33 short stories of mine, most of which were written in the last couple of years, have been published in the form of a book, both printed and digital versions. As I wrote earlier, these stories emerged from the dilemmas and conflicts I faced when certain drastic changes took place where I was working until a few months back. The changes started with sanctimonious pretensions and ended with a whole school being bulldozed into sheer vacuum. Right in the capital of the world’s largest democracy. The whole process was a dark drama which had occasional moments of hilarious farce and profound grotesqueness. It was an ideal place for a writer to be at. Human nature reveals itself without masks when survival is threatened. Drama unfolds one after another. People walk about with heads buckled down under depression. People rebel and get thrown out. Criminal charges are fabricated against those whose rebellion is a serious threat to the wielders of real power. Life becomes a battle ground for some and a snake pit of conspiring uncertainties for many others. And yet another disappointing delusion for a few.
Blogging became an escapist means for me. Most of the stories in this collection were written in order to find answers to some of the questions that kept rising in my mind as I lived through the ordeal. Yet the characters are not taken from the situations I endured. They belong mostly to mythology and history. Thus Rama and Bhishma, Alexander and Galileo, as well as some fictitious characters emerged in my stories to resolve my dilemmas and conflicts with their answers.
When Ahalya is redeemed by the touch of Rama from the curse that was brought on her by the very natural temptation of her moist youthfulness, the lesson she learns is one of the lessons I needed at the time of writing that story. But Rama, the god-incarnate who brings the miracle to Ahalya, is left to face a flame that was arising in his consciousness, a flame that he would have to endure helplessly in the near future. ‘Ahalya’ is the first story in the collection.
At the end of that first story Rama is left with the vision of endless human delusions. It is some of those delusions that the successive stories explore. When Bhishma says helplessly in ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch’ that Dharma is too subtle for him to explain, the helplessness was partly mine too. Draupadi’s retort, “Truth is simple, but Dharma is subtle,” was my rebellion. Even the God of Eden is helpless before the subtlety of that Dharma. His amusement turns into grief as Satan’s inquisitiveness enters into Eve’s womb to tarnish the whole human race with the original sin. The story of the original sin is followed by ‘The Children of Lust,’ naturally.
Is there a possibility of redemption for mankind? In ‘The First Christmas,’ the three Magi visit the infant redeemer but are left with disappointment at the vision of crosses and they long for another special star.
But we are not to be blessed with such stars. Instead we will have conquerors and marauders. Of various categories. Achilles and Alexander, Cleopatra and Aurangzeb, and conquerors of various hues appear in the succeeding stories. “Why couldn’t we create the Elysium on the earth?” The question Briseis throws at herself as Achilles lay dying in her lap is one of the umpteen questions raised by the characters in these stories of conquests and devastations. They were the questions I was throwing at myself again and again. Only to get more stories.
Some of the last stories in the collection belong to an earlier period and have nothing to do with the turmoil created within me by the bulldozer and its agents.
Each story in this collection was a lesson for me. An epiphany. However, this is not any claim for literary or any other merit. I’m acutely aware of my limitations as a writer. I am more like the little boy, Mayank in ‘Mayank Passes,’ who feels guilty for his very existence. I wish I could be more like his mother who retains her faith in the same deities that send the bulldozer into her dreams.
A word about the title story before I wind up against my will. One of the many charges I have faced in my life and one which was hurled at me repeatedly like bullets from a machine gun particularly towards the end of the tragicomic period covered by these stories is that I am an anarchist. The title story is an exploration of the mind of an anarchist. When he learns the morality of his master who is a professionally religious person, he becomes a murderer.
We are passing through a period when more and more rules are being imposed on us even about what we can eat, speak, write, wear, and so on. Whose interests do these rules serve? Are so many rules needed at all? Is the right-thinking person necessarily an anarchist?
Saint Augustine of Christianity was a person who relished the various lusts and luxuries of life before turning religious. His enlightenment can be summarised in the one sentence he said himself, “Love and then do what you like.” His god and master, Jesus himself, had said the same thing: man is not made for rules; rules are for man.
I have tried my best to make the stories carry drama rather than morals. I hope the stories don’t read like preaching at all. I hope they take the reader through the actual dilemmas and conflicts of life faced by most of us some time or the other.
I bow out. Let the book take over.
A big THANK YOU to all the readers of my blog because it is only you who inspired me to continue to write even when I toyed with the idea of bowing out from the visible world altogether. I wanted to hide myself in some remote corner of the world. Hide like a child who had committed some mistake. Hide like Adam and Eve faced with their tyrannical God in Eden. I’m now living in a small village where the resounding cries of fanaticism which are overtaking the country’s promised dreams are not likely to reach. I am an escapist. Isn’t every writer an escapist?
PS. It may take a couple of days for the book to be really available in the market. My publishers are doing their best. The book will soon be available in both the digital and print versions at all leading online sellers in the country. My publishers, onlinegatha, have already put it up in their website. And the site, like me, is a bit reluctant to open up, it seems.