The First Step

This article is in honor of one of the most important influences in my life. On the eve of her birthday, I reproduce it here.

This is the story of my first editing exercise. Things had just begun for me. Had learnt to do few things on my own — keeping books and papers in place, having them neatly stacked and labelled, and keeping stock of stationery — the usual things that writers and editors do.

I settled down at the table with my writing assignment. I opened my notebook (no computers yet), checked my pencil and began my task. For an added measure, I had an eraser and sharpener beside me. For a beginner, it proved to be a little laborious. The not-so-nimble fingers made my task tougher. Anyway, I had painstakingly put down all my thoughts in the notebook and had almost reached the end of what I thought was a decent piece of essay.

I was putting down the concluding line, when my mother also made herself comfortable at the table. (During the initial days, the dining table doubled up as writing table). This was our usual routine. While I would go about with my writing exercise, she would be sitting, not very far off from me, peeling cucumber for the evening meal or leafing through a magazine. Done with most of the chores, this was one of her leisure moments. Probably that is why, with nothing else weighing on her mind, she could cast an occasional glance to see what I was writing. Until then, I was barely conscious of the extra pair of eyes.

Time for a stringent check! It’s now that I would begin to feel a little uneasy and even scared. As a habit, she would actually participate in scrutinizing the write-up!
Her attention was not just on the substance and factual details. Moments would tick by and she would suddenly remark, “Why would you want to put it as a cow? Chuck the ‘article’ out!” While I watched all the ‘silly mistakes’ go, I listened to her instructions carefully, so that I churned out neater stuff next time around. Spellings were another area where I received the usual rapping on the knuckles. Often I was asked to learn them by-heart. I hadn’t started consulting a dictionary yet. How could I? I was too young, just in my First Standard!

My essay on the cow fetched me too many red marks from the homegrown editor, but my teacher applauded me in front of the whole class. “Not a single grammatical error or spelling mistake”, she said…

Post Script: Today when I sit at my desk, giving final touches to my article, I look back. I don’t claim to produce the best articles; but for the sustained efforts of my first editor, I wouldn’t have reached this spot. She made me realise the significance of spellings and using the language correctly at a very young age. I owe it all to my mother.

Happy Birthday Ma!

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