“Hope changes everything.”
I didn’t really know the depth of the phrase back then, but I liked the sound of it. I used to write it under the My Life Motto question in slam books, I used to say it like an insufferable-know-it-all to friends who had any problem related to anything from school projects to boring summer vacations, and I even said it in the school assembly as Thought For The Day once. So it’s safe to say that I was obsessed with the phrase. Made me feel like a grown up, saying things like this in a melodramatic tone.
Then one day I understood the real meaning. And I realized I was rightly in love with the beautiful words.
It was when I was in eighth standard. I was a fan of BaalHans – a Hindi Magazine for Kids. I used to ask mom and dad to buy me every copy, and I used to read all the stories more times than it’s normal for kids. I was in love with the poems and the stories and the comic strips, and I had noticed that they sometimes published poems and stories by kids as well. And if you know me, you know that I have been writing since forever. I wanted to have one of my stories or poems published in BaalHans, so after weeks and weeks of working on a story that I felt was my best work – I mailed it off to the address given in the magazine. I had hand written the story, and by mailed I obviously mean actual postal service, with stamps and all that.
And then I waited. But months went by and nothing happened. I had been rejected. My first ever submission had been rejected! And as you can imagine, I was always scared of rejection. Of ridicule. So now I decided to never even show my work to anyone ever again. I was mortified and more rejection would have killed me – is what I firmly believed.
But the dream never leaves. I still longed to see my story or poem published in my favorite magazine! Oh, tough life!
One day, I was with mom at our favorite corner of the house – next to our shelf full of books, plonked on a cozy couch. I spent hours here, this was the best part of our home. Mom and I were talking and suddenly, on an insane impulse, I told about my desire and my fear to my mom. I told her how I had a dream to see my name in the magazine, below a poem written by me.
“Have you written anything new for them yet?” She asked.
“Oh, loads of stuff!” I said. “But I’m never going to send them my stuff again.”
“And why is that?” She wanted to know.
“Because it is not good enough. They will never publish it.”
“You don’t know that!” Mom said.
“They didn’t publish my story, and it was my best work! Maybe I am not good enough.” I shrugged.
“Maybe they won’t publish your stuff again.” My mom told me in her calm voice. “But it doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough.It just means you have to work more on your work.”
“But mom -” I began.
“Baby,” She cut me and held my hand in hers. “Have faith in yourself and for god’s sake, have some hope! This is the way you learn. This is how you improve your art. If you lose hope after one trial, you are eventually going to lose your desire to do something new. So what if they rejected your story once? It’s not the end of the world! You have a bright future ahead of you, and you have to keep trying, baby! Hold onto hope!” And then she kissed my forehead.
Whatever mom said to me that day, made me slightly nervous, but it also made sense to my young mind. So a few days after this conversation, I decided to send a poem. And I did.
And because I had decided to have hope this time, I felt that it changed my attitude toward things too. I sent the poem and I no longer felt physically attached to the outcome, like I had felt with the first submission. In fact, I felt pretty normal. I told myself that if they didn’t publish this poem too, I will work on something else, something better. I decided not to lose hope, not to give up. I believed that hope will change things. I had even written down three ideas for my next submission when, two months later, my poem was published in the magazine.
Dad brought the brand new, glossy magazine home one evening, and announced proudly to the entire household – “This is the beginning of a great writing career.” That was a moment that filled you with optimism and hope for the future. I was dancing with joy. I carried the magazine in my school bag for weeks, showing it to everyone I met. I carried it to the park where I flaunted it to all the neighborhood kids, and their moms. I even took it along to a birthday party and showed it to the birthday girl before she could even cut the cake. Yeah, I was unstoppable. It was my first published work, and the result of me holding onto hope! And this small incident, this tiny childish poem that appeared in a children’s magazine – It gave me hope for the future. I felt with a mighty conviction that mom was right, I had a bright future ahead, and for it to happen, I had to hold onto hope. And be ready for rejections. And not take them to heart. And to keep improving my art. And mostly, to work damn hard, of course. But the point is, it taught me my first lesson about hope and about optimism.
By the way, my next favorite quote from then on (till a few years) was:
‘My future is so bright, I have to wear shades!”