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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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Perfumed words, scent unspeakable

That voice I was listening to over the phone was quite frail.

“I read your column.” The voice said. I was thrilled, of course, to hear that.

“Oh really? How is it?”

There was a pause, and then a smile – more likely a feeble laughter.

“I have a story to tell you. I am an author of a few books. But now I’m an old man.”

So the voice belongs to him. This man, an aged author.

“Hang on a sec, I will fetch my notebook.”

“No. Don’t write a word. Your notebook will spoil the little talk I want us to have.”

Seems like I have to make conversation! I had no idea how to respond, and he didn’t expect any such thing either.

“You know this little story, I tried to write it several times. But I couldn’t get myself to do that. I couldn’t engage in writing too because of my job. So this has been troubling me over and over again.”

He went on and I felt he wasn’t yet ready to get into the crux. I simply wanted his story, and nothing else. But I cannot make him quick – that would not be nice of me then.

Impatient, I listened.

“So you know I wrote my first book in my mid-twenties. That’s why I call myself an author.”

“That’s great. What was it? Novel, poetry or short stories?”

Again the aged author smiled, I could hear.

“Does it really matter, my dear? Anyway it’s a creative work. Any kind of creative work is important. It can be a novel. It can be poetry. It can be even drama. And a novelist may think he did a bigger job than a poet. But that’s all nonsense. Every creative effort is important. You need tons of inspiration for creative writing, whatever type it is.”

I was irritated a little to hear such remarks. It sounded as if he wants to put me down. All the same I was hearing him speak.

“You know I had a close gang of friends. In fact I had one close friend who always appreciated my works. His comments always inspired and motivated me to write more creative stuff. Do you have such friends?”

“Oh, yes.” I responded short. I rather wanted him to continue the story.

“So when my book was out, my publisher gave only a few books. You being a journalist might know that publishers give only a limited number of copies. It’s fair I mean because they bear all the cost. But I too had quite a lot of people to give my book. I wanted to promote it, especially because it was my maiden one.”

There was a pause. I didn’t chip in. I waited for him to resume.

“So when I was going to give a copy to my close friend, you know what happened?”

“No,” I responded involuntarily, though I knew he didn’t wait for my response.

“He said he will buy the book. At first I thought he must be kidding. But later on, he meant it. I still remember what he told me. ‘You must be a close friend. But this book is a creative effort. I know it is not something easy. It can be useless or a masterpiece, but still I got to respect you for that creative effort. So I’m going to buy your book, however much it is’. You know son…”

There was a pause. He was fishing for words, I could guess. I could sense he became a little sentimental to be nostalgic.

“This is the story. I think I gave you something to put a shining.” Then there was silence. I had no idea how to carry on the conversation, but I had to.

“That’s a wonderful story.”

“Yes it is. I want you to think on it. Thank you for listening to me.” Then the line went dead. His words are done, quite abruptly. I was all alone in the evening sun. Sadly I could not ask his name or anything.

Naturally enough the conversation didn’t make me dribble: ‘oh I’ve got a remarkable story for this time’s column’. The conversation went slow, dallied and looped around. Yet it made some sense.

Though we don’t give it a much thought, it’s a crisis in a way. After getting his book published, the author’s next spot of bother is dishing out the copies. It’s a big deal when you don’t self-publish your book.

The publisher, having born the whole cost of printing and so on, spares you only the trouble of writing. Fair enough he is entitled to a handsome percentage of the income, and the authority to decide the amount of free copies the author can have. So the author cannot dish out the books as he likes.

Things worsen when you cannot convince your friends and well-wisher about this. They seem to think you are at your free will to dish out the books. Of course you can buy your book from a bookshop and gift it to your friend’s birthday. But sadly they won’t think you had to pay a price for the gift. They will think you took it from a dust-gathering pile.

With those words of his friend, I can divine, the aged author must be still dwelling in joy. This much, I know: when words are perfumed, the scent is simply unspeakable.

sachitra@gmail.com
 

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