Last night at MICA, I had a chance to attend a short two-hour WRITING WORKSHOP by Raksha Bharadia, the author of ‘All & Nothing’, ‘Roots and wings’ and the editor author of the Chicken Soup India series.
She took us, the participants, through various stages of a story construct. The importance of opening with a bang, to elaborate and conversing with the reader in the second stage to the middle that may give direction to the flow and the ever important end. She shared some really valuable tips she shared and answered some basic questions that have been clouding my head.
In the workshop, she pushed us to start a story and share it. Her comments at each stage helped us understand it better. I, being the greediest of the lot and the only non-student volunteered at every stage for my story to be dissected by her and be used as an example.
Encouraged by her appreciation, I finished the story late at night. By the way, she was polite in giving winds to my enthusiasm and wanted to read the story once I finished. So, it is also in her mailbox, and I hope she reverts with her comments.
Meanwhile, here is the story.It is another one of the COWARD series.
COWARD ( MUMBAI ) and ( For the earlier Coward story, click here )
.…………… THE STORY …..
It was not the first time she called me a coward. I hate that word. I am not that kind of a person. How can she say something like that for me? I loved her many years back and still do. I knew everything about her. I knew how much she loved black and the perfume she wears to hide the stink of cigarettes.
She was there on the semi inclined bed. The white and blue pattern on the wall was like always mocking me. It was making me angry. I hated that more than the fact that she did not move her lips, but I heard her say the ‘C’ word.
I can read her mind over her expressionless face that has not moved a muscle for long. While she lies oblivious to her surrounding on the 4th floor of this speciality hospital, it is me who suffers.
It is more than a year. I have been braving her silence. The stink of cigarettes has even left her thinning hair and is replaced by the antiseptic smell that permeates every corner of this building. She does not need the perfume any longer.
Like every other week, I have been thinking of her. I know doctors have left the last hope, and it is just a question of time. I know she suffers, but can that ever be more than my suffering of seeing her like this. I am no coward.
I have stepped next to the plug that gives the ventilator oxygen. I have looked at the transparent pipe that guided oxygen from the tank and filled her lungs, while she keeps staring at the ceiling, the way she has been doing for far too long. Late at nights when the nurses are tired of the duty and their chitchat of the day, while they doze I have even though of switching it off. I was worried about how painful will it be for her. The last pain and I do not want to the one to give her pain ever again.
But late at night, the sound of the first time she branded me coward got louder. I hear it all the time.
The first time I heard it was the day I could not rescue her for the Campus Bar at Vile Parle in Mumbai. From the time I, son of one of the richest builders first bought her love and then fell in loved with her.
All I needed to get her out from that infamous place was to stand up and marry her. That was the price of her freedom the bar owner Mahesh Shetty had put. He laughed when I wanted to give him money. He asked me what was the difference between Tanya being at the bar or my mistress. Nothing will change.
That was the first-time Tanya called me a coward. She questioned if I ever loved her. She said to me that , It was her body I was after. I was not a coward. I let it go like a monk.
Laughter of Shetty at the bar still rings my ear after 10 years. But, I can tolerate it but not what she said
No money could buy her freedom but my agreeing to marry her.
It was impossible. It was the question of my family honour. However, I did not marry, that was my punishment to self. Soon afterwards, the bars were closed by order of Minster Rane and I lost her. She just disappeared. And I, Prateek Ranade lost my life. I searched for her everywhere. I went to places I read most bar girls have landed in. I went to Kolkatta ad Banagalore and even to Belgaon. At night, I moved in circles, I would never be seen in the day. I bought love. No, I bought sex all in her search. Maybe some girl would know her.
Finally when I found Tanya, it was nearer to my new construction site. She was already very ill. Her cancer was in fourth stage, and I was not willing to lose her again. I had new confidence of being alone. i was not answerable to anyone for the last five years, since the death of Senior Ranede.
I shifted her to Tata Memorial hospital and since then this room 402 been my home. Coward she had said and here I was to prove her wrong. Some months back she had a stroke and since then her eyes been like that. She keps staring towards the ceiling. She does not even look at me.
I looked at the clock; it was 2:30 in the night. The time I used to leave the Campus bar through the back door. Life unfortunately does not have an escape, neither for me, nor for her. How can I allow this to continue? This has to stop, the ringing in my ears. It has not allowed me to sleep many a night. It grows louder by the years and now for last few months; I have not been able to shut it off even for an hour.
Coward, Coward, Coward.
It was beyond any level of tolerance. There was only one way to stop it. Something has to give in. I saw that extra pillow that would be nice. The softness will not bother her. I am not sure if she can hear, or she can even understand what I was feeling every moment.
It was a soft pillow but good enough. I picked her and with all the love I could gather in my hands, I moved toward the bed. I applied sindoor to her head. I felt her smile, though the eyes still stared toward the ceiling.
I did not close my eyes while I placed the pillow on her face. It was effortless; maybe she was free much before I freed her.
I pulled the bed-sheet over her body. The monitor went silent. The loud cry that came out of my throat echoed inside the room. The loud sound that used to bother me, suddenly stopped.
Do you think I am a coward? Does it matter what you think? Tanya when she got free of all the pain, she knew I was not a coward.
Tomorrow is the inauguration of Tanya apartments, where in the penthouse, I will shift with her memories. Coward, if you insist.