Sahir Ali was an epitome of despondence. The fact that he fed on his gloom with great panache didn’t make his pain lesser. 6 novels at the age of 35, all of them bestsellers. It was a feat few could match in the literature scene.
His elbows perched on the window pane. Nonchalant eyes looking into infinities of sky. He knew that it was the time, the time he feared the most. Heartbroken at 23, Sahir had started writing. This pain of his one-sided affection’s premature demise clearly embodied in his expressive style of writing. He was the overnight star of Indian literature as soon as his first book came out, chronicling his incomplete love story.
“Ironical, everyone wants a happy life, but books with pain and sorrow are bestsellers.” Sahir’s inner philosopher murmured to him. “Why don’t people read stories where no one is sad, everything is all-right, everyons is happy and satifsfied, merry making all the way?” He questioned himself.
He had channelled his heartbreak’s grief to shape one of the finest works of Indian literature, as critics called it. It was a getaway for him, from the labyrinth of her memories. “Meera, I love you” He said in an indistinct tone. Meera walked away, he was too broken to gather himself up and chase her. Seasons passed but this memory refused to fade away, just like the sun rising up over horizon every day.
He secretly wished she read those books. Last time he heard, her marriage was arranged with an Army Officer. That was 11 years back. More books flew off the shelves as years passed by. Every word he wrote, lessened the pain. No wonder he had titled every book’s manuscript as “Painkiller 1.. 2… 3…..” before the publishers rechristened it to something commercial.
The pen’s silent today. No words flowing from it. Imagination has a limit, everything a writer writes is inspired from his life and observations. His inspiration was dead. He felt no pain, no sorrow. The best news and the worst news at the same time, he was over it. After 12 years in his solitude with her memories, his mind seemed to have accepted the reality, not trying to change it in his books anymore.
The chatter of children playing in neighbourhood, far away from the aching realities of life, lost in their own little world. The stray dog that chased the rare cars that passed the amble street. The subtle pre-monsoon rain, coming down, no matter where the wind was trying to push it. All these stimulated him, as he sat gazing through the window. But nothing inspired him to pick up his pen and write his next masterpiece. It had been 6 months since he finished his last novel, and not a single word was written on his barren notebooks.
A knock on his door woke him up from his reverie. A young guy stood there in soiled clothes, smiling wide. “Dhoodh, sahab” as he handed over a packet of milk to Sahir. “Where’s your dad?” Sahir Ali inquired about the usual delivery guy. “He’s out of town, at relatives’ place”, he replied. “Thank you” He said while closing the door, as he wondered how subjective was happiness. How it strikes you in soiled clothes and small, hardly inhabitable houses. How it eludes you even in the plushest of palaces. How we depend on material objectives to measure happiness, while it lurks around in our head, all the time, waiting to be discovered.
As he placed the milk packet on the refrigerator shelf, there was another knock on the door. He opened the door, but wasn’t sure he wasn’t hallucinating. There stood Meera, still quite the beauty she used be. An avalanche of 12 years old memories seemed to have struck him with a jolt. Too shocked to react, his trembling hands opened the door wider. “Sahir, there you are! you look quite mature now.” she said. “Meera! that’s a huge surprise” He said hastily with a smile, unable to find words for the occasion.
He welcomed her to his little abode. He didn’t know why was she there. Maybe to tell him to stop writing about her? Maybe to apologise? “Your books are great Mr. writer” She complimented him as he opened the milk packet to make coffee for her. “Thank you for that, they would have never been, without you”. She didn’t know if that was sarcastic or romantic. They trod down the memory lane as they sat near the window, sipping coffee and watching the sun set in all its crimson glory.
“You never asked anyone about me?” She enquired. “I don’t pursue married women, I suppose” came the instant reply. She placed her hand on her face, covering it, in exasperation. “I never married that guy, you think I give in to what my family decided for me?” her tone was loud, trying to question the games destiny had played. “I was just too embarrassed to approach you Sahir, after the way I walked away. Reading your books, every single page, every word, it made me realise how much I meant you” she added. “I am glad you came back” Sahir smirked.
The sun was down already, chirps from hoards of crickets in grasses were the only thing disturbing the silence of the road infront. “I think it’s time you leave, it’s very late” Sahir suggested. Meera was reluctant, but he insisted. “I think we were always meant to be” said Meera, “Maybe” said Sahir before wishing her a good night and closing the door. “Or maybe not” He said to himself looking at the closed door as he broke down.
His pen flew again, from page to page. inspired by the the usual companionship of pain. The pain of having her, but not wanting her anymore. The mind’s fickle, he thought. As he pictured the boy with the milk packet, smiling, in his little but sufficient world.