Friday, 18 April 2008

AN ACCOMPLISHED WRITER

Mehboob Rehman was an accomplished writer-thus concluded the article Mehboob Rehman had been reading.

‘Am I?’. He thought.

The rickety Maharashtra State Transport bus was advancing through the National Highway. Although it was quarter past midnight, the road was crowded with vehicles. Pune was still hours away. The cool breeze seeping in through the window disarrayed his grey curly locks. The fetish for window seat was something he carried from his childhood, among other things. Concerning that he was quite uncompromising.

The literary review article did not help Mehboob Rehman to mitigate the boredom of bus journey. It aggravated his doubts nonetheless. The reviewer was just reiterating what the entire world had been doing for the past five-six months. ‘Literary maverick’, ‘Torch-bearer of the new renaissance’, ‘Wizard of words’, ‘Juggler of emotions’-these were some of the titles he’d earned on account of his accomplishments in the field of literature. His ascent from obscurity to fame was something phenomenal. People found his works riveting and rejuvenating. As a result, his works occupied the top places in chart busters. The final note of his symphony of success was his clinching of the Nobel Prize for literature. That set his readers into a state of frenzy. They found exaltation in extolling him; derived energy from the encomiums heaped upon him. He too let himself to indulge in that ecstasy. His works brought him fame; facilitated his hedonistic pursuits; helped materialize his love. However, the latter was a peak accomplished just for the sake of accomplishing. For, the recipients of the reciprocation of his feelings were the benefits accruing out of his talent, not him.

His works, which had the power to break all stereotypes, highlighted the inherent goodness of mankind and celebrated the triumph of the human spirit. His works were concentrated on some issues and his characters were the reflection of philosophical ideals. That trend could be traced in all of his works- be it ‘Sagacious Saga’- where the story of an underprivileged person materializing his dreams against all set backs was narrated with utmost perfection or in the ‘Lock and Key’ which depicted the intricacies of man-woman relationships or in the collections of his short stories ‘On the River Bank’.

The most acclaimed and at the same time the most controversial of his works was ‘The Gospel of Logic’. His attempts to marry mysticism with rationality were construed as blasphemous.

In fact he’d tried to state through this that religions had destroyed man’s self-respect and had kept him under shackles. They demotivate man and fill his mind with guilt and remorse. That irked the religious fundamentalists. Nevertheless, the book was very popular.

He intended his works to be moralising and purposeful. Through his works he advocated equality, respect for the human spirit, rationality and reasonableness of every act. Through his satire and sarcasm, he lashed out at the discrepancies of the society. However, the social malaises and stigma, against which he wielded his pen, of which the elimination he desired to accomplish through his writings, not only remained there as earlier but also spread its tentacles and wrapped the society tighter. He felt that his writings failed in its purpose. He felt that his forty eight years of life was futile.

Thereupon he started to hate felicitations and reviews. He felt that every word of praise uttered in his favour was accompanied with a subtle reminder of his failure. He even developed an aversion towards writing. He wanted to escape from the sight of the world. The bus provided him with shield of anonymity. That was why he chose a rusty State Transport bus to travel from Nagpur to Pune. Most of the passengers were farmers who were carrying there agricultural products and migrant labors. They wouldn’t recognize a Nobel laureate amongst them. Most of them were sleeping. He was not feeling sleepy. The only thing straining his eyes was the light beams of the vehicles coming from the opposite direction. He was against the idea of wasting nights by sleeping. Nights were for creation and recreation.

He could sense some kind of uneasiness building up in his stomach. It gradually rose up through the length of his body. His mouth turned bitter. He spat it out. He couldn’t comprehend whether it was the constant curves the bus had to negotiate or the stench within the bus or the disgust at his own self which made him feel nauseous. He tried to suppress it. But the pressure was increasing. The bus stopped at a bus station. He sprang out of his seat and ran out. He threw everything out of his stomach. It made him feel light and dizzy. He sat on the ground.

The bus was preparing to leave the station. He didn’t want to get in. He was feeling very reclined in his present pose and he didn’t want to disturb it. His baggage was inside the bus. After a few minutes, the bus left. He felt relieved of the baggages of his past.

He rose from his position. He learnt from a board that the place was ‘Bhusawal’. It was 1:30 AM. And it was freezing cold out there. Further down the road, a group of people were warming themselves around a bonfire.

He walked towards them. He wanted to ask ‘When is the next bus for Pune?’. But he refrained himself from it.

‘Why should I want to go to Pune now? To attend that literary festival? No. I’m not going.’ He decided.

He joined the circle. They were very welcoming. They didn’t pester him with queries. He had a glance of the place. It seemed that modern civilization had a peep of this place and shied away from setting its foot here. The people were enjoying their drink. He was also offered a drink. A drunken man is always generous. Initially he was a bit reluctant. But after much persuasion he accepted it. The tipsiness was racing though his nerves to conquer his brain. He felt very relaxed.

He reminisced about his life. It was through the book collection of his grandfather he had his first acquaintance with the world of literature. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain fascinated him. Later he was thrilled by the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. His mind and thoughts were immature for Shakespeare. But he knew the characters through the recitations of his grandfather. That left an indelible imprint of characters like Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Othello, Iago, Hamlet, Shylock etc.

But as he stepped into college he distanced himself from literature. He had taken up engineering for his graduation and was marvelled by the possibilities of technology. He discarded off literature as a wastage of human resources and talents which corrupts man’s thoughts by stimulating his fantasies. Thus the flame of creativity in his mind was blown out; or rather it was subdued. But one day, it flickered very brightly and engulfed his mind. Without his knowing he was shoved to writing. It was like some invisible agent forcing him to write. Thus took birth his first short story-‘The Scare-Crow’. It got published in the college magazine. That was appreciated by all. Later on, on many occasions, he felt the motivation to write arising within himself. It was very involuntary. And unpredictable. It could come at anytime. Anywhere. Thoughts ejaculated out of the copulation of his mind and brain.It was very painful to have his mind pregnant with a story seed. It would be harrowing and rattling his inner self impatiently to take the form of words. When the trauma becomes unbearable he would exorcise his mind of fiendish pangs of story by penning it down. It wasn’t satisfaction or self-admiration he felt after writing something. It was plain relief. He’d feel relieved of the agony of bearing it.

The urge to write got stronger periodically. That led him to quit his lucrative job of a software engineer. He got into full time writing. There were days he spent without speaking, eating or sleeping. He got completely engrossed in it. People thought he’d gone insane. Gradually his works found acceptance. Laurels came in search of him.

Later on he started to feel skeptical about the worth of his works. He’d a confrontation with the futility of his endeavours. He always aspired for the materialistic betterment and rational enlightenment of mankind. He thought his works would motivate human race to that effect. But he saw deterioration in those two aspects. Society was reduced to a bunch of demoralised souls, who’d lost purpose and motion in their life. World was getting plagued by all malaises-war, poverty, bigotry,intolerance, hatred, paranoia. Progress of mankind had become stagnant in all fields. And he remained as a mute spectator of this decadence.

His companions had slept off. His eyes too were getting heavy.

‘I strove for a failed cause.’ He thought.

‘I won’t write again. My life is a failure. I’m a loser.’

He fell flat on the ground.


************************************************************************

He felt someone prodding him. Slowly he opened his eyes. It was morning. He saw the blurred vision of a face with a thick moustache. From his attire he learnt that he was a police man. He rose. The policeman was looking at him in a quizzical manner.

“Sir, I missed my bus last night. I’m going to Pune”. He said.

The policeman didn’t say anything. He walked away.

The sense of anonymity gave Mehboob a tinge of pleasure. Yet, he was feeling very weary. The vow taken by him not to write again was pricking him. But he decided to stand by it.

He walked down the road. The town was waking up from its slumber. He walked into a small restaurant.He placed his order for a pohe and chai. Besides him, there was a man and his little daughter in the shop. She aged around six or seven years. With large round eyes and a small ponytail, she resembled a doll. Her father was persuading her to have food. But she was not budging. He tried to cajole her. She was adamant. He tried to coerce. And that made her sob. The father’s face evinced an expression of helplessness. Then he took out a book from his bag. Mehboob recognized it at first sight. It was the Marathi translation of his work ‘The adventures of the little clown’. It was one of his initial works. It was a collection of hilarious short-stories involving a little clown.

The father started to read out a story out of the book. There was a gradual change of expression in the girl’s face. There was a tinge of smile in her weeping face. Her eyes sharpened with keen interest. She was totally involved in the story. As he was reading out the story, he extended a spoonful of food to her mouth. Knowingly or unknowingly, she consumed it. As the story was progressing the quantity of food was diminishing. When the story got over, the father and the girl burst out into laughter. Sounds of her chuckle filled the air. Mehboob, who’s keenly watching the developments, sprang out of his chair. He took the girl in his arms and kissed on her cheek. His eyes moved to tears. Her father sat there bewildered.

“You know, I wrote this story. This is my creation” He said proudly.

“I must say that you are an accomplished writer”. The father replied.

Mehboob’s joy knew no bounds.

“Yes. I’m an accomplished writer”. He declared with full conviction.

******************************************************

MANU SEBASTIAN.

13 comments:

Karan said...

dude, excellent writing. I really enjoyed the build-up and Mehboob's feelings seemed very real indeed. The ending was somewhat expected, or rather not completely unexpected. I did enjoy the story though- you should seriously consider getting a collection published.Lemme know if I can help in any way.

Rgds
Karan Bajaj

Noorjahan Momin said...

Very good work Manu...really beautiful...infact when in started reading the story i wasnt expecting it to be so good (may b the exhaustion caused by exams) but the story came like a soft, fragrant breez...the way you have built up the character is really marvellous...once again as a reader i was pinned up to the story...the end was beautiful too...the way you brought two opposing emotions at the same place is really an accompalishment...keep this good work up...waiting to read more of your work...and yeah this was one of the best...Congratulations :)

unforgiven said...

Good; something non-writers won't ever understand.

Writing for yourself is well and good as long it's just a blog or something; but what drives a writer, _any writer, is being read.

kartikey said...

beautiful....seriously.......but y did u end it adruptly.......i mean......i just feel(very individualistic opinion).....it cud have gone bit further.....still worth 10/10.......actually i studied in nagpur and have been to all the places u mentioned......it was like living as a spectator in that story.......KUDOS

JK said...

im really impressed with this story...im not sure whether it wud fall under the conventional genre of a short story..coz it lacks diaologues...doesn't have any other character except the protagonist..not much twists...but it provides an engrossing reading session..whatever u may call it..
it effectively explores the thought process of a writer..a writer probably wud be better placed to relate to that..but still i must say that u have presented it so well that even a layman can relate to the dilemmas of a writer..and the climax had a very soothing effect..unlike ur previous ventures..i felt really elated after it..im damn sure..u wud make it big..continue writing..

atmavu said...

the story is thought provoking,although a bit loosely narrated.but you have pondered upon a very meaningful idea-the worth of a man of art, or the object of art. what is the duty of a writer?
it is fact that they don't cause any palpable change in the status quo. but their area of operation is something abstract and subjective-the human mind. they, as in all forms of art, have the power to inspire human minds. they force them to contemplate. manipulate their emotions. thats the ultimate power enjoyed by a writer(or any other artist).
as pointed by someone else the climax was predictable. but that doesn't take away the nobility of your thought. hats off

PS:i've gone through ur other stories too. they need more refinement. but the kind of thoughts u have is really amazing. i wud love to meet u in person and have a conversation. anyways best wishes..

Nivipooh said...

Hey Manu,

I loved your character and his anguished realisation and his meaning of his own work came to light. Likewise writers just simply dont pen down ideas and they evoke various thoughts and expressions in their readers. Writers have a strong responsibilty to realise like Mehboob did in your story.
Will look forward to more of work.

Gayathri said...

hi! let us see... the first thing that came to my mind after reading this is that it feels like quite a peaceful, gentle, non-violent walk from the past to the present! just like the characters ur writer wielded, a vindication of sorts, a silent revolution with this predestined ultimate success at the end of it... the very same "sagacious saga"
quite interestingly, i found a tinge of ur own emotions [or shud i say, a bit of ur own life] in it!

i did enjoy it till the end, great flow i shud say! a really good work! congrats manu! i liked the part where he decided to go a bit tipsy to be able to comprehend all the madness! hehe!

wat i really like about the story is that much thought has gone into the whole thing... it feels solid inside out! besides, i like the way u have tried to unfold the story... natural is the word for it... keep writing, god bless!


[guess wat..? i am currently fighting my way through sem-end exams, and it feels good to know that fighters do win at the end!]

Destination Infinity said...

You have a solid style of writing. The path was more enjoyable than the destination.

Destination Infinity.

Mayur said...

Whats striking is the fluidity...Its precise and honest...Keeps you in the moment...Hints of an objectivist mindset...As good as most published....One line you may want to consider rephrasin:
'The fetish for window seat was something he carried from his childhood, among other things.'
Its a little cliched and 'fetish' may not be the right word to use....Cause its a natural human trait to want to sit by the window in any automobile...Mehboob's not different here..So why call it a fetish..:)...The line is not needed, especially since its the first stanza..Feels like a
filler....Again, these are just my views..

Another part:
'With large round eyes and a small ponytail, she resembled a doll. Her father was persuading her to have food. But she was not budging. He tried to cajole her. She was adamant. He tried to coerce. And that made her sob. The father’s face evinced an expression of helplessness. Then he took out a book from his bag. Mehboob recognized it at first sight. It was the Marathi translation of his work ‘The adventures of the little clown’. It was one of his initial works. It was a collection of hilarious short-stories involving a little clown.'

Maybe the literary style is changing more so towards an exaggeration and moving towards casual...Words like 'hilarious' comin from Mehboob's mind bout his own work....Girl lookin like a doll...'She was not budging'...
Maybe you could use refined words here as these lines obstruct the serene flow. You may have possibly hurried through these lines..

All else....Subtly gripping! You are really good mate...:)

Manu said...

thanks mayur for your valuable suggestions..u'hve rightly discovered the objectivist idea in the story..i must say that my thoughts are influenced by ayn rand's philosophy..you were the one who could find out that in this story..
abt the use of words...those were the words which came to my mind when i was conceptualizing that situation..i thought they would befit the circumstance..
ur review regarding the end part was right to an extent..i was rushing through the climax part..i grew impatient and wanted to end it..it happens with my all stories..the endings are a bit abrupt..

you could really sense the real thought process behind the story..once again thanks..expecting ur support for my future endeavors

MAN IN PAINTING said...

YOU ARE GOING TO STAY HERE FOR A LONG LONG TIME.LIKE 'MEENACHIL'AND ROY ,YOU TOO SEEM TO HAVE A RIVER TO NURTURE YOU.EFFORTLESS WRITING.YOU SHOULD TRY COMPLICATED THEMES.READ CALVINO,MARQUEZ....
WELL'MAN IN PAINTING WISHES YOU GOOD LUCK.
SINCE HE CANNOT MOVE FROM THE PAINTING HOPE U WILL PAY HIM A VISIT....

Ketan said...

Manu,

This' the second time I read this story (after a few months, that is), and felt maybe the first time around, I'd read it somewhat superficially :)

I could relate to the protagonist's predicament about the purpose of his vocation, but not as a writer, but in my own chosen profession.

What I post here may fall in the domain of personal domain in general, and not necessarilly only related to this particular post's literary analysis.

I think everyone who wishes to influence the people in the world by what they do while 'living' are doomed to face this disillusionment. People don't change. That's all! I don't know what makes 'people' into the shapes they assume, or why they remain so immutable in those shapes, but reading your story made me think of this irony of life.

But I found a few concepts ill-fitting mutually with each other. Like, one of the things he strives is to promote rationality, yet what he's pained by most are not lack of rationality or lack of others' confidence in ability to think for themselves, but the indirect consequences of those lacking traits--poverty, hunger, etc.

The contentment he feels at the end of the story is for the pure mirth he sees in the readers on reading his work, or does he extrapolate that influence to mean it'll also drive people to thinking more rationally? 'cuz enjoying funny stories, and incorporating ideals into one's outlook on reading literature are two different things.

I'm sincerely looking forward to some more posts from you. Not sure though, if it's lack of time that's preventing you from posting more often.

TC.