Short-story: The Beginning Saga
Casually the sun went down. The cool stretch of the late autumn air re-surfaced in what seemed like the seamless evening. Inside an old looking house, Rudra was lying in his bed. There were cobwebs in the walls and ceiling of his room, but the bulb was set very bright. Two steel cupboards full of books and a dressing table covered with a thin white drape was seen in his room. The pillow was set vertically—standing as a backbone of the bed. Anybody lying on his bed was able to taste the level of freedom in that position. Rudra’s printer was still on, a poetry manuscript had just been printed. He barely cared about the timing to use these machines. Somebody was about to pay him a visit and monitor his latest literary activities. Rudra got paid for the literary writings which he did all alone. This was the new policy of the government, to self-employ people based on their precepts. One had to remain isolated without family, this was the rule.
The government agent was a skinny man. He had triangle face, microscopic eyes and boastful big-rimmed spectacle and he was spitting the fountain of red paan. Climbing the stairs, the man seemed to carefully count the steps as if he chanted a mantra. It was hard to trace any wrong doings from his face. This was one afternoon when the guards did not stand outside Rudra’s room. The guards moved around in the initial days, no readers were allowed to visit with immediate feedbacks. Only later Rudra felt that his mind was free. The literary agent was a potbellied man. He seemed carefree in contrary to the careful government agent. He had fish eyes and long face. He often visited Rudra with the supply of books. The agents appeared within neat intervals of time. The works had to be carried nevertheless. Rudra felt that it was difficult to go on with literary works when no one was watching. The dressing table mirror used to frequently flaunt Rudra’s reflection, but it was draped for now. Only print materials surfaced inside the house. After much negotiations non-fictions were allowed.
This time came as a dream to Rudra. People with self-interests had protested the lack of jobs and the time had come. The government had really taken matters into their own hands. Nothing stopped them from capturing people like this—you only had to have talent and no job. The latest poetry collection of Rudra was based on family. He had no idea how the government agents would react to this collection about family. The collection was titled “The Beginning Saga.” Somedays felt exhausted, and some were spent in recollections. Every night after writing in his laptop and turning the printer off, he saw the picture of his family. The picture was hidden from everyone. How a picture consoled had been a powerful recollection itself.
“What good is a talent hidden from people?” Rudra had reasoned with kavya that day. She had to vacate the house for his purpose. She left with tears, asking their teenage son and daughter to accompany her. How were they supposed to live alone? The question did not knock Rudra’s mind initially. The draped dressing table with mirror kept haunting Rudra. The family photo was pasted like sticker in one corner of the dressing table mirror. Rudra also had a fine collection of fountain pens. The pens had remained inkless for now, after his family left.
Rudra could shake his memories of being with the family. Once, when an elderly relative of the family had died, large mass of people had gathered in the small house nearby. Kavya spoke of every single known person there with Rudra when they had arrived their home. Kavya noted peculiarities of every single person in that funeral gathering—the color of the short half-pants worn by modern young girls of the family who came from the capital city, the fare charged to them by a local auto, the timing of the sons arriving for the cremation rituals, all were discussed by Kavya in Rudra’s family. Well to do sons were expected to send money for the cremation rituals, Rudra’s wife said, “we will never let such kinds of money shortage for the cremation rituals, our babu and bune would not see us in debt.”
The night enveloped its own caricature. Rudra was numbed. He washed his face repeatedly after using the towel each time. He sipped glassful of water, numerous times. His wife used to always ask to rinse that same glass, when he used to drink from it incessantly. She would keep the glass in the kitchen utensil-stand immediately. Now the utensils do not clink without Kavya in the house. Rudra had even started to drink in paper cups. The government agent also spitted his paan and drank from the paper cup. Now, they drank coffee in the house. The agent said, “bhauju knew the price of sugar, she had sold us the habit of drinking tea.” The agent thought that talking about family would not take Rudra off the track. The agent hit the emotional side, this is how they made writers vulnerable.
Once again Rudra triggered his memory. His wife Kavya had gone to another religious family event, a sraddha. Her slipper got exchanged with another woman and that woman followed Kavya to their house barefoot. Along with the slipper Kavya sent snacks in that woman’s hand to her family.
Rudra was missing his family, and he had a scorching day ahead. He had taken a matter of translating 500 pages Nepali folk novel to English, he had to complete it in two months. The literary agent had handed thirty-five thousand rupees, and Rudra had accepted the money without being skeptical. Now the only reason to come out of this den was to lure the government agent. If the two agents were to agree, then they could shore Rudra out of this sunken sea of trouble. He missed the desire of the family, there was no solution to it except expressing the grief of being locked up from the world like that.
“You can return the money, but you will lose all your literary affiliations? Is that okay?”
“From now on you can earn by reading, and you cannot write, All right?”
“You will only send book reviews our way, no fictions you can weave,” said the agent.
“You will be paid very less, and we cannot guarantee the steady work flow,” the agents tabled their view.
“You can live with your family,” became the final words. Rudra signed the contract and became a metaphorical reader rather than being a lone writer without family. “The Beginning Saga” went on to win the Kutumba Literary Prize and became critically acclaimed as well as a best seller poetry book. Rudra’s family came together after many years of detachment and remained learned forever.