Posts Tagged ‘the freedom to write’

There was a time when I used to be rather short and skinny. Pimples often popped out on my cheeks and forehead. I have thin and lifeless hair. Some of my teeth were uneven. And I wore thick glasses too – add them up together and I certainly do not make a pretty picture.

Little wonder nobody spare me a second glance. At best, I was a plain Jane and at worst, an ugly duckling. I spent most of my school days sitting at the back row, in a corner, unnoticed and unheard of. In the eyes of my teachers and classmates, I was just another awkward teenager struggling with herself.

Then one fine day, when I was sixteen, I decided to break out from this cocoon. I wanted to catch the teacher’s attention and win her approval. I wanted to surprise my classmates too.

The opportunity came when we were told to write something creative for a writing competition. The top three winning entries will be featured in the school magazine called the “Argosy.” Knowing for sure my classmates will write essays as usual; I decided to take a different path – by writing a poem instead. I went ahead and boldly wrote my first poem, “The Executioner’s Song.” We were given about two periods to do that during our English lesson.

Yes, it caught her attention but no, it did not win her approval. “The girl who wrote a poem instead of a story, please come out here,” she called out sarcastically and I began to feel my heart beating wildly.

 “I see you have written a very intense poem here but the content is too controversial for your own good. I simply cannot accept it. So next time, please stick to something more subtle, something conventional like your ambition, a trip to the beach with your family or how your neighbors put out a fire. Please for God sake; don’t write things that make people upset, it will get you in trouble, understand? Now, go back to your seat,” she hissed at me with knitted brows. Displeasure was written all over her face and she flung the exercise book back at me. Oh dear, my secret plan backfired on me!

But I remained defiant. Why should I write about my ambition? I do not even know what I wanted to be when I grew up someday. Why should I write about a trip to a beach? I have written that several times before, during my primary days that I just wasn’t keen anymore. And why should I write about some neighbors putting out a fire when this could bore me to tears?

I refused to conform to her advice; I wanted to write something different. I wanted to write something that is disturbing my mind. I wanted to write something that is tugging my heart. Why wasn’t I allowed to do that? Nobody could give me an answer then.

Ever since passing by Pudu Jail on a trip to Kuala Lumpur, I kept imagining how it was like to be locked in solitude on a death row, to have the last meal, to see your loved ones for the last time, to say your last prayers, to be dragged to the hangman, knowing you are innocent all the time, and that justice can sometimes be wrongly meted out.

These are the things I wanted to write at sixteen which I did and it got my teacher so riled up. Anyway, I was glad I wrote it. I have no regrets being rejected and got scolded. When something you wrote invoked a strong reaction on your readers, then you know you have written something catchy, something different and something controversial.

But thirty-two years after that offending poem, I found I still could not write so freely; that I cannot call a spade “the spade” or a devil “the devil.” It is very discouraging but this time, I won’t put down my pen like I did when I was sixteen. I am waiting for a change, for a day when I can write just the way I have always wanted to.

Why do I like to be defiant in my writings? Simple, really – I am always inspired by this quote – that what makes you different, makes you beautiful. I wanted my writings to be different and I feel beautiful writing them.

By the way, is my teacher right in turning down my piece of work?

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