Best Seller

Gita listened as the peppy young instructor was explaining the ways to write a best seller. The instructor was on the bulky side, and wore a green dress, freckled all over with yellow dots. She reminded Gita of a pickle bottle. And of a slightly plump parrot.

” Pace and action. Plot! The Plot! It should grip the reader from the word go! Get it?”

Having paid fifteen thousand rupees from her hard earned money, for a creative writing workshop, nodding timidly was all what Gita could do.

” You, madam! Do you agree? ” The young lady was all flash and fire. Unfortunately, the fire was aimed at her.

Gita tried to hide as the other participants looked at her. The group mainly comprised of young women and men in their late teens and early twenties, yearning to be the next hot name in best seller fiction. A middle aged woman, she looked quite incongruous in their midst.

” I have been offered a three book series contract for Love is Luscious. I worked on my heroine, hero and the villain painstakingly, without losing the plot,” the pickle bottle lost interest in Gita and turned to face the others.

Sighs of envious upheavals in many female bosoms were heard from Gita’s vicinity. The male bosoms were heaving after watching the pickle bottle’s own luscious bosom wobbling all over the place.

” Now, let us do a quick exercise. Each of you should create a plot of what you intend to write. Basically capture the entire theme in three or four lines. Then we will discuss how to make it into a best seller.”

Papers rustled all around. One or two started typing on their laptops and Ipads. Gita sat still, just looking.

” The whole story in three lines,” screeched the pickle bottle, with the tone of a parrot. She then sipped Pepsi. ” You are free to discuss and share, guys!”

” Er, do you think I should put it down that my heroine is a vampire in the first sentence?’ asked a young girl to her neighbour.

” I really would not know! You see, I am into mythology not vampires and stuff. I am writing about Abhimanyu,” he said, smirking.

” Love is like a chocolate cake,” said a third girl, writing furiously on her sheet. ” Love sells, only love sells!”

Gita looked at her paper. Her pencil needed to be sharpened. She asked the chocolate girl to give her a sharpener.

” He was a liar,” Gita wrote and blinked. ” He had many women. One of them finished him off.”

She put her pencil down.

” You guys. If you are done…hey, remember, this is a quick thinking exercise! Write down a title. NOW!”

” Gorgeous!” sighed the first young girl. ” Gorgeous in Twilight.”

” Chocolate and Honey,” giggled someone.

” The Pride of Yadus- Abhimanyu,” said the young man.

” Murder. Murder by Deceit,” thought Gita to herself. She took her pencil up again.

” Okay, now name your characters. Sweet sounding please, you guys!” laughed the instructor.

” Magnolia Harrison,” said a voice.

Gita stared at the paper.

” He has no name. He has many names. No one really knows his true name. He is like Rumpelstiltskin,” she thought. ” Perhaps that is a better choice for the title. Rumpelstiltskin.,” she mused.

” Okay, guys, guys!” said the instructor. She, in spite of her best seller prowess, seemed sadly dependent on limited words for her vocabulary.

” Now develop the chapters. Chapter titles. What happens in each chapter.”

Groans started emanating from the room. This was tough!

” Hey! It will be fun. Just try a few samples ! The chapter heading can reveal it all,” she suggested.

” Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl’s father angry. Girl elopes with boy…and then?’ wondered the Magnolia inspired gorgeous one.

” Prowler at large. Devastating effect on the naive. Series of hapless moths around his flame. Contemptuous of all he conquers. One got away. Came back for the kill,” wrote Gita.

” Describe the mood of the protagonist…how did she feel? How did he react? I would like to know your word power guys!”

” In the beginning there was light and froth. Bubbling joy of sunlight. Then came the brown tones. The black of belittling innuendoes. Before long, it turned dark and black. Devastating horror of a tortured mind,” Gita scribbled on.” Dylanesque effect,” she wrote and scratched it out.

” Okay, now we share! Who will go first?’ the parrot fluttered its colourful wings.

***

The murder had happened on an ordinary day. The setting was so simple, that the instructor would have been appalled by the way it lacked colour.

The tea shop was buzzing with flies and he had been annoyed.

” You did not find any other place ?” he had snarled. The eyebrows had drawn together like a lasso being knotted.

” Sorry. I did not know that it will be so unclean. I wanted to it to be quiet, you know,” she said, her tone, one of grovelling apology. Apologising for God-alone-knows-what. She had plied him with alcohol and money. With a room for rent. With a computer for his writing. With her aging body, whenever he felt like it. But he always found her at fault. She was never good enough for him.

” Did you send her my request? What did she say?” he asked eagerly. Whenever it came to discussing his own interests, he was full of focus.

” Sorry. I could not get through. Last time she said, the idea lacked credibility,” she said softly, trying to lessen the effect.

” What the hell do you mean? No credibility? Who the hell is she to decide that? It is a brilliant, out of the box idea! She is another stupid woman, who got to where she is, because of her father’s money!” he spat out.

She did not tell him that her own father’s money was feeding him throughout the day. She waited for one word of praise, to soothen the agony rising in her heart. It did not come.

There is nothing more pitiable than a plain woman, in love with a cruel, worthless man. Of course, this has been a story written over decades, in all human cultures. It usually starred the same characters. One man- handsome, worthless, extraordinarily self centered, lying and manipulative. Many women, trying to be the “one” who will redeem him and show him the path of luscious love, full of chocolate and honey and jasmine blossoms. The man knows only to demean those who reach out to help him. The women, enjoy their martyrdom. The man plays hot and cold. The women enjoy changing between furs and summer dresses to meet his mood. Until one day…

” Do you think I should ask her out?’ he grinned evilly. He leered infact.

She shuddered.

” She will fall for me, don’t you think? Maybe not as fast like you! But then she is classy!” he sipped his coffee.

She smiled at him, as always. Her eyes stared at something beyond his head. Her coffee cup suddenly fell down and distracted his attention.

She slipped in the powder, even as he screamed at the waiter.

” Take your coffee. He will bring a new cup,” she smiled sweetly at him.

He had sipped his death, grimacing at the unfairness of it all. He was a hero, treated like dirt, by the world. How could it be so unfair?

When they had discovered him, cold dead in his flat, they had no other reason to suspect than suicide.

He had rented out the room for his creative work. Apparently he wanted to make a movie. Some men and women used to come to visit him at regular intervals. No one had bothered with them in the city’s mad life whirl. All the rent and bills were paid from his account. The account had regularly been replenished by someone called Mr.Ganpathy. They could not get any further details because his family was Christian and did not know any Ganpathy. They presumed he had been depressed and since none in his family complained, left it at that.

It was one month later, that the police received an anonymous letter using the word “murder.”

***

” Not too bad!” the Parrot said in a bored voice.

“No one reads short stories any more. Can you make it into a forty thousand word novel?” she suggested.

‘ It needs , of course, lot more work. Like for example, which poison works after few hours? There is no atmosphere! What was her name? What was she wearing? Who was that last woman? What about his family? Who wrote the letter?”

The participants tittered. They had lost interest already.

“Jasmine blossoms,” announced the young woman. She had changed Magnolias into Jasmines over the last one hour.

As Gita gathered her papers together and left her seat, she bumped into the young man.

” Abhimanyu learnt the art of entering the Chakravyuha before birth,” he was explaining to a eager faced young girl.

” But he had not known, how to get out of it,” he finished with a flourish.

” Oooh, so groovy. Whatever is this Chakra business?” she asked.

Gita thought that she had seen the young man’s expression, somewhere before. The intent of a eagle to swoop down on a prospective prey. Full of focus and energy.

“She will fall for me, do you think?”

That moment, she remembered well enough. The poison meant for her own death had changed its destination.

Not much of a story to it, but still that Parrot could have appreciated the truth behind it all. Well, Fifteen thousand rupees down the drain. She moved past the door, into the mild sunshine.

There was a smell of jasmines in the air.

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