Here is a simple question for you. Which four letter word beginning with "F" is driving people crazy, making them do bizarre things? Wait, before you start thinking of Monica Lewinsky or 'Eyes Wide Shut' let me tell you it doesn't rhyme with luck, it rhymes with name. Still didn't get it? You deserve to be in Laloo Yadav's cabinet. It is Fame, dammit. What! You don't agree with me? You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but before you pass judgement I request you to lend me your ears or rather eyes for a moment.
Fame - the perfume of heroic deeds.
Fame- the last infirmity of a noble mind.
It is this desire to be known, to be remembered for posterity, to leave behind footprints on the sands of time, that has been ubiquitous since time immemorial.
We toil for fame
We live on crusts
We make a name
Then we are busts.
Barring a few 'noble souls', this desire has been harbored by almost all men down the ages. Battles have been fought, wars waged, cities ravaged and millions slaughtered at the altar of fame.
What rage for fame attends both great and small
Better be damn'd than mentioned not at all.
Today this 'rage' has become a mania. All around us we see people clamoring for Fame. Every age has had its books. Behind every revolution there is a monumental work. Mein Kampf, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Das Kapital have all been instrumental in inspiring a revolution. This is the age of a very different kind of book which has inspired and is inspiring a different kind of revolution. All around us, unknown to us, people are indulging in every sort of bizarre activity, just to see their name in the hallowed pages of this book. It is the modern, Koran, Geeta and Bible rolled into one. Its name - The Guinness Book of World Records. Before you dismiss this statement, reflect:
Haven't you heard of tightrope artists crossing the Niagara Falls? Haven't you read about men and women eating snakes, swallowing swords, splitting hairs, eating trees, growing nails, throwing eggs and doing practically everything under the sun your imagination can conjure up? All this and a lot more to achieve their ultimate ambition - a mere mention in this sacred book. The epitaph on their grave would probably read - "Here lies the man or (woman) who made it (or died while attempting to make it) to the Guinness Book of World Records".
Some time back this dreaded scourge claimed yet another victim - namely yours truly. I too wanted to become famous. Lovers, poets and lunatics are of imagination all compact. Since I had been in love scores of times and I was considered by my near and dear ones to be perpetually on the fringe of lunacy, I could claim to be of imagination reasonably compact and thus have all the necessary qualifications to become a poet. And so one bright summer morning I decided to become just that. Dale Carnegie, Tom Peters and Peter F. Drucker might disagree but this to me looked like the safest and quickest way to success and fame.
The first thing I did was to hunt around for a pen-name. With a name like mine I would hardly command attention. After a few days of exploring, I struck gold. Aar Kay Verseworth would be my nom de plume. After that I explored the market for the books that would guide me in my quest. And soon I had a mini library of inspiring prose that would help me write poetry.
'The Art of Writing Poetry in Six Easy Lessons', 'Be a Poet in Thirty Days', 'Rapidex Poetry Writing Course', 'Poetry for Dummies', were some of the inspiring titles. An eminent educationist called Dr. Gyanpeeth, promised to teach me in Hindi the art of writing poems in English. Another learned gentleman who called himself 'Poetix Expertix' was willing to make me an expert at writing poetry in six weeks through correspondence. All that lay between me and the Nobel Prize, his advertisement promised, was a paltry sum of five hundred and fifty rupees. And so, after the combined investment of a mere nine hundred rupees, I was firmly on the path to glory.
On studying the market and analyzing the advice given by Messrs. Expertix and company I came to the conclusion that realism was the fashion these days. I decided to write an ode on these lines. Odes had been written on countless topics. I would attempt something different. I would write an ode to a tadpole, I decided.
The ode I wrote was not very long. It ran to just sixteen pages. Tadpole was my symbol for modern youth. In it I described the fossilized culture, their marginalized values, their intellectual impotence, the quagmire of conflicting ideologies, the conundrum of frustrated fantasies and, amidst all this the modern youth searching for Nirvana. Nietzche's Passionate Individualism, Sartre's Existentialism, Camus' 'Theory of the Absurd', Freud and Engels, Marx and Jung, all found their proper place. To give all the right touch of erudition, I added a liberal dose from Roget's Thesaurus.
A leading publisher was bringing out an anthology of unpublished poems. I sent the ode with a proper introduction. I called it 'a result of an emotional catharsis'. It was sent by registered post and I think I qualified for the Guinness Book when I got the script back before the acknowledgment due!
I was disappointed but, 'still nursing the unconquerable hope' I struggled on. The publisher was a philistine, a barbarian, totally lacking the aesthetics to appreciate sublime verse. His stupidity would be posterity's loss.
I continued sending the ode and receiving rejections. All this cost me a packet. Finally, after collecting 138 rejection slips, I decided I was ready. I was still going to defeat the forces of 'irrational, illogical and immature ignoramuses set against me. I staked my claim. After six weeks of waiting, I was at last rewarded. Despite the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', I had emerged the victor.
Guess how? You give up? O.K. I'll relieve you of the nail-biting tension, the nerve wracking suspense. Go to any leading book store and buy the latest edition of the The Guinness Book of World Records. On page 238 you will find this entry:
"The greatest recorded number of publisher's rejections for a manuscript is 138 for an 'An Ode to a Tadpole' by Aar Kay Verseworth (1963) of Rourkela, India."
I have joined the select band of Lata Mangeshkar, Prem Nazir, Jagdish Raj and a few other Indians. Now at last I am truly famous. I have at long last, captivated the Goddess of Fame. She has finally succumbed to my charms.
Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as I, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth.