The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
It was time for my family to look for marriage proposals for me. Amma decided that only a job would get me a girl. A job that paid. Something. Anything. It tempted me to ask her if car washing would do but I held my tongue. I didn’t want to dig a deeper grave for myself.
Appa had given up hopes and announced briskly over tea that I was meant to die alone.
When I was younger my penchant for writing had made Appa proud. His hairy chest (and hairy stomach) stuck out like a proud rooster whenever he announced to dinner guests (relatives) that I, Murugan, his son was a budding writer. The guests always scoffed and said, ‘Oh, Chetan Bhagat in the making ah!’
Appa would pat me in the back and say, ‘So what’s new today ah? Go on recite the poem you just wrote.’
Now he regrets the encouragement he gave me as a child.
I have always been in my dream world.
When my Chemistry ma’am would try to explain chemical reactions to me, my mind would be stuck in my inbox awaiting a response from the publisher.
My first rejection letter was framed in my room. I would look at it every night before I slept. Appa had yanked it off when he found out that it was my only inspiration to continue writing.
I have no siblings, maybe they would have heard out my plots. When I confessed to Amma once that as a writer it didn’t benefit me to be an only child she snapped, ‘You foolish boy. Your sibling would have been jealous of your success!! You wouldn’t have got any help from them!!’
Maybe she was talking out of experience. Geeta Periamma, Amma’s older sister was so crass with her, she never failed to remind her how well to do she was and how silly were Amma’s desires. Amma dwelled happily in our middle-class household. Scurrying about in her faded sari, jasmine flowers pinned to her hair, dusting the furniture with an old cloth and peeking at the Tamil serial on T.V simultaneously.
She preserved utensils for more than a decade. Our kitchen looked rusted. I was ashamed to invite friends over. But if I complained it always fell on deaf ears. So I decided to escape this mediocrity through my writing.
Appa has a strange hobby of collecting empty ball-point pen refills. I never really understood his need for collecting them (maybe because I never asked him), weren’t they empty? Useless? What I didn’t know then was that what could mean nothing to someone could mean everything to someone else.
As a writer it comes naturally to me to be fascinated with strange stuff so once when Appa was out, I crept into his room, found the box of empty refills under his bed and took out a few in my small fist. I wanted to see if he would notice that few were missing and if he did what he would do about it.
When he returned he went into his room. I was in the hall, watching T.V on mute. I perked my ear for his movements. I wanted to hear him slide the box from under the bed. That’s when it struck me that in my haste of hiding the few refills I had forgotten to close the box’s lid.
He didn’t talk to me for a week. I think that silence didn’t make up for any of his disappointment. I saw the glint in his eyes that day when he pulled the frame off my wall. Revenge had quenched his thirst.
But don’t think my decision has anything to do with that revenge of his, okay.
Anyway, so I had dropped the bomb much after my 18th birthday. Amma and Appa both gifted me Sidney Sheldon’s autobiography ‘The Other Side of Me’ on that day so the decision came much later.
All was fine until one day I told them that I wouldn’t marry. Yes that was it. Even if I had told them that I was dropping out of college to pursue writing seriously, it would have spared them a heart attack.
What led me to take such a decision? Well, a heartbreak? Yes. But not one you would imagine my heart breaking over. Not a girl.
I had worked months on my manuscript, it was a story, sorry, it is a story (I’m still working on it) of a girl who leaves home in order to elope with her imaginary boyfriend. I scanned the whole list of prospective publishers. I would choose the best. I always aimed high.
So after deep consideration I chose just one publisher. I knew I had to keep my options seeing that I was an amateur writer but if it wasn’t this then it would be none.
Did I mention? I’m obstinate too.
Anyway, so I clutched my manuscript to my heart, few stanzas erupting in my memory, like a reminder, my hands itched to read it again, edit it again but I refrained from flipping through its pages for the umpteenth time.
Now was show time. No time for rehearsals.
The publisher welcomed me in his office. I expected it to be a room lined with bookshelves, quotes, author’s photographs etc. But it was bare. Bare like a baby’s ass…
I felt uncomfortable instantly. I realized all my months sweat had come down to this moment..
He read the first few pages of my manuscript with his glasses almost at the tip of his nose. I stared at his lack of expressions. I remembered how I had loved reading each line. Especially the second stanza…but he showed no reaction whatsoever.
Then he put his glasses down and I held my breath.
He held the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. I wondered if he always did this before rejecting a writer’s dream.
Then he swirled around in his swivel chair to stare at me in the eye.
‘Your piece lacks commitment.’
And that was that.
His final word whirled in my head for I don’t know how long. It made me almost slip in front of a lorry. I felt that all this while I was floating in a fantasy world and all of a sudden I crashed to earth.
Tears streamed down my shirt collar and I made sure it didn’t travel down my manuscript.
When I reached home, I waited for Mom and Dad to be available for my decision.
I let it drop like a dynamite, ‘I’m going to marry my manuscript. And that’s that.’
My father was almost paralyzed after hearing me.
He and Mom wrestled with the phone for ten minutes, finally my Dad won and he dialed.
Before shutting my door all I heard was, 'My son is mental.. my pullai is mental!! ’ before he burst into sobs.
Seeing a grown up man cry, who is also your Dad is not a comforting sight. But it wasn’t as heartbreaking as the publisher’s statement. You don’t think so? A writer would understand what I’m talking about.
So non-writers sorry for wasting your time but thanks for the read anyway. You should know how committed we are to our manuscripts. So watch out before messing around. It isn’t just a soup of alphabets and punctuations. It is my life partner.
© Michelle D'costa December 2012
Mamta didn’t need an alarm to wake her up every morning. She was among those blessed early risers who found themselves unable to sleep beyond their routine waking up hour
My Bio: Michelle D’costa a.k.a The Bookworm is an Indian writer/editor raised in Bahrain. Her prose/poetry can be found in many online/print journals like eFiction India, Big River Poetry Review etc. Her writing has won international contests, recently being the Runner-up of poetandgeek.com poetry competition 2012. She accepts feedback from her readers on her Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/MichelleWendyDcosta?ref=ts.
Seema slathered bathing gel onto her calloused palms. Oh! How much she craved these hours of solace. She had to be quick though there was still an hour to go before he would arrive.