My writing journey

Trisha Sakhlecha.
Trisha Sakhlecha.


By Trisha Sakhlecha

AS A child, I always loved writing and for the longest time, I thought my future was as a journalist.

Though I chose to study science and mathematics in high school, the only sub­ject I genuinely en­joyed was English. My library card was al­ways maxed out, I wrangled my way onto my school’s editorial board and when the time came to apply to university, my first choice was a BA jour­nalism degree at Del­hi University.

It was a prestigious course and part of the admissions require­ment was a three-hour-long entrance exam that tested appli­cants on everything from grammar and composition to gener­al knowledge and cur­rent affairs.

I sat for the exam feeling confident and perhaps a little smug. I had just graduated from one of the best schools in Delhi, I had always been told I was a good writer, and I took particular joy in correcting my broth­er’s grammar. An en­trance exam? Easy. I would sail through.

Turns out, it wasn’t easy at all.

I failed. I did so bad­ly that I didn’t even make the waitlist, let alone the course. It was my first real taste of heartbreak and god, did it hurt. Like all devastating teenage heartbreaks, though, I survived. I studied de­sign instead.

Over the next de­cade, I moved to Lon­don and built a career in fashion, returning to my love for writing time and again, but always sideways – helping a cousin with an essay, writing the odd piece about the latest fashion trends or far more frequently – and secretly – scrib­bling in my journals.

Though the idea of going into fashion journalism was never far from my thoughts, I refused to give my­self the permission to pursue it as a career. There was no point. I couldn’t even get into an entry-level jour­nalism course – which I knew by now wasn’t quite as prestigious as it seemed at the time, a fact that only made my failure feel bigger.

The truth is, I was scared. Was my fear simply a reaction to that early failure or something deeper, cultural conditioning that led me to believe that an Indian girl couldn’t realistically expect to make a living as a writer? I don’t know. But I under­stood what I wasn’t. What I couldn’t be.

Even when I joined a creative writing course years later, it was because I was desperate for a dis­traction. I was trying to pull myself out of a very messy, very toxic marriage. I needed space to discover who I was again; and for me, the best way to do that has always been through writing.

I write to discover what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling and quite often, what I’m trying very hard not to feel. Writing was an escape, perhaps even a lifeline, but it was always a hobby. Never in a million years did I think that the novel I wrote to try and make sense of what was ar­guably the worst period of my life would end up getting published or open up a whole new career for me.

Even harder to grasp was the idea that not only did a major publisher want to publish my work, but they also had so much faith in my writ­ing that they were willing to offer me a contract for my sec­ond, yet-to-be-written book on a 50-word synopsis. The fact that a few sentences got me a book deal when thousands of carefully written words all those years ago couldn’t get me into a degree programme still feels utterly, com­pletely unbelievable.

Despite that, as I prepare to pitch my next novel to my editor, that old fear resurfac­es – do I have it in me? Can I be a real writer?

My second novel, Can You See Me Now? has just been pub­lished. It’s a psycho­logical thriller set in India that deals with toxic female friend­ships, power and priv­ilege. It was a difficult book to write, one I’m particularly proud of and as I look at the copy on my shelf, I re­mind myself that I do have it in me to be a real writer. I am a real writer. I just need to keep the faith. And this time, instead of looking outside for validation, perhaps I need to look inside.

Trisha Sakhlecha is the author of Your Truth or Mine? and Can You See Me Now?

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