Why did this journalist change his name to 'Regret'?
India is a mysterious land: travel across the country and you will come across the most bizarre tales. Like the story of Mr Regret Iyer of Karnataka, a popular writer, photographer and cartoonist, among other things. But he wasn't always famous. In fact, he owes his name to the spectacular failures early in his career. Here's how Sathyanarayana Iyer got his unusual name.
From college magazine to 'letters to the editor' to articles
Iyer says he always wanted be a writer. In the 1970s, when he was a student, an article of his was published in the college magazine, and that was the inspiration he needed to move ahead with his dreams. He upgraded to writing "letters to the editor" for newspapers and many got published. The next step was writing articles.
That didn't work out as planned
However, the first article he wrote to Janavani, a Kannada newspaper, got him a "regret letter": the editor said it couldn't be published. "I was disappointed, but not disheartened." In the next years, he wrote about tourist places, ongoings, public grievances and more. A few got published but most were rejected. Soon, he had 375 regret letters from national as well as global organizations.
But it led to something unexpected
His problem was "shabby writing", said journalist Nagesh Hegde, a columnist with Prajavani newspaper. Hegde himself had rejected several of his contributions. Once, Iyer walked into Prajavani's office after another submission was rejected. In the conversation, his collection of regret letters came up. When Hegde asked him for proof, he returned with hundreds of them. And in Hegde's next column, "Regret Iyer" was born.
Iyer's failures led him to his path to success
Iyer capitalized on the one thing he succeeded at: failures. And he knew how strange it was: "I attempted to create an international regret-slip collectors' association, but no-one came forward" as nobody wants to be a "failure". But he decided to adopt the name officially, calling himself "Regret" even on his wedding invitation! "At first people laughed. But father gave me courage," he reminisces.
Pretty soon, Regret Iyer was in high demand
What finally brought him success was his persistence: "Other reporters would do the assignment and return, but he would linger," said Hegde. Gradually, his writings/photos were published more and more as he learnt from his mistakes. "I was a one-man army with my camera, pen, scooter (and) helmet," Iyer says. One day, his wife and two children also adopted "Regret' as their middle names.
'After the computers shut down, my regret letters will survive'
Hedge says Regret Iyer is probably Karnataka's first "citizen journalist", and possibly India's too. As for Iyer, does he regret his decisions? No, he insists. "One day, all the computer servers in the world will shut down, but my cupboard with regret letters will remain."