I was born in Kolbad, a village in Thana (now Thane) district, Maharashtra. I went to St John the Baptist High School, which was considered the best English medium school in Thana those days. My friends and I walked from our village to the school, which was two kilometres away.
As a child, I was quite naughty. Our school was a co-educational institution. I remember having a crush on a girl who looked like Saira Banu. I was part of a gang called the Golden Gang. Our favourite pastime was to tease passersby and those bathing at the village well. We even had an opposition gang called the Silver Gang.
I loved to play cricket and kabaddi with my friends. I also enjoyed reading and watching all the Hindi movies that were screened at the only theatre in town. Dev Anand was one of my favourite heroes and I would even bunk school to watch his films. Once, just as we were sneaking out of the school gate, our principal stopped us. Going to see a movie, boys? he asked. Yes, Father, we admitted sheepishly. Go on, I wont complain to your teacher, he said, winking!
There were lots of interesting trees in my village. After school, my friends and I would spend hours in the shade of a huge banyan tree. We would climb any of the several tamarind trees and help ourselves to the mouth-watering fruit. Our parents allowed us to roam freely in the countryside as it was very safe. Hardly any vehicle plied on the dirt roads.
If we got bored sitting around the banyan tree, we would trek to Pokhran Lake, which was several kilometres away, to pluck the succulent jamuns that grew in abundance there. At times we set off to simply explore the town. On these occasions, we took along our garandas or wheels. These were made of iron and had to be propelled with hooks at the end of long, slim metal rods.
Even as a child, I aspired to become a writer. I always scored the highest marks in English. My essays and compositions were read out in class. I spent a lot of time writing stories or just commenting about things outside of class work. My passion got a big boost when I turned 13 and my father gifted me a second-hand Remington typewriter.