'Hello,' said an unknown number. It had to be a creative writing inquiry.
'Yes? Manjushree here.' I replied.
'We are a school. We were wondering if you could do a one day creative writing workshop for us?'
I fell for it. And planned an elaborate lecture on the structure of Sleeping beauty. Then I felt sorry for the boys, so I started thinking of Harry Potter. And wondered again at the amazingly repetitive patterns in which all best selling writers think.
The moment I entered the classroom, however, I realized that I had missed an important detail. Ninety percent of the kids were wearing chaddis, ribbons and pins with their kerchiefs tied on their frocks. In other words, they were mostly below seven. Creative writing workshop for under sevens? What on earth had I walked into? What kind of super ambitious school was this?
But I didn't have much time to rant. I had to get into the action. Without thinking, these are a few of the things I said:
All of you are creative writers. When you go back home and tell your moms what happened in school, it is not the truth. It is a story. It is a story in which you yourself are the hero or heroine.
It is this same impulse which drives adults to write novels. I wrote a novel in which I myself became the heroine. I wrote because I wanted people to notice me, to acknowledge me.
When I was a kid I used to lie a lot. I had to lie so that I could express the truth inside me. The truth was that I needed attention. So it is perfectly ok to lie, to get your mother's or father's attention. All children deserve attention.
Now tell me some lies. Make a story in which you are the central character and tell a lot of lies about yourself.'
I don't think the school will invite me again, but the kids and I had a gala time cooking up ridiculously far fetched stories. It was amazing how their innermost desires and fears were revealed in their imaginations.
And I wondered how they got the truth out of me.