This is a blog about writing. Mostly short fiction. And occasional personal rant once in a while, if I may. Feel free to make your comments and feel sane again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Name Is...

How I wrote it / Why I wrote it:

It's a familiar feeling. I sit down in front of my computer and look at the blank screen with a peculiar dread. Nothing happens. So I start typing at random. Words. Phrases. Overheard remarks. A piece of headline from here and there. Loose, irrelevant, absurd, snatches from distant past and not-so-distant past. Images from half-remembered, half-imagined dreams. All of them take a stroll on the computer screen. In less than five minutes, my head feels empty, reasonably clear and certainly lighter. Receptive is the perfect word for that state of mind.

I pour out the first draft in thirty minutes or less. And finally, word by word, sentence by sentence, a story emerges like a shy princess out of her super-protective cocoon. Pretty she is not, till I lose the sense of time and place. My tea forgotten, terrace garden overflowing with water, and I am late for the gym already. But there it is. A flash story. A princess in her perfect gown, even if I say so myself.


My Name Is...

I am late for the interview. Not because I wanted to but because of my rickety bike. I am soaked in sweat and disgust when I enter the hotel lobby. Feeling like a cheap thief in the five star ambiance, I run down the corridor, try to wash the black soot off my hands, and enter the glitzy restaurant.

Mr. Success is waiting for me. I had met him eight years before, when he was a wiry young man, barely out of IIM-A, brimming with ideas to rock the business world. He moved faster than my imagination. The next interview took place over the phone, when I was in a telephone booth and he was in Silicon Valley, California, on the day his start up company was listed on NYSE and stock exchanges across India. He must be in his early thirties now but it doesn't show. He has added a patch of white hair, a bit of paunch and the hint of crow feet is evident, but he still wears rumpled linen jackets and looks as restless as a gnat.

After becoming a dotcom billionaire, he started a chain of boutique hotels and organic food chain. He sold most of his patterns for undisclosed sum in US market, got married to a pretty air hostess who turned out to be more headstrong than she was supposed to. His investment went down the chute in the recent meltdown. Soon after he returned to India. Reportedly his wife branched out. Nowadays, he is seen more on party circuit than in boardroom battles. I give him my visiting card.

He stifles a laugh and shoves the card into his pocket.

"Funny name. I remember you alright," Mr.Success says cheerfully. "Order!"

We start with a beer but I am slow with it. I need a clear head and a good story. I have less than 24 hours to write and file a story.

"There is no story this time." Mr. Success looks around the place and tells me. "I am sorry to disappoint you."

I switch on the Dictaphone anyway and take a careful sip. My beer tastes like tap water. My stomach feels hollow. I try to think of a different angle fast and draw a blank. My last three stories have landed in the editor's waste bin. This one is make or break for me. End of life line.

"Give me something. Anything other than recession, stories of losers and promises of charlatans," I say. "I want the readers to feel good."

Mr. Success laughs. "I am through with my retailing venture. We can never meet the projections we made to shareholders. I am selling the company to our competitor while most of the assets still hold good."

"Still in profit?"

"Personally yes. As a business model, no. My other investments have shrunk beyond recognition. You know that down to the last penny on the balance sheet, don't you?


"Not much else. I am moving out of the bustle of the city. Shifting to a remote village in Uttaranchal. My wife is starting a school there. I'll have plenty of time for my family now. A long vacation away from sharks in suits. I can use some free time."

"Yes, there'll be plenty of free time out there."

Mr.Success shuffles the menu this way and that way. He orders a big dinner. "My last super from company's perks. Like everyone else, before the company changes hands." He raises his glass.


I see red everywhere. There is no point in hiding my disappointment now. "This is not the kind of story I had in mind," I say.

"No drama. No twist. No high-voltage corporate intrigues."


Mr. Success leans forward, his face inches away from mine. His Brute makes me hold my breath.

"But you are delivering, ain't you ? With a name like Failure, you are supposed to deliver a lame duck. And this will be one. Right?

Mr. Success smiles once again and we drink the final toast to that piece of sharp dart.

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