A note: It is a series of dedication to my idol, R K Narayan Sir. I may not be up to the level, but trying to bring his qualities in describing some usual incidents.
One cold-unfriendly person like Kartik had only one positive. He was very hard-working, seldom wasted his time. He had come to Malgudi to enjoy some peace from this village which was losing its resources to modernization and mostly young kids stayed here with their grandparents. It was growing lonely being neither very modern city, nor a complete village. The only thing it sustained on was tourism.
Kartik was on a two-year break from regular life, having earned himself by saving for it. All he wanted from long was to be an author. Not just an ordinary author, but a Pulitzer or a Booker winner. He wanted to write a classic epic, a monumental work, unmatched in length, vocabulary, and language by most of the usual works. He didn’t tweet, blog, or have a facebook account. He didn’t care whether he got the people hooked or not. All he wanted was a magnanimous work. He wanted to go down in history, didn’t really care about people, or anything for that matter. He had molded himself into a tough routine to stay mentally and physically fit.
Tonight, as per routine, he heads to the gym and reaches sharp at nine. He makes an entry into the register, calls for the trainer for the drills for the day. The trainer is a couple of minutes late and he blames him for wasting his time telling not to do that again. He leaves after an hour exactly, marking time in the register and heading to buy eggs. He reaches the egg-vendor stall.
He ordered: ‘Five boiled eggs, quickly’
Egg Vendor: ‘Sir Farm or Desi?’
‘Sir Desi are better, see you have been eating these from few months and you haven’t improved where there was an X—, a relative of mine who grew bulki…..’
‘I don’t need your advice, are you giving them to me or not?’
Egg vendor gave it, and collected his change in silence then. It was pretty late so not many people were there, however not unlike few years back; some stalls were always there even till midnight. Ice-cream vendor was one such stall. Kartik eyes it, and yearns for an ice-cream, his favorite since he was a kid. He daily saw the same stall and daily wondered, but the disciplinarian in him stopped him. He used to say even a thought is enough to break an age-long process. However presently, he sees the stall for a moment too much and argues ‘Can an ant lift a mountain, even after any amount of effort?’ He remembers the greatest ice-creams he had in childhood, and even after getting a job. Though mostly, he saved them for this break. Today, he crosses the discipline to move to desire. He walks there and says
Ice-cream vendor: ‘yes sir, how many? Earlier people could eat many ice-creams without getting ill. Now though, people get ill too soon. Can you tell me how some ice, milk powder, flavor, and chocolate make someone unhealthy?’
On any other day Kartik would have cut short the conversation, but he liked the way the ice-cream vendor said and didn’t mind having the ice-creams even in wintry night.
‘One’ he replied, adding ‘will try different ones afterwards’.
He didn’t mean to say the latter part but he had lost control more than once today. He forgot all discipline and just let himself be now.
Ice-cream Vendor (handling him the package): ‘Here it is Sir. Haven’t seen you here before, are you new? What do you do?’
Kartik (opening the wrappers and eyeing his prize): ‘I have been from a few months, an author.
Ice-cream Vendor: ‘means a storyteller?’
He somehow didn’t like the word.
He replied: ‘Yeah, ummmm, naaa, an author. I am writing a monumental work which will have few parallels in length, language, and vocabulary’.
‘But you need a massive story for that naa, how can you write without a story?’
‘Yeah, story is there. But it’s just a small part’
‘How can you write monumental work without a story? Do you know Mahabharata is the longest written literature? And its story is considered one of the greatest stories ever told?’
Kartik smirks: ‘what do you, an ice-cream vendor know about story-writing?’
‘Sir, I used to sell my ice-creams back then only because of my stories. It’s true I can’t read or write, but earlier I didn’t sell Party Bars ice-cream, we didn’t have any brand then. I made some kulfi from milk and nuts, and sold them. The taste wasn’t good, but I had to sell them to run family. What I used to do was tell people stories and because they were engaged in stories, they forgot that ice-cream weren’t that good but they bought anyway. Even now, many come to me for my stories but I am becoming older now so I tell only small stories to very few.’
‘Can you tell me a story of yours which made people enjoy your ordinary ice-creams?’
‘Yes Sir! Let me think…. Ummmm…..’
‘Okay… once there was a man who looked like a madman. From henceforth, we’ll refer him as madman. He went to a juice corner asking for pomegranate juice. At the same time, there came one family. There was a man carrying his three year old child in his right hand, and a woman along with him. It was just after sunset. He asked for one medium and one large juice, he didn’t mention any name. Usually, he gives mixed fruit juice when it isn’t mentioned. But that day, he gave pomegranate juice, medium to son and large to the lady. The madman went empty-handed after the vendor told him something.’
Kartik meanwhile had finished his ice-cream. He would have gone long back on his usual disciplined modes, but somehow he was hooked. It was as if the artificial flower maker saw a real rose. He was mesmerized and charmed by the story, which to his practical mind seemed ordinary that he gave best juice for the one who could afford and sent away the poor soul. But in his epic, he had forgotten to include a normal human-like human. That might have been a small reason too.
He said: ‘one orange bar’ and later added ‘so he gave the best juice to the rich man and didn’t give any to the poor man who couldn’t afford it?’
Ice-cream vendor (giving him the ice-cream): ‘No Sir. Actually the madman had money. Usually juice-vendor doesn’t give juice after the sunset, he tells them that come in the morning or afternoon, and it’s not good for health this time. He told the same to the madman, adding that he must have orange juice which is good for immunity, pomegranate is good for increasing blood which can be had once in a week and it’ll be enough’
‘Then why did he give the juice to the little boy’
‘His father was holding him in one-hand, and was smoking cigarette from his left. Juice-vendor had thought the son is already getting the worst, so it won’t do badly if he has some blood. His father is probably mad making him smoke indirectly, so he will somehow need blood to work hard. It was some weird philosophy but according to him, it didn’t matter anymore. He just thought of making some money that time.’
‘Ironical. One was trying to improve his health, while the other was showing off with costly juice but actually giving tender lungs a great danger. Now who will you call mad?’
‘Isn’t it Sir? Didn’t you like the story?’
‘Yeah, it was okay, how did you make it?’
‘Sir, see there, Jeevan Juice Corner, that’s where I got it, observing people. We writers observe what usually most don’t, or don’t analyze and then sell it to them’
‘Nice point, but was it real?’
‘Some part of all stories are real, else it wouldn’t be made’
‘Nice philosophy man’
‘Sir, would you hear the story of an ant who moved a mountain?’