I’m an unusual product of the Indian diaspora. My dad was born in the Sindh province of what is now Pakistan and came to Mumbai as a young boy during Partition. My English mum comes from a military family with a history in The Raj era.
They met in late Sixties London but separated in Holland when I was a baby in 1972. He went back to India and she returned to England with me where we became dirt-poor squatters in Brixton, south London.
I was a standout pupil in my early years at school but became an academic underachiever from my early teens, mostly because I was troubled, disruptive and lazy.
But I read tabloid newspapers on a daily basis from the age of 11 for their football coverage (Arsenal fan). That unintentionally laid the foundations for my career as I gradually became interested in news.
The Nineties was my defining decade. I lived on a kibbutz in Israel for six months in 1993 and that turned my life around. I did do a journalism course when I got back but again, I wasn’t a good student.
However, I did work experience on British-Asian red top newspaper Eastern Eye and, eventually, became Editor after coming and going from spells in the Middle East, including Lebanon.
I rose to prominence nationally during the 1999 fascist London nail bombing campaign and then landed a “production journalist” job that year on the now defunct UK tabloid News of the World.
The sex and scandal-packed red top was at the time the world’s biggest-selling English language paper, shifting 4.5 million per edition. I made my name as a headline writer there and progressed.
I love playing with words and I had absorbed thousands of cultural references reading tabloids back from when I was a boy. The majority of my career was spent on The Sun, despite my left-wing leanings.
Eventually, mental health problems spectacularly got the better of me in 2008 and I was unable to work for over two years. But I returned to News of the World before it folded in 2011 and then I returned to The Sun.
I left in 2016 and spent a while taking stock of my life. Then I started to write this book. I also spent a summer at a charity clubhouse holding journalism workshops for people with mental health issues.
Then, with a mixture of luck and audacity, I managed to land some freelance consultancy work for Metro.co.uk — one of Britain’s leading news-based websites.
It suits me down to the ground, working with young reporters to improve news gathering and writing standards. A lot of it comes naturally to me because I’ve been imparting my know-how throughout my career.
It’s an all-encompassing role at times and I think the skills I have developed since the workshops will stand me in good stead going forward. Those experiences helped me get Melting Pothead to this stage.
I’m not one of those journalist cliches who always dreamed of writing a book. But it has been an amazing journey. I’ve learned so much about myself and it has, especially, helped me define my identity.