Skip to main content

The new page that’s tomorrow


“At the age of seventeen, working as a delivery boy at Afremow’s drugstore in Chicago was the perfect job, because it made it possible for me to steal enough sleeping pills to commit suicide.”

Sidney Sheldon
That’s the opening sentence of the autobiography of a man who became a best-selling popular fiction writer apart from making a name for himself in Hollywood, Sidney Sheldon.

Born in 1917, Sheldon had to live his adolescence through the Great Depression.  His mother, Natalie, was born in Russia, a country which drove her family out along with many others during a pogrom against Jews.  She was a dreamer, according to Sheldon.  She dreamt of marrying a prince.  But the husband she got was Otto, “a street fighter who had dropped out of school after the sixth grade.”

Poverty at home.  Great Depression in the country.  Nothing to cling on to, nothing to look forward to.  The young Sheldon managed to grab enough sleeping pills from his workplace, enough to kill him.  He got some whisky from his father’s bottle and got ready to gulp down the sleeping pills with a good shot of whisky.  It was then that his father entered the room.

He told his father, “You can’t stop me, because if you stop me now I’ll do it tomorrow.”  His father took him out for a walk.  Sidney explained his position.  “My fantasy was to go to college, but there was no money for that.  My dream had been to be a writer.”  All his stories which he sent to various editors won “black printed rejections. I had finally decided I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in the suffocating misery.”

A writer, is that what you dreamt of being? asked his father.  “You don’t know what can happen tomorrow.  Life is like a novel, isn’t it?  It’s filled with suspense.  You have no idea what’s going to happen until you turn the next page.”

His father succeeded in talking Sidney out of his suicidal thoughts.  He died in 2007 at the ripe age of 90.

I have never been a fan of Sidney Sheldon though I used to enjoy reading his novels during the long annual train journeys I made from my home state to my workplace.   As I grew out of youth Sidney Sheldon fell out of my favour.  But when his autobiography was published I felt a strong urge to read it.  I wrote a blog on it too.


Now, about a decade down the line, Sheldon’s struggles came back to my memory.  It seems both funny and awkward that at this stage in life I wanted someone to reassure me that life is like a novel whose next page could make a lot of difference.  Also, I know, it doesn’t happen that way.  I mean no difference will come from out there.  Life isn’t that benign.  We have to write in that difference on the next page.  We have to become the author of the book that our life is.  I’m left bemused by the fact that Sidney Sheldon, of all people, turned up in my consciousness at this juncture when the last book of his I read was the autobiography and I really didn’t like it.  Life can be funny indeed.  And tomorrow can be a miraculous page depending on what I choose to write on it. 

Comments

  1. Awesome sharing! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sheldon first brought me my first tryst with literary feminism. His protagonists are almost invariably women.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Chinmoy. In fact, his mother was the most beloved person to him. His heroines are far stronger people than his heroes.

      Delete
  3. What a wonderful post! It made me pause and think!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have read many Sidney Sheldon books and reading his autobiography is on my list of to-read books.
    I feel tempted at times to read a couple of Sheldon books again, just to see if they still manage to impress me and move me as much.
    When I do, I will surely write about it.

    We do have to choose what to write for the days to come, but I still believe that life does manage to surprise at times... naive of me?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, Nimi, not at all naive. Life does hold a lot of surprises for us; it can simply topple all our plans sometimes - sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

      I'd be interested to know what you think of Sheldon now when you reread him. I can't bring myself to read him again.

      Delete
  5. Lovely story to be shared

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once Sheldon attained fame and success his life was more like a Hollywood movie, not inspiring in any way. But yes, the beginnings were extremely challenging and hence inspiring.

      Delete
  6. Nice story. Everyone goes through ups and down. Some become successful others don't. Everyone probably gets a break sometime or other. Trick is to hang in there to tell the story later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, the trick is to hang on. Once we learn to hang on and eventually to overcome the hurdle, we learn how to manage anything else. In fact, one big break leads to a lot more big breaks. The more you have, the more you get.!

      Delete
  7. Though I was never a Sheldon fan I read one of his novel as I was out of books I saw it lying on my roomate's table. It was one of the fastest read. An optimist who writes dark his life was a kind of inspiration for me. Thanks for bringing his story forward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His novels are meant only for that, Datta: rapid reading, whiling away time, light read, etc.

      Yes, his youth inspires.

      Delete
  8. Have read a good number of Sheldon...I like them... :-) yet to read the autobiography though... nice reading your thoughts about his life and works...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read his autobiography only if you liked and still like his novels.

      Delete
  9. Good to know about the person whose one or two novels I have read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life is a struggle for those who make beautiful stories. How beautiful, you decide.

      Delete
  10. "We have to write in that difference on the next page. And tomorrow can be a miraculous page depending on what I choose to write on it. " Beautiful lines. I was addicted to his books for sometime.
    Never made an attempt to know about his personal. His personal life is inspiring. Thank you for the share :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The struggle was inspiring. After that he became a typical American. :)

      Delete
  11. But Sheldon's father spoke to a teenager who was emotional and easily influenced. He would not have chosen to say so to an adult perhaps. He would have spoken these words to an adult: "Being a grown up man, why don't you try to change your destiny than to give in yourself to it? Remember, you are not an adolescent now!" This will surely affect the adult ego, I bet.

    Even in Sheldon's autobiography, he might have brought in this anecdote only for the teenagers who are in need of such words. I think, sir, you or I may not be the target readers for Sheldon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, of course, the same strategy won't work with adults. Not because of ego but because of the layers of experiences that make the adult personality more complex and complicated. A person with a big ego will not contemplate suicide, in the first place.

      Sheldon's autobiography is titled "The Other Side of Me" [A play on the title of one of his most popular novels - 'The Other side of Midnight']. He wrote it not targeting any particular age group but to show readers how difficult a childhood and adolescence he had.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

An Aberration of Kali Yuga

Are we Indians now living in an aberrant period of history? A period that is far worse than the puranic Kali Yuga? A period in which gods decide to run away in fear of men? That’s a very provocative question, isn’t it, especially in a time when people are being arrested for raising much more innocuous questions than that? But I raise my hands in surrender because I’m not raising this question; the Malayalam movie that Maggie and I watched is. Before I go to the provocations of the movie, I am compelled to clarify a spelling problem with the title of the movie. The title is Bhramayugam [ ഭ്രമയുഗം] in Malayalam. But the movie’s records and ads write it as Bramayugam [ ബ്രമയുഗം ] which would mean the yuga of Brama. Since Brama doesn’t mean anything in Malayalam, people like me will be tempted to understand it as the yuga of Brahma . In fact, that is how I understood it until Maggie corrected me before we set off to watch the movie by drawing my attention to the Malayalam spelling

Karma in Gita

I bought a copy of annotated Bhagavad Gita a few months back with the intention of understanding the scripture better since I’m living in a country that has become a Hindu theocracy in all but the Constitution. After reading the first part [chapters 1 to 6] which is about Karma, I gave up. Shelving a book [literally and metaphorically] is not entirely strange to me. If a book fails to appeal to me after a reasonable number of pages, I abandon it. The Gita failed to make sense to me just like any other scripture. That’s not surprising since I’m not a religious kind of a person. I go by reason. I accept poetry which is not quite rational. Art is meaningful for me though I can’t detect any logic in it. Even mysticism is acceptable. But the kind of stuff that Krishna was telling Arjuna didn’t make any sense at all. To me. Just a sample. When Arjuna says he doesn’t want to fight the war because he can’t kill his own kith and kin, Krishna’s answer is: Fight. If you are killed, you win he

Kabir the Guru - 1

Kabirvad Kabirvad is a banyan tree in Gujarat. It is named after Kabir, the mystic poet and saint of the 15 th century. There is a legend behind the tree. Two brothers are in search of a guru. They have an intuitive feeling that the guru will appear when they are ready for it. They plant a dry banyan root at a central spot in their courtyard. Whenever a sadhu passes by, they wash his feet at this particular spot. Their conviction is that the root will sprout into a sapling when their guru appears. Years pass and there’s no sign of any sapling. No less than four decades later, the sapling rises. The man who had come the previous day was a beggarly figure whom the brothers didn’t treat particularly well though they gave him some water to drink out of courtesy. But the sapling rose, after 40 years! So the brothers went in search of that beggarly figure. Kabir, the great 15 th century mystic poet, had been their guest. The legend says that the brothers became Kabir’s disciples. The b

Raising Stars

Bringing up children is both an art and a science. The parents must have certain skills as well as qualities and value systems if the children are to grow up into good human beings. How do the Bollywood stars bring up their children? That is an interesting subject which probably no one studied seriously until Rashmi Uchil did. The result of her study is the book titled Raising Stars: The challenges and joys of being a Bollywood parent . The book brings us the examples of no less than 26 Bollywood personalities on how they brought up their children in spite of their hectic schedules and other demands of the profession. In each chapter, the author highlights one particular virtue or skill or quality from each of these stars to teach us about the importance of that aspect in bringing up children. Managing anger, for example, is the topic of the first chapter where Mahima Chowdhary is our example. We move on to gender equality, confidence, discipline, etc, and end with spirituality whi

Kabir the Guru – 2

Read Part 1 of thi s here . K abir lived in the 15 th century. But his poems and songs are still valued. Being illiterate, he didn’t write them. They were passed on orally until they were collected by certain enthusiasts into books. Vipul Rikhi’s book, Drunk on Love: The Life, Vision and Songs of Kabir , not only brings the songs and poems together in one volume but also seeks to impart the very spirit of Kabir to the reader. Kabir is not just a name, the book informs us somewhere in the beginning. Kabir is a tradition. He is a legend, a philosophy, poetry and music. I would add that Kabir was a mystic. Most of his songs have something to do with spirituality. They strive to convey the deep meaning of reality. They also question the ordinary person’s practice of religion. They criticise the religious leaders such as pandits and mullahs. Though a Muslim, Kabir was immensely taken up by Ram, the Hindu god, for reasons known only to him perhaps. Most of the songs are about the gr