malayalam essay writing competition. “Last year in English and this year in Malayalam?” Sister Emeline asked, her eyebrows raised in that quirky way of hers, appreciation writ large on her face as she handed over the prize. And I basked in the glow unabashedly.

© Shail Mohan 2020