Previous Parts: Episode 1
“Why do you keep on writing in this same, crime thriller genre?”, V asked Rakesh.
Rakesh is the author of four highly successful crime thrillers. He makes quite a bit through the royalties, and generally spends his time sitting in one cafe or another talking to his friends — when he’s not writing something that is, which is seldom. He doesn’t have to put too much effort in writing, because all his novel have the same blueprint, with details varied. Besides, the accuracy of the details is not important to him. Or to his readers.
“Because it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to take efforts to write that stuff”, Rakesh answered, puffing on his half-burned Marlboro Light. Then, carelessly, he threw it out of the window of the dilapidated Irani cafe.
V looked at the wastage, annoyed, but then it occurred to him that it was better than wasting one’s lungs. He hated cigarettes. Normally, he wouldn’t sit with someone smoking, complaining that the smoke gave him asthma. But Rakesh was an exception. He had soft corner for Rakesh, despite his (what V called) pedestrian writing. Rakesh and he went to the college together, and he was one of the few friends from back then with whom V could still connect.
“But what’s the point? Aren’t we writers supposed to get out of our comfort zones?”
Rakesh looked at V quizzically. He wondered if he should pick issues with the phrase ‘we writers’. V, as far as he knew, had wrote nothing that qualified as writing, not in the world he inhabited at any rate.
“Have you ever done a honest day’s work as a writer?” he asked finally, looking out of the cafe window, at nowhere in particular.
“What do you mean?”, V asked, trying to sound nonchalant, yet his voice betrayed a tinge of anxiety. Or was it reproach?
“I mean, have you written a single page of prose, keeping in mind who will want to publish the shit?”
“You mean, honest work in this line means taking other people’s judgment of what’s right and wrong, or suitable/unsuitable for publishing, as one’s starting point?”, V said, his voice agitated. He waited for the answer to his rhetorical question. As he expected, no answer came. For a brief moment V held his pose, in every sense of the phrase, and added in faked nochalant voice, “I guess not”
“I thought as much”, Rakesh said.
“Why would I want to be a writer, if I were to accept that as a starting point?”
Rakesh sighed. He didn’t have time for V’s childish questions.
“The trouble with the world of art is that people come here trying to escape the hard right and wrong judgments, believing they can redefine right and wrong”
For all his faults, V thought, I can still talk to him, because he at least understands the fundamental questions of life. Not too many people these days had time for those fundamental questions. They were so lost in the mundane facts, and problems. It was hard to even talk to them.
What about Chaitali? He wondered …
Long back, when they were dating, he remembered he could talk to her. She understood. She even had answers that seemed to align with his. Or was he too eager to find an alignment? Like the Indian pundits who would fix up any horoscopes. Not that he believed in horoscopes, but wasn’t that cheating? And sometimes, both the parties would do it, each believing that the other cares for horoscopes. Or was it that they wanted the other party to think that they believed in horoscopes — thus establishing their ‘traditional’ credentials?
But what about Chaitali?
He shuddered. Maybe he had cheated himself? Even before he knew there was alignment on things that matter, he had stopped judging? How much more ridiculous was that? He who hated arranged marriages, had he arranged his own marraige by the same methods, in spirit? Nah, he said to himself. Chaitali was okay. She still understood the questions, and their importance. It’s just that her answers had changed over the years, while his had stayed the same. Was it because he never had to taste his answers, in the real world, as opposed to all the imaginary worlds that he tried to create, while she had to?
And Rakesh? He looked at Rakesh, who had lit up another Marlboro light, and seemed to be waiting for him to say something. Trouble was V had no idea what it was. Then he remembered the thread.
“And?” he decided question was the best option.
“And soon they realize that unless they’re genius, they are more constrained by rights and wrongs as defined by someone else — and there isn’t even a way to resort to objectivity. Hell, those are random rights and wrongs, that can never be defeated”
Trouble with those who can think through other people’s shoes, V thought, is that you can never judge. You always keep the case open, for further evidence. He loved Chaitali, so judging was now superflous. There was a time and date for it. He had done it. The case was closed now. If he reopened it, it will just stay open.
“Unless you’re a genius?”, he suddenly said, picking up the thread finally. This was getting interesting.
“If you’re a genius, you can escape them in your lifetime, yes. But down the line, you become another random set of rights and wrongs. In a sense, you lose to the system by being endorsed by it. And worse: you can’t even fight, because by then you’re long dead”
“Do you think you are a genius, V?”, Rakesh asked suddenly.
“Ummm?”, V said, half automatically, half deliberate.
Rakesh laughed. “You do, don’t you? You conceited, arrogant bastard!”
“Well I don’t know if I’m a genius, but I don’t think I’m ordinary, at least”
“No one thinks they’re ordinary, dear. Welcome to the club”