‘So, you’ve come to read a short story?’ I ask you and you nod. I look you up and down and wonder what do I write for you. ‘Here! You write it,’ I say and hand the laptop to you. You look at the keyboard and give me a funny look. ‘I thought you were the writer,’ you say. ‘I am here to read.’
I understand that but I tell you that sometimes we read the story we want to read. So, it is also fitting that sometimes we write our own stories. You are not sure if you understand what I am saying to you. You sit back in your chair and rub your chin. It seems like a challenge. ‘Let’s see,’ you think. ‘The story has to start somewhere.’
Once upon a time in Manhattan… you begin. ‘Seriously?’ I gasp and I sit up. Do you think your first story on my blog deserves to be set up in the busy streets of New York? You are reading my thoughts. You backspace it all and begin afresh – On a beach in Seychelles, she lay naked and panting…
Interesting. I am impressed you know Seychelles. ‘Duh, it’s an archipelago in East Africa,’ you roll your eyes. ‘Why start with a naked girl though?’
You shrug your shoulders. ‘Why not? An exotic location and a naked lady – isn’t that a combination that’d grab eyeballs?’
I say, ‘Fair enough. Those are the two ingredients of a James Bond novel. But do you want to grab attention with something this loud?’ I can see that I have confused you. You’re thinking of removing Seychelles and the naked lady. With a heavy heart, you do so. Now you again have a blank document. ‘Right where we started,’ you slam the fist on the table.
‘Not really. We have moved. Just not here,’ I tap the laptop screen. ‘Think about it. We know something now. We know that we don’t want to go to Manhattan or Paris or Tokyo. We also know that we don’t want a naked lady and an exotic beach.’
‘But why not?’ you ask. I shrug as if I don’t know either. I really don’t know. It is someone else who is making us write all this, I assume. I have always believed so. No matter if the story is written by you or me, it will always be the story that is destined to be written.
You don’t believe me and start typing away furiously. You don’t want any of my inputs. You want your story and you want it right now. You write a story about a terrorist in Kashmir. He loves his mother. He says his prayers five times a day. His cause is pious in his mind. You write about the time he fell in love. You write about how the woman had no idea that the boy loved her so deeply. You write about emotions and tragedy. You write about that surgical strike that killed him. And then you raze it all down. You delete the story because you feel you’ve heard it before. I am watching you do it with a finger on my lips and a hint of a smile.
You begin another story. This time it is about an orphan in London. You talk about his struggles. You write about his passion for writing. You write about his life and how he grows up to become a published author. You write about the way his stories make women cry. One of his stories are read by his birth mother. You write about abandonment and depression. But then you feel disconnected to your story. You have not felt those emotions and hence it seems like injustice.
You’re not a jihadi, you’re not the destitute. You scratch it all. I smile from behind your shoulder. ‘It is not as easy as I thought,’ you say. I advice you to write this story. ‘Which one?’ you ask. The one where you can’t find a story of your own because you feel you don’t own any characters. ‘But that’s the story that got written on its own when we were talking,’ you say.
‘Exactly,’ I say.