“What inspires you to write?”— saged-traveling lady on the train to Beijing.
I was taken back by the question. Not many have asked me this before. I forget when or who asked me the same question before that day when I traveling solo in China.
My mind traveled back to earlier that month when I just started contemplating on changing my writing direction to focus on culture, which eventually birthed Kulture Kween a few years later — to 2012 when I started a travel blog — to 2007 when I started a blog after I read a classmate’s poetry blog — to 2004 when Erwin Tanudjaja introduced me to the concept of a blog. The same Erwin who introduced me to the internet in 1997.
But, it was two years before that, I realized my passion for writing.
On the day I forgot to bring my homework. I called Amma from a rusty (even for 1995) coin-operated payphone from my school begging her to bring my homework.
It was not compulsory. It was an extracurricular activity. My grade wouldn’t be marked. But for some reason, I put an effort to write an essay with a not-appropriate-for-middle-school topic. I spent the whole long weekend in August to write and rewrite it in longhand (it was 1995). Finally, I put my rebellious twist on it. I know it would be marked by the school principal and didn’t care if he was going to penalize me for it. I just didn’t want it to be a cookie-cutter school essay with a sprinkle of mundaneness.
Thankfully Amma refrained from executing a teachable moment that day. She took an auto-rickshaw and dropped the paper to me at school. Just in time for me to slip it to the stack of papers waiting in the Principal’s office.
My essay won. No gift. The acknowledgment was done and dusted in less than two minutes. But it didn’t matter. I felt such joy at the moment, more than scoring a solid 100 on an exam paper.
That moment topped my childhood happiness chart.
That was the moment that gave the answer to what inspires my passion question asked by the stranger on the train. The foundation for me slogging hours and hours on writing/blogging/journaling.
Thank you for not penalising me on that day Mr. School Principal. I hope my hoarder parents still keep the winning essay somewhere in the house.