Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unread stories

I worked with a couple of children's TV Channels as a freelance writer. Apart from writing jingles & narratives there were many other odd jobs that I did. One of them was to sift out contest stories which children sent for Story Writing Competitions. It was a laboroius task but I could take them home and do it as per my convenience, so it was all right.

I had to go through hundreds of them. Then pick a few of the good ones so that the real judges could go through them to select the winners. I liked the job. It was fun.

Every day there would be new boxes, full of stories that children had written from all over India. The junior executives at the Channel would segregate the handwritten ones from the printed ones. I was given only the printed ones to siffle through. The handwritten stories never came to me. One day I found a few handwritten ones in my box. Maybe it was a mistake. Two of them were very good so I put them in the 'selected stories' box. Kids had drawn images, done a bit of art work and written with different coloured pencils about superheroes only they could have dreamt of.

The executives at the channel saw this and immediately took them out to be put into piled up boxes of handwritten stories.

Those piles were going nowhere. Day after day more boxes would be added to them. None of those stories were to be judged. I asked why. I was told that this particular story writing competition was sponsored by one of the Software Corporate giants and only the stories written on a computer and printed on A4 size paper/cut into CDs were to be considered. This was one of the pre-requisites of the contest terms.

I knew they were right in sticking to the rules. Kids and their parents knew this yet they took the trouble of writing the stories. It was their fault. Or maybe they didn't have access to a computer. Maybe they were from small towns. Maybe they had never seen a computer. They competed because they thought that the content was more important than a mere technicality. Nobody was at fault yet there was something flawed about the situation.

When I gave the channel the best 20 stories out of the printed lot on the final day, I was very sad for those boxes in the corner with handwritten stories. In them lay hidden some wonderful, imaginitive works of art which would go to the trash can after the results were declared. So would the other unselected printed ones too but at least someone had read them.

What if one of those unread gems is one of the first stories of great writers of tomorrow? I know things like these happen all the time and this is the risk all those take who do not follow the rules. But still....I wish I had a chance to read them all. Not from the contest point of view but those lovely stories deserved to be read at least once. 

4 comments:

  1. As there are two phases to a thing.Same applies here in your post so much.And you wrote about both the sides,both being justifiable in their own arena.
    But when they turn into great writers they wont be unread :)
    I like the vastness of topic in your blog very much!

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  2. You are right. There are always two sides to a story. I knew both sides so I could understand their limitations as well. Hope those kids got other opportunities to express themselves in other contests. It was just an observation, not a judgement.

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