My refuge, no longer

It’s become harder and harder to express my thoughts out here in the Internet, to share my poems and my writings for the world to see. It’s not the fear of judgement or criticism – it’s the simple plain old fear of plagiarism and copy-paste.

Writing is sacred for me. It has been my refuge since I was a new kid in a new school in a new city. It has been my companion, my consolation, my camouflage for 15 years now. Little or long, good or bad, I love each of my writings. They have charted and documented my life, my growth, or lack thereof. Good or bad, they are mine.

My first encounter with plagiarism was in an alarmingly young age. I was in the fifth grade when I submitted a poem for my school magazine, Kusumayani. When I read it now, I feel truly mortified and embarrassed; but back then I considered it to be a masterpiece. I was especially proud of the way I had cleverly rhymed “dream” with “ice-cream” (dear lord!). And it was indeed published in the magazine and seeing my writing in print was one of my happiest moments of my life. Ever since that day, I made sure to contribute some writing to the magazine.

When I was in 7th grade and I was flipping through the new magazine to check out my latest submission, another poem caught my eye. All words, exactly the same, right down to the rhyming of “dream” with “ice-cream”.

Some girl had stolen my poem.

I went to the teacher to complain – that it was copied directly and that I was the one who actually wrote it. The teacher looked me in the eye and asked me – “How do I know you didn’t copy it too?”. When I kept staring at her without comprehending (how could I have copied from this girl – mine was published first!), she continued with “How do I know that you both didn’t copy this poem from another source?”

Now that I know how it normally goes, the downloading and copying and pasting from the Net, her question makes sense. But at that moment, I was truly offended. So I held back my tears, tossed my head up and said – “I know how to write, and I don’t need to copy.”

Anyway, the teacher sent me to get the girl who had plagiarized so that she could hear her side of the story. I stomped down the hallway down to the kid’s classroom and demanded to know where what’s-her-name was. And I came to know that she had quit school and transferred elsewhere.

I did not get my justice.

When I created Klutz Diaries, I was happy to find a corner where I could show my writings. Small ones, meaningful ones. Poems that make me happy when I re-read them, and ones that show my pain and my scars. And then I saw how others work.

There is a lucrative business in doing the homework and projects for those who are willing to pay. Rather than putting in the effort, they just want it done. And of course there are those who are not so willing to shell out money, and so Internet is their playground. Put in search terms, get the writing, hit submit. Score!

I hate this. I absolutely hate that someone else could take credit for my work and get rewarded too, without my permission. I hate that a kid who would have painstakingly written his own first poem, riddled with mistakes, would be judged harshly when compared with sleek lines snatched from the Internet. And so the next time, he will give up and copy too.

What are the kids learning, then? What is the point of these assignments? All they are learning is to copy expertly, and get away with them.

This trend just does not end in schools. Those kids grow up and go to college. Then for their college project they download or buy a Hospital or Library Management System and get through. They waltz through the placement process too, convincing recruiters that they indeed did all the project stuff since they have become that good at bullshit after all these years. Life is smooth sailing – and they are oh so smug they didn’t have to put in “all that useless labour”.

Maybe they are right; maybe it’s just us who are the idiots. All I know is that if this were religion, or politics, war would have broken out because of this. Those people and I stand on opposite sides of a chasm, and I have no interest in admiring them or teaching them.

All I know is I don’t want them to plagiarize from me. MY writings, my thoughts define who I am, and I would hate it if someone took my identity.

So I am not going to post any creative writings here, anymore. I had thought I had a place of my own, but I was wrong. My refuge is now gone, and my writings once again clutter up loose sheets and book corners, to just lie there forgotten for eternity.