What can make an author happier than seeing her story in print? Every time I hold a book of mine in my hands I cannot cease marveling at the long journey it has made, the huge distances it has travelled.
I remember then how the idea was born and how I worked on it. I recall my sense of joy and the stunning realization that I had created something that I liked and the quiet, contented sense of satisfaction at this. I recall sending the story off to various publishers, with a prayer on my lips and my heart thumping at my own courage. The wait was often long but sometimes I got lucky and heard back with unexpected promptness from the publishers. And with that my little story was on the next leg of its journey.
This part involved editing and sometimes, offering suggestions for illustrations. But once this was dealt with, there was usually silence, a silence that bristled with possibilities and unspoken promises.
And then, one day, a package arrived and all those promises were fulfilled. I tore it open, and I must confess here that more often than not my hands trembled with eagerness and excitement and a strong sense of disbelief as I did this. But when the packaging was finally torn away, I found myself looking at copies of my brand new book.
It was like a miracle but if you think that this is the end of the journey for that little story, or for that matter, any story, big or little, boy, are you wrong!
As a writer, my story lives in my mind and when it is transferred on to a piece of paper, it assumes a certain concrete form. This is further solidified and immortalized when the story appears in its avatar as a book. But a story is a strange creature; it is restless and curious, and it does not believe in living within the limits we set on it.
It is born to soar and fly, it is meant to travel to unexpected places and touch an unbelievable crowd of people and make a surprising number of friends in far flung corners of the world. When your story has achieved all this, you sigh with a dazed contentment, certain there can be no further surprises for you as an author.
And that is when you hear that your story, born in the language of your heart, is going to be translated into another language. Of course, my smile stretches wide when I hear this news, of course my heart thumps with a glad joy. But there are doubts too and questions galore.
How will my story sound in an alien tongue?
Will my characters stay funny?
Will my story speak to the readers?
Will it touch them, tickle them and offer them the warm comfort of characters and voices that are familiar and loved?
After all, every language is different, with different words for smiles and laughs, a variety of words to describe frowns and tears.
But, in the years that I have been writing stories for children, I have learnt an important rule about stories and languages. The language of stories is universal, reaching over borders, under fences, past the colours of nationalities and flags. And it carries within it the ability to touch hearts and tap emotions.
And as an author, writer, imaginator, thinker, I am blessed to have come up with a story that has touched so many people.
And that this might well be the greatest payment for writing.