[For my loyal reader Parikrama, and anyone else who doesn’t want to read previous parts]
Chaitali is wakes up in the middle of the night, and ruminates over her married life, and her husband: the Kitsch writer V, who’s yet to publish anything. V and Rakesh (his school buddy, a popular crime thriller writer) have a talk about writing, sitting in a dilapidated Irani cafe.
His discussion with Rakesh had left V unsettled far more than Rakesh could have ever imagined.
Rakesh thought of V as someone who did not give a hoot about what others said about him. V’s high-brow attitude, even when he had hardly anything to show for it, puzzled Rakesh. It also made him uneasy. His other friends were much generous in their praise for his writings (although he wondered if they had really read any — whereas with V, he was at least sure). But all he ever got from V was an indifferent, and even that indifference seemed to be an after-thought at worst, and a concession given to an old friend at best.
Do I write that badly, Rakesh wondered, as he drove back in his old Esteem. He reminded himself, that he needed to change his car. There was no question of affording a newer and better car. It was his emotional attachment to the car that was holding him back. His father had bought that car for him when he joined college.
The thought of his father disturbed him tremendously. His father, who was a successful businessman, self made at that — he was penniless, and illiterate when he started — wanted his son to be more cultured. His father lamented how people always seemed to envy him his wealth and power. He assumed, wrongly thought Rakesh, that people’s aversion to his wealth was due to his lack of education, or prominent ancestry. He tried to hide his provincial background by engaging the services of the experts in every field — the architects, the interior decorators, art dealers — and trusting their judgment (a bit too much, Rakesh thought). He even had set up a wine cellar and a well stocked bar at home at great expenses, and entrusted it to a bartender he had flicked from a socialite joint that was mired in financial difficulties. And he had got personal tutors to improve his hindi accent (more urban), and to teach himself English. However, almost everything had backfired, and he was ridiculed in the circles he so wished to belong to as a vulgar, tasteless rich — by the same people who drank his expensive, imported wines. Things were generally said on his back, for many who laughed at him, were indebted to him, yet he would learn about them from some source. They even gossiped about his English tutor.
It was this social humiliation that had made his father want an acceptance for his son in a world he could never manage to enter. He wanted his son to make it big in fine arts, or literature, or some such — what he called — higher ventures. Rakesh wanted to enroll into commerce stream, and later join his father’s thriving business, for that seemed to be the most logical thing to do. His father refused to even entertain the possibility, and made him enroll for arts stream.
“I’ve earned all the money that will be needed by you, you don’t need to waste yourself earning money”, he insisted “Taste the high-culture, and make your mark there”.
But Rakesh had no artistic aspirations, neither fine, nor performing. Nor did he believe he had a way with words. So he pulled through the M.A years, hoping his father would see sense, just to discover that his father wanted him to go for higher studies, abroad. In humanities! It was there, in the creative writing courses, that he realized that writing wasn’t such a big deal. He decided to try out his hands.
His father did not live so see the publication of his first book, which instantly became a best-seller. Rakesh wondered if it was a good thing, after all.
In particular, there was one remark Rakesh was glad his father would never hear. It was the first time he had taken V home. This was long after his father’s death, when he was living there alone. V had observed the house without saying a word. But when V had had a few drinks, he had finally passed his judgment.
“Now I know how you can turn out kitsch so regularly”