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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mahendra’s Last Story

Mahendra arrived at the decision in the dead of a chilled December night.

He had graduated with a degree in comparative literature. The college admission was a sick, and rather expensive joke; he never got tired of telling his friends. Four years at the university couldn’t teach him anything, but it opened doors of libraries for him. He focused on a singular mission in life and lived by the simple rule: read and write. He tried writing poetry first and switched over to short stories. A tiny book on numerology convinced him that number eight would play a significant role in his life. It was a smooth ride from the day his first story named ‘Eight’ found a willing magazine editor. By the time he met his future wife, Mahendra had published dozens of stories on subject ranging from war to psychopaths to unrequited love to comedy of social climbers to petty crimes. 

He knew right from the beginning that the modest fame and personal satisfaction came at a terrible price. One of his college mates, who had gone into ship breaking business, now flew in private jets and hobnobbed with big and mighty, while Mahendra drove a secondhand scooter and lived in a derelict rented house. A gynecologist friend earned ten times more than him and changed his cars every year. But Mahendra had reconciled to the fact: writers rarely made big money. Freedom to follow my creative impulse is my real reward, he always reminded himself. He would never drive a Jaguar XKE, or live in a three-bed room penthouse in the fashionable part of town, he was sure. His kids wouldn’t go to fancy public schools. His wife could only dream about microwave and walk-in size refrigerator. Every summer, the family would look at the travel brochures showing snow covered log cabins at st. Mortiz or heavenly beaches of Seychelles.

Mahendra crossed his forties and felt the dark void after he sent out his 701st story. He ignored this strange mental blankness for some time. His non-productive gap grew from days to weeks to months. Every few days he sat down in front of his old computer, wrote a few indifferent pages, and stood up in disgust. He would read what he had written and curse bitterly: "Is this me? Am I reduced to this kind of crap?” 

Another birthday bypassed him. 

His editor friend suggested the idea of a break in routine: “A complete change of surrounding will put you back in circulation.” 

Mahendra booked his ticket in hurry, and went off to a nearby hill station to relax. But his gift of writing, his docile muse, his act of merciless self-discipline, that white-hot inspiration, the smooth flow of effortless words, all that he had taken for granted for so many years, had vanished. A quiet panic started to build inside his slight frame. He began to see what greatest of writers feared the most: he had written himself dry to the point of no return. 

He remembered the first book he read and enjoyed. He remembered one-legged John Silver from The Treasure Island, and tried white rum as the last desperate attempt to drown his private demon. Within a week, he had to be hospitalized. “You have no enzymes to digest alcohol,” the doctor announced after looking at the lab report. His wife stood by his bedside all the time; his friends, his relatives, and well wishers came over to consol him. Mahendra recovered from the prolonged illness but he knew that he was truly alone in this world now. 

Questions whirled inside his shrinking head: Is this why Hemmingway slashed his wrist and put a full stop on his life? Or did he shot himself? Is this how Raymond Chandler - his favorite crime writer fell from grace? What was that rumor about James Joyce pushing his wife to have an affair to revive himself? 

He solemnly assured his dutiful wife and requested to be left alone. She took the kids along and decided to stay with her parents for a few days. 

Now, he decided, was the time to pull down the final curtain. “I am my most desperate character,” he mumbled and went out to buy a bottle of rat poison.

He had read enough of ‘Forensic procedures for Writers’ to make an embarrassing mistake. He made a generous cheese sandwich and sat down to relish his last dinner at his writing desk. A full stomach with unsaturated fat also ruled out the possibility of vomiting the poison.

To add a final macabre touch to his plight, he wrote furiously for a few minutes, and hit the ‘send’ button. Task over, he happily tilted the brown bottle till nothing was left inside. 


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