It is July, 1979. I am doing a 9 month diploma course in the teaching of English at the Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages, Hyderabad.
I've completed 15 years as a government college teacher in Madhya Pradesh. Here in Hyderabad, I am without salary. But I get a scholarship of Rs 250 every month. I have to pay for food and accommodation. Saturday dinners are eat-outs as the refectory staff has a half- day off.
Most residents go out in groups. They eat out and go to the cinema to refresh themselves. Some do stay back and perhaps eat fruits.
Some of my friends ask me to join. I tell them about my wallet. They ask me not to worry. I go with them. But I am uncomfortable. After dinner, one in the group foots the bill. I've enjoyed the food, the company and the kindness, all right, but when I look ahead, I start worrying. What about next week or the next or the next? I must put my hands in the pocket one day. An Englishman says: a Scotsman has long pockets but short arms! But I’m not a Scotsman!
Next morning, after breakfast, I go into the library. I pick Newstime. It is a newly launched English Daily from Hyderabad.
I always read the sports page first, and like Hardy, the mathematician, read cricket. Then, I go to the middle on the edit-page. I've been doing this since I was in Seventh Class. My father used to get The Free Press Journal and The Hitavada or The Nagpur Times. I always enjoyed RP's FROM AN EASY CHAIR! Since then, I've been a compulsive reader of Middles. Along with RP, I liked middle writers like Khullar, Menzes , Proudfoot , Raj Chatterjee and Trivadi, just to name a few.
I also enjoyed lugging on to THE LIGHT LUGGAGE of V V John as much as looking into Nergis Dalal's YOUR MIDDLE IS SHOWING. Then I, too, had a secret desire of holding my own NAVEL IDEAS one day!
'Wishes are horses without legs ', I tell myself and move on ... on my own legs!
But last night's dinner is real food for thought. It turns out into quick conception, normal gestation and easy delivery!
I read Proudfoot in Newstime, then Ameenuddin in the same paper as I browse through the back issues. Quickly, I put pen to paper and write 500 words. I finish ON GROWING A BEARD as I am still running my fingers along the itching twigs. Then I rush to get my prospective debut piece in Newstime typed and sent to the Editor.
Thank the Editor! I get a place in the middle once a week. The day after Proudfoot ... is yours truly ... Proudhead (?)! With four to five hundred rupees in a month I am able to manage the eat-outs without losing self-pride.
Now, in 2010, when I am just one short of the Biblical three scores and ten, eating out is out. I would rather prefer to have dinner with prospective publishers of NAVEL IDEAS – a collection of my published middles. I know the shortest way to one's heart is through the stomach!