The S'porean behind GCSE text studied in UK
When Mr Ridjal Noor, 36, first wrote "Anil", a short story about a boy living in India, he never expected that it would one day be studied by students in the United Kingdom.
"Anil" is about a seven-year-old boy who witnesses a murder in his village and faces a moral dilemma: Should he tell the truth?
He said: "I didn't even spend that much time writing "Anil". It's just surreal that there are students out there spending hours studying what I wrote."
What's more "surreal" is Mr Ridjal used to fail his English assignments when he was at Tanjong Katong Secondary School.
Mr Ridjal, who now runs his own display stand and publishing company, said some students from the UK have resorted to contacting him on social media platforms to ask him about the short story.
Although he takes the time to respond, he makes sure not the "give them the answers, so they have room to learn".
"Anil" was published in 2004 and was chosen in 2010 as a preparatory text for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in UK, the equivalent of the O levels.
Initially, Mr Ridjal chose not to "make a big deal" out of the news and only told close family and friends.
It only came to light when Mr Ridjal's polytechnic lecturer, Ms Shirley Joseph, found out and posted about it on her Facebook page.
Mr Ridjal describes himself as an "average student" who spent more time fooling around and playing football than studying.
He studied engineering in Temasek Polytechnic, and only because his friends had chosen it too.
He discovered his talent and interest in writing after Ms Joseph, who taught communication skills, spotted his flair for language.
She encouraged him to write for the faculty newsletter and various publications.
The engineering student-turned-author credits Ms Joseph, who is now a senior lecturer in her 40s, as the person who turned his life around.
"She told me, 'You are going to be a writer one day'. That affirmation stuck with me and gave me the drive to pursue my dream of becoming a writer," he said.
Mr Ridjal had taken just one day to write "Anil" in 2002.
After serving National Service, he embarked on a 30-day challenge to hone his writing skills by writing 1,000 words a day.
"Out of the 30 stories that I wrote, I think only five to 10 were passable to see the light of day. Some of them were just nonsense self-dialogue."
"Planting" himself down to write every day was difficult, and sometimes it involved sacrificing lunch breaks when he was then working at a catering company.
"Usually I would do it at home on my laptop, but sometimes I had to do it during my lunch breaks. I would sit in the stairwell writing 1,000 words with just my pen and paper."
Mr Ridjal has recently published two more books.
Looking back at Mr Ridjal's achievements, Ms Joseph, who still fondly refers to the father of three as a 'boy', said: "I'm so proud of Ridjal... I'm disgustingly proud of him."
She told me, 'You are going to be a writer one day'. That affirmation stuck with me and gave me the drive to pursue my dream of becoming a writer.
- Mr Ridjal Noor
EXTRACT FROM ANIL
Anil lay awake on his mat, his eyes transfixed on the thatched roof of the hut, where there were many holes in the ceiling.
So many that they had to put pots under the various holes every time it rained.
But tonight he could only make out one hole, because, through it, a small star shone down upon him.
Anil was seven years old, the only son of Ragunathan, the village headman's servant.
His mother worked for the headman, too.
In a few years, he would also be working for the headman, though he had no knowledge of this.
For now, he found the star fascinating. His parents would not even stop for a second to gape at a star.
But he did.
Because he believed in the magical wonders of life.
Because his dreams were bigger than him.
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