I was not born a poet. But I was born with bad hair. Poetry arrived at a certain age. As poetry progressed, my hair became worse. As witnessed in this picture, my hair had to be kept down with pins. My grin was always evil and chilling. I never responded well to photography. I remember kicking the studio photographer after having this photograph. I was probably plotting my evil plan to overtake the world while he unwittingly captured the sheer evil-ness on my face.
I discovered poetry quite by accident. I had always been poor at punctuation, and the little poetry that I was exposed to resonated with the poor punctuate(r) in me. Here was this sea of text that seemed to run seamless, with little regard for annoying commas and full stops. Sentences could be left floating to their own device. It was very different from Mathematics.
An important event in my life that nudged forth the poet in me was the birth of my sister. When I first saw her, I thought she was ET. Here I was, expecting a bonny baby – the kinds that were selling Cerelac. Instead, this creature had a huge head, was almost red, had scrunchy skin. She became okay in a few months though. But the first sight of my sister prompted me to make a poetic comparison. ET from another planet, and this creature who was going to invade my space.
While we became good friends later, and I forgave her for looking the way she did when she was 5 hours hold, she was fascinated by my hair. My dad with great understanding decided that I must be introduced to the wonderful world of libraries to help me escape the ever-pulling hands of my sister. The discovery of the comb was put aside. My hair looked constantly worn out. It was either being pulled by the little one, or ignored because the rummaging for books in the library was a taxing job and little children get all tired and roughed up anyway! So reading poetry ruined my hair a bit more. As this photograph clearly shows, I began to have a permanent “bounce” in my hair.
My first poem was written when I was in Class III. My dad and I had gone for a long walk in the Delhi Ridge. When you’re about nine years and three feet tall, you are inspired by anything that feels larger than you are. I was inspired by the immense green, thorns and strange bird calls. I came back home running thinking I had to really talk about it all. (I was a very talkative child.) My mom was busy on the sewing machine, and my dad had started to work on the garden. At this point, going to my sister and getting my hair pulled didn’t feel like a pleasant idea. So I stole a clean white A4 sheet from my father’s table and wrote.
My first poem was born. It was 13 lines long. I know this because I was worried that it might be an unlucky number. (Turns out prime numbers are lucky for me.) The poem is now lost. I don’t know what happened to it. However, it drastically reduced the bounce in my hair. Poetry killed my eyesight and hairstyle. I became the youngest kid in school to sport spectacles. Since fluffy hairstyles can be very annoying when you are trying to create a masterpiece, I resorted to pigtails. I really did become the paavum poet. This photograph was taken when I was ten years old. At some point my nose began to swell with all the sweet-smelling poetry.
However, I discovered the hairbrush when I was about 14, by which time poetry had already damaged my hair.