I started writing at an early age (in 1956, when I was 12). My late father used to subscribe to three English morning newspapers, three evening newspapers, the Reader's Digest, Time, Life and Saturday Evening Post (as well as The Times of India and the Indian Express, until these were banned after the 1965 war). He must've spent a fortune on those English periodicals. We also used to get one Gujrati morning newspaper as well as a Gujrati evening newspaper (these were also read by my mother). In addition to all this printed matter, my father would buy a book every week (usually works of fiction, the ones by Edgar Wallace, Leslie Charteris, Erle Stanley Gardner and James Hadley Chase were his favorites). So I spent most of my childhood and teenage years reading avidly.

The Morning News (which went out of business long ago) used to encourage children to write. Since it was printed in East Pakistan as well, it had a wide readership. Once, a cousin of mine submitted a short story, which was printed in my name by error. Perhaps the editor was much more familiar with my name, so he automatically printed the story under mine. Needless to say, I used to scan all three newspapers first thing in the morning to see if any letter or story of mine had been printed. I still do, but not many of my pieces are printed nowadays. About six months back, the editor of DAWN called me and asked me not to contribute so often, as they had to accommodate other (younger) writers as well. I was incredulous, since the letters written by younger writers are full of grammatical mistakes, which the editor or his assistant don't have the time to rectify (they apparently don't care about the negative image this will create among their readers, particularly those in English speaking countries). They simply copy letters from the writers' emails and paste them in their newspapers. How different it used to be in the old days, when I would submit contributions written in longhand, the editor would edit and type them out and then publish them. 

My first article ("A day at the Custom House") was published in DAWN magazine in 1994 or 1995 (a very small piece), for which they paid me Rs. 250 (they later increased the payment to Rs. 500). I was puzzled, as I didn't know they paid unknown writers or beginners. The editor was the late Naushaba Burney, whom I visited a couple of times. I'll never forget the encouraging letter which accompanied the first cheque: "Good luck, and keep on writing", she had concluded. In fact, the new generation of DAWN editors is downright rude, compared to those of other newspapers. In one of my trips to Dubai, I visited the office of Khaleej Times, the editor of which actually thanked me for contributing to his newspaper, and asked me to continue doing so.

So, whenever my friends and relatives ask me why I have stopped writing letters and articles in DAWN, I tell them to read my pieces  in the Tribune and Daily Times. Over the past four years, I've written a lot, which I know most of my friends and relatives have not read and will not read, perhaps because they spend most of their time watching TV or Whattsapp videos. I write not because I love to do so, but also because I want to leave a record of events that happened in my lifetime for future generations (if there are any).