Saturday, 25 April 2015


Love is selfish.
Umberto Eco
I'm all men. All men are me.

'Research for writing'- was for me synonymous with 'this will be dropped'.

Any story for which I had to do research always ended up in the trash can of  'will pick up on a dry day'. Half of it is because of procrastination, another half is because of the way I write. I am more of an impulsive writer, and as it sounds, it's a two sided coin. Then again another part can be because as I delve deeper into a piece of fiction, I discover why it can never ever be true. So for me research and writing never went together.

That is the reason why I never pursued the diary I got nearly 20 years ago, when I was working as professional employee and trying to juggle my writing career at the same time. I trudged through data daily while my aspirations of becoming a writer were but fleeting glimpses of rainclouds in a desert.

The diary was not that special, cardboard bound in cheap plastic made to look like leather. I actually found it while I was hunting around for used books. In a small dusty corner filled with the ancestors of books who were falling apart, I found a hand written diary. I cannot remember why I bought it.

It looked like a romance novel at first. The diary was the canvas for a story, a story with a female narrator, no name, nothing on it. An anonymous text.

After pouring over it though I realized that it was not what it had appeared at first glance.

The author had imagined the life of a woman who had been in love with and married to a man who had a peculiar condition. This man was apparently from a race of men who did not have the ability to love.

In effect, he had all other emotions, he could feel everything, except for love. Of course, that is interesting but not as interesting as when we consider one other thing that the author had apparently added to the plot.

Apparently all these men needed love to survive. They needed to be loved by someone with total sincerity and absoluteness. Without this they would wither and die. Love from mothers, lovers: this is what they needed and without it they had no life.

The idea was brilliant, but the execution mediocre. The story started somewhere in the middle with the woman already married to the man. There was a lot of drudgery about day to day happening and that too was told in a haphazard style with no clear indication as to where anything was going. And it ended abruptly as well, in a kind of limbo. It just stopped after one line with no clear conclusion. Maybe the author himself had given up on it.

Whoever had written this was never going to be a good author. The idea was brilliant, but if ideas where enough, then the next Dostoyevsky would have been a  homeless man.

This made me want to pursue it, to write it better. I knew it had never been published; it was just a germ of a story. I knew that I could have written it much better but as I said, research got in the way.

Years later, I sat down with Higashi Takanae Hiro* to have a long winded debate on the usage of others' ideas. He was of the opinion that if someone had written about the idea, no matter how obscure or unpublished it was, all other authors had a moral obligation to not pursue it- to not build upon it or augment it or make it their own.

In the heat of the moment I hunted down and gave him the diary, hidden in the murky depths of the manuscripts of my old works and other assorted yellow books. Time had etched itself on to the diary as well but there was no damage, it was still in pretty good condition. I showed it to him and spoke about how it was a story I had once attempted to write but had given up midway. I wanted to use it to show that how inefficient the skill of the writer was who wrote it. I had believed that I could do better, and still perhaps do now.

As to who won the debate is hard for me to tell, as all our arguments ended somewhere abruptly with no clear winner or loser. But one thing that I can say is that Hiro was very much attracted to  the diary.

He asked me if he could take it with him.

 I might have thrown away the idea earlier, but it was always good to have something to fall back on the dry days so I was reluctant. But Hiro said he would not be pursuing the idea but rather he wanted to research something. So I gave it to him and suffice to say forgot all about it.

Anyway at that time, I was sick of it all at that, at having to defend myself. At the sudden rearing up of a thousand heads that wanted a taste of my blood. I wanted to get away from it all and it was Hiro who came to my aid. He proposed to me a trip. Out in the country, just the two of us, on the car, in places where my words were valued as much as toilet paper.

In an off the road hotel as I looked up at the fan and thought about nothing at all, Hilo got a call. I was disinterested in the conversation he had but he came back all excited and wanted me to go with him to somewhere. I told him I would not move out of the bed till the next day, and he said he was fine with that.

At dinner that night of cheap takeout food, that caused me diarrhea the next day I found out the reason for his excitement.

It was the diary.

He had been mesmerized by the idea. Not because it was unique(as I said there is no such thing as unique), but because he had heard this story before. As legends, rumors, myths and tales told by mouth passed from one to another. He had also come across this in some obscure texts, written by psychologists and doctors whose name had gotten lost from one print of history to the other.

He had been sure that he had some of the works with him. He went back that day armed with the diary and pored over his many volumes of obscure texts of different languages and he found three where such a condition with its ensuing side effect was clearly mentioned.

The first was Hoc Autem non est Verum by the Italian Giovanni Giovinco, the second Esto no es Real  by the Spaniard Sergio Torres and the last Ce ne est Pos RĂ©el by Pierre Le'Vol.

Hiro always thought in a different way to me. I would have formed the conclusion that the author had come across the obscure texts himself and had been inspired by them to write the story. But Hiro thought that it was actually written by someone who had experienced it.

In fact he had dug deeper into it and had finally found an acquaintance who said that he knew a woman who had been married to a man like this or at least a woman who had said to him that she was married to a man like this. They had been good friends once upon a time but had drifted apart. With his help though Hiro had finally managed to track down the woman.

I was skeptical. To say that I scathingly tried to undermine what he had strived for is an understatement. I tried to debase him, filled as I was with hatred and loathing. I called him a fool for believing in the lies that our profession sold, but he would have none of it. The next day after chugging down pro-biotics and some tablets, I set out in all my discomfort to what I thought was a fools journey.

As I sit here and write this, I wonder where all my belief in things that are unseen went. I remember wishing for letter on my 11th birthday or hoping to suddenly find out one day that I could turn my hair golden by yelling hard. I was happier and more open to uncertainties when I was younger. As you grow up you start to close yourself off to things, to the world.

When I saw her finally, she was frail old thing pushing 90, I realized that whatever she was she was definitely not a writer. Even an unsuccessful one had an air of pompousness about them. Yet her handwriting was the one that adorned the diary which we handed back to her that day.

She lived with her grand niece. There was tea; herbal for me on learning my condition. We sat there. me , Hiro, her grand neice and the lady herself inside  a small house on old but comfortable chairs staring at her digesting her own diary.

She finally looked up at us and started speaking, she gazed not at us as she spoke and she didn't stop. We listened sipping on tea to a tale. She spoke of what happened after, what happened before and more importantly she spoke of her own life.

She had met him one day in autumn, standing frozen in a bus stop with the smile of the world on his lips. A hidden smile that she had believed only in her heart and had never expected to see for real. They met on several occasions after that in different places. In places where she worked, where she visited to calm herself and in her dreams; slowly but surely she fell in love with the man.

He had a failing health when she met him and his eyes had the grief of his mothers sudden death in him. His father had passed away years ago. He was an orphan. No brothers, no uncles, no aunts- just him. She took him into her heart and nurtured him on her love, sweat and laughter until he emerged cured and hale as a lion. She believed in the healing power of love then, but the literal truth behind her statement she only realized later on.

She married him. They never had children, but she was not overtly sad. She had him.

She was still in love, after 20 years with him and he still loved her. That was enough for her.

Love is a strange thing. It is selfish yet sacrificial. It is perfect yet imperfect. It asks just as much as it gives. She didn't know when she got the nagging suspicion that the love he was showing her was not real.

Doubt is an itch in love that you shouldn't scratch but curiosity killed the cat. And she scratched at it again and again with growing viciousness until the skin tore open and out flowed all the lies and the deceit.

She heard it from his own lips. He told her of what he was. He confessed how he had never and could never love her but how he needed her love. He begged her not to abandon him. She hugged him close and told him that she would never leave him as long as she breathed.

It was lie told out of both love and resentment. Death had already claimed its prey.

She couldn't love him the same way after that day. She went back to their years together and remembered all his words that had meant so much to her once upon a time but now sounded hollow. Her love had lost its power.

He started becoming sick soon afterwards, a thing that had never happened in their 20 years of marriage. He steadily grew worse and worse and no cure that a doctor prescribed could make him better.

She held his hands while he passed away one sunlit morning. She held his hands and said 'I love you' with guilt embossing the words with its deceptive shine.

He passed away with a smile on his face.

Both of us were silent as we drove back to the hotel. I gazed at the scenery flashing by caught up in my own thoughts.

I cannot remember the last time I loved someone. It is so far away in the past, it is as if it had never existed at all.

I have become immune to love. Love for everything. People, places, books, words ........ I lost them all along the way. I was that man as well, that man she loved with all her heart once upon a time.

Yet I cannot fell that all is not lost.

There were always people to charm, always new lies to be told. He could have embossed the truth he said to her, he could have left her for someone else. There are always selfish ways to hold on to your life. but he remained.

So shall I.

So shall we.

To breathe our last. Holding on to our own meaning of love..... of reality.

*This was way before anything. The court case against me, Hiro's car accident, his paralysis, his death.... I miss him. He is and will be forever irreplaceable.


No comments:

Post a Comment