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A Storyteller's Afternoon
|by Sangeeta Goel|
Whose story am I telling? Though I know that in every story, the writer is somewhere in it too, but what will be the excuse here to dig a little bit of me out - what details, what circumstances, which events and where and when and who?
Someone who is like me was not in my eyes worth writing about because my life is not the least bit interesting. Then how do I achieve interest in composing fictive circumstances and people and make the claim that I am in it too - I am in something interesting though I myself am not worth a second look of interest.
With these thoughts I sat in the afternoon heat. The desk was small and in a corner of the room. The fan dangling from the ceiling barely shifted the heat away from itself creating only a pretense of movement in the density that enveloped everything. My mind though was gearing itself up for an ambitious amount of energetic work - it was digging deeper and deeper as if doing it long enough would be rewarded with molten lava which is the center of the earth and all will be revealed in some crazed explosion of an insight. Sweat poured down me in encouraging streams, sometimes by way of my eyes. If these streams engaged my tears as well, I could not tell. There I sat - trying to locate myself in everything - accepting some, rejecting others, yet the country did not appear on any map, no locale was eager to claim me even in my own imagination.
I sat there - a desirous being, too desirous and my hunger was beginning to hurt me - excavating a larger and larger space inside. I was creating more hunger while no food was to be found anywhere. I thought of cheating my mind into startling it - I asked myself the old rhetorician's delight -who am I? Little details of my past, my present and even bits of foreboding about my future ran through my mind like images from a movie whose sequence had got mixed up. Dreams, rejections, puny successes, gross failures, self-consciousnesses, little triumphs all showed up - obedient and even obsequious students doing the rounds of pleasing the powers that be. My question remained unanswered and I was no better off except in terms of having become more confused with the taste of the collage that had paraded through my mind lingering like bits of food around a mouth grabbing at meager succor.
Are these the things - is it not all about details - but these details do not add up to anything - and even if they did - what would the addition look like - will it still not look like me - some kind of a patchwork - with only a name that remained constant (though I must confess here that more and more I find myself not responding to my name when someone calls me) and of course, the years add up - moving closer to the other end of life which is death - all the more confusing - this birth/death business and what I am supposed to think in between? Why are we not born with handbooks that give us at least some clues about how we are to relate to life and death - is it not crazy this being born and dying?
I groaned. Not these questions, never these questions. Who can deal with them except those claiming insanity or asceticism? Who am I? Who am I? Ok, if this is not working, I thought I would ask myself the other delightful one - where am I going? Of course, towards death. Nyet, non, na, no, no, no. I had trapped myself. I was not going anywhere except towards some moment of dying.
The details, I thought, the details will save me. It's the details that make a story and god is in the details and so is the storyteller. Those images that I had rejected a few minutes ago. Those images are framed by the negative spaces. That's what I do not see. That's what most of us don't see. The details of the unseen. I congratulated myself for what I thought was a terrific piece of philosophic and vital sleuthing all together.
Yes, I sighed, there it is.
But what was there?
It vanished just as quickly it had come affording me a tantalizing glimpse of uncertain life and certain death and the mush in between. I sat there, with the afternoon in my lap, with the rest of the day hovering over me with the same unanswered questions, with the rest of my life, coagulating invisibly around me.
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