“Hello,” said the voice on the phone. “My name is Roald Dahl. I know you never expected a call from me, as famous as I am, but I’ve been given your name as someone who can help me with my next book…”
That was how it all started. With that one dream.
Of course, I knew it even before I had opened my eyes, that it was a dream. I mean, who in their right mind would say I know you never expected a call from me, as famous as I am…?! Not to mention the fact that Dahl has been dead for the past twenty-eight years.
But that didn’t matter. Not at that time. Because that dream gave me clarity. That dream propelled me into action after ages of inactivity. Well, I say ages, but it was merely months, really. Months spent going in and out of courtrooms. Months spent climbing up and down that horrid staircase of the family court building. Horrible, awful months. Excruciating months, when I preferred oblivion, and possibly even contemplated death. Months when I didn’t want to exist. Didn’t want to be in the place that I was.
I hadn’t chosen the place I found myself in at the time, of course. My parents had. Like they chose everything for me. And yet, this one time, they found it impossible to choose. The one time when I wouldn’t have minded them deciding something for me, was the one time they chose not to decide. They let the courts do it for them. It was the most humiliating thing. It was the most painful thing.
I mean come on, it was just the three of us. Mom, Dad and I. Couldn’t we have sorted things out ourselves? We had had fights before. We had disagreed on things before. And we had sorted them out. But this time was different. I knew it. I could feel it. Right from the time I witnessed the first fight between Mom and Dad, I knew this was going to turn ugly. And it did. Eventually, we all ended up in court. All three of us. But the only one who got sentenced was me.
Yes, sentenced. To spend the week with my mother and the weekend with my father. This, when my mother worked weekdays and my father was busy with his meetings most weekends. I don’t know what the courts thought they were doing. If they had asked me, I could’ve told them. But they didn’t ask. I wasn’t an adult then, and so the court took it as its duty to decide what was best for me. Just another example of how adults think they have it all figured out. I mean, I wasn’t an adult, yes; but I was old enough and mature enough to know what I wanted. Fourteen isn’t exactly a baby, you know. But like I said, no one asked!
That was bad enough. But what added insult to the injury, was the fact that, the whole separation – no I won’t use the ‘D’ word – made my parents bitter. Bitter towards each other. Bitter towards the world. Bitter towards life. Soon enough, Mom took to the bottle and Dad took to girls. Girls. Not women. They expected nothing in return, you see? Unlike the older women who eventually looked for some kind of commitment, the girls were just out to have fun!
It disgusted me. It infuriated me. It made my skin crawl. And yet, I wasn’t an adult, so I couldn’t go be in some place of my own. I was bound. Confined to be where I didn’t want to be. I would go silent for days on end. Thoughts swirling in my head. All sorts of thoughts. Really nasty ones they were too. Even – what is the point in going on living if this is all that life has to offer? So I tried to shut them off. Cigarettes, alcohol, even experimental drugs – but I found out that the thoughts were way louder than what any of these could try curbing.
And then I had that dream. Roald Dahl asking for my help with his next book. A dead author asking a broken boy for help. A dead author who I had read too much of in my childhood. An author who had clearly left a lasting impression. I dismissed it as the wild imagination of my alcohol-fuelled brain. Clearly, I was delusional? And yet, the dream wouldn’t leave me alone. It came back to haunt me even in my sober moments. Eventually making me sit up and take notice.
And I finally figured out why it kept coming back to me. I was trying to silence the million thoughts that were swirling in my head, so I could get some peace. And I was failing miserably at that. But what if I stopped trying to silence them, and put them to better use instead?
That was how I began writing. Short stories initially. Then books. For young adults like me. Readers all around the world lapped them up. They loved my stories because the people in my stories were the ones they could relate to. The anguish, the agony in my books appealed to them. The triumph of my characters gave them hope. Parents lined up outside bookstores for me to sign the copies they could give their children. I was glad to sign every single one of them.
I had had nothing but that one dream to help me in my days of despair. I wanted other children to have something more, something better. My stories, while entertaining, were also meant to help them, the way the dream had helped me.
When I finally got the coveted award for the most promising young writer, my publisher was thrilled! He threw me a party, and regaled the guests with my story; till they all agreed with him that the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.
And me, I silently thanked the dream for taking me out of the deadly spiral of my thoughts and showing me the way.
– From the diary of a successful YA writer.