There was a time when I described myself as a pretender. That hour called for modesty. So I remained one for so long I had come to believe I am one. Now, I have run out of ideas, plots, twists, flashbacks, climaxes and endings. I have tried to burgle them from the troves of Carver, Cheever, Murakami, even James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Nadim Gardimer. I first experimented with style. Minimalist, for example. I began dropping adjectives and adverbs. The sentences looked and sounded like skeletons in a medical college.
Okay, let me lift a situation from Cheever. I very soon find it doesn’t have a parallel in the Indian landscape. How do I pave the streets of Mumbai with New York’s snow? Mumbaikar will look like a joker in the kind of clothes Cheever drapes his characters in. My head became so overheated with ideas of larceny that I I ran to take a shower. In the middle of the piddling shower an epiphany of the Joycean kind struck me.
How did I forget I have a friend in Vijayawada who lives with her husband in an apartment in a leafy suburb? She is a front rank story teller in Telugu, a language spoken in India by 80 million people. So what, you may ask. All kinds of characters, from maidservants to super moms, inhabit her short story collections. In my prototype of plagiarism, I imported a truant maidservant and a struggling super mom from one of her stories and wrote an aftermath to the parent story.
I showed it to her. This is my story, she cried. No, madam, I said. Servant maids and super moms are everywhere. They can’t be patented like you patent your husband. The idea to write an aftermath to your story is mine, exclusively mine. It is something like Uttara Ramayana, I said. She laughed. I left her laughing, afraid she might change her mind if I lingered long. Now it is for readers to wait for my collection of stories based on ideas I don’t own, like you have waited for Arundhati Roy’s second title. No, you need not wait for twenty years. My first plagiarized collection in the country will be upon you suddenly like an epiphany.