A Dream Sold
by Kakuli Nag
It has a rhythm now after almost ten years. It has a subtle music, when they are uttered in a definite pace – Depicor, Monotrate, Trika, Avas, E-Cod, Iladamen, Korandil, Deplatt, Ascoril, Storvas and the jingles of mg count in between with a brief pause makes the whole item a perfect composition.
I learnt more from my friend than the family physician or the cardiologist about the significance of each of these tablets. He had acquired an in depth knowledge about medicines when he used to work for a leading pharmaceutical company in Kolkata as a Medical Representative.
I considered him to be a terrific sales person, not because he met his monthly targets and sales volumes for the fast moving consumer goods firm that he is currently associated with, but because he always succeeded to persuade me to read his writings. I had very little patience for those ramblings, standard diary entries and momentary epiphanies. I tried telling him in a thousand different ways how he could improve and yet never stated the truth – that he should ideally quit writing as he was absolutely hopeless. Pathetic is a mild word and an understatement to describe his work.
I had a couple of my writings published in Souvenirs not exactly for the superior standard of my work but because the editor was prejudiced about me which resulted in this penalty – that I had to go through his literary output and offer my comments. Each time he described his piece as so_many_hours of effort or an offbeat_Idea or nothing_like_what_ he_had_written_before and painfully, I had to waste my precious time, reviewing them.
He lacked ideas, the basic command on the language with absolutely no sense of plotting or characterization, let alone grammar. I never really understood why he was so inclined towards writing. He had been seven years old when he had written two lines that happened to rhyme and since he had created that in a minute’s time at such a tender age, it was greatly appreciated by his aunt who was M.A in English in those times. Those words of encouragement got repeated several times in family gatherings and he had become an unpublished writer of some repute, often teased by his cousins and other relatives regarding when they would be invited for a book reading session. Soon his friends teased him about Pulitzer and Booker’s award, little realizing, that they did not let him do a reality check about himself nor let his dream fade. His hopes continued to soar.
After twenty years, he is still dwelling on that dream.
I had once asked him, “why don’t you ask your aunt to offer her critical feedback to whatever you are scribbling” She was well read and was more capable than I was, to handle those sudden, intuitive perception of life or insight into the reality which he produces at industry level. Sarcasm obviously escaped him and he smiled to say.
“She is just a master degree holder and you are a published writer. You know what it takes to captivate the readers. I value your comments more because you are aware of the nuances of literature and other writing elements” I stayed there, in cloud nine.
All those commonplace occurrences or experiences inspired him to write just as commonly as it occurs. A decent literary work needs meditation, depth of thoughts, a core, a plot, a moment of revelation and insight. According to him, one needs a lap top and English alphabets to write.
On a June afternoon, he called me from Bangalore to say he is likely to receive a check for two lakhs from a leading publisher there as his work got short listed by them. I choked. Leading publisher, two lakhs, his work getting published – all those words kind of echoed in my ears. I was not sure if I had to categorize that episode as a dream come true or a nightmare of downslide in literature. The little solace I gathered was, I did not have to analyze his work any more.
I celebrated my freedom.
Rahul Chandra settled in Bangalore after he got published. I was the second person to receive a signed copy of his book. The first one obviously went to his aunt. There was a one line mention in The Bangalore Times about the book, which he forwarded to me and uploaded in all social sites we both were members of.
He began preparing himself for a different lifestyle, even before the book was out in the market. He sold his bullet, and was planning to buy a car soon. He cancelled the flat booking in Kolkata as he was now aiming to buy a villa. He was probably hoping the book would do so well, that he might be requested to lecture in MBA Institutes the way Chetan Bhagat does. He bought a couple of branded trousers and blazers, began back brushing his hair for a sophisticated writer’s look and switched to Classic from Gold Flake. He asked me if he should grow his hair or go bald. The Monk, the Ferrari, The Santaram and their adverse effects were being dealt by me.
Once the book “A dream sold” was released , his close friends - a bunch of non readers congratulated him and clicked snaps with him and tried to make him a celebrity. I pitied him, for the hype he was being a part of and I was hoping he can take the thud down, just as comfortably as he was taking the ride to thin air. I was not part of these sessions as I was still in Kolkata, however every night he called to update me in variety of excited tones.
He openly admitted to one and all that I had been a great critic and he had always taken my comments very seriously to improve. His friends in Bangalore were eager to meet me and other up-coming writers in that crowd wanted me to review their work as well for critical feedback.
I celebrated my recognition.
I was kept informed about the statistics regularly – number of books released in the market, across the country. I did not find the book in the leading stores of Kolkata which lead me to believe, without a doubt, that it was moving really fast.
I was hoping some day, he will ask me to send a manuscript of the collection of short stories I was working on so that he could have a word with his publisher. Even after two years, he proposed nothing of that sort. I was too proud to even ask who his publisher was, lest he thinks, I wanted a recommendation from him.
Rahul had not taken up writing as a full time career and was still working for a multinational company as Business Development Manager. He had begun work on his second book on Innovative Sales techniques though. I was just hoping he should not name it as “A dream bought” as the subject was related to buying and selling. His position was pretty enviable in his firm – highly paid manager with perks and incentives, his car and flat were company provided. He was dating, romancing, writing, working and enjoying life. I cringed.
His success slowly began to bother me. Good work and sincere efforts were never important, I realized and that little discovery diffused my interest to bridge the distance that was getting created between us. I am yet to know who began to avoid whom. Though his calls had reduced to just one or two a month, it became increasingly difficult for me to listen to his excited voice with that child like enthusiasm. That only deepened the scars of my failure all the more, not just as a writer, but also as a survivor. At times I thought, he had just comfortably used that book as a step to raise in the corporate ladder. He was never a writer, in the first place.
My dreams got sold, in the simple bargain of leading a normal non creative life. I could not afford the luxury of free lancing and creative writing for too long and had to take up a full time job as a content writer. Every day I had to kill the creative me, a few original ideas and story lines to produce content that was either technical or high on search engine optimization with key words being the only soul in it. I hated my job so much that, I was somewhere beginning to make efforts to write like Rahul. Though I had read so much of his work, it did not come easily and soon I was exhausted trying. I failed even in imitating.
Three years after “A Dream Sold” was published, I went to Bangalore for Dad’s check up there, with a recommended Cardiologist. I had almost lost touch with Rahul by then. Life took over and other things. Friendships and even basic civic sense and courtesies got lost somewhere in this whole fast paced life.
I stood reciting those tablets in a pharmacy close to Jaydeva Hospital – Ascoril, Depicor, Monotrate, Trika, Avas, E-Cod, Iladamen, Korandil and stopped mid way. The shop keeper stared at me waiting for me to continue. I ignored him as I noticed a pile of new books on the counter. I slowly got past the other customers to have a closer look and confirm my doubts as the illustration and the color of the book seemed very familiar. I looked back at the shop keeper who immediately moved the books to one of the shelves behind and asked me to continue with the rest of the medicine order.
“Are those books for sale here?” I asked him politely, unable to hold my curiosity.
“It was, a few years back. We were told the person who wrote it was a Medical Representative turned writer and the book would be a hit among the crowd that deals with medicines and encourage many more med reps to attempt writing. And some 500 copies were given to us for push sale as it was publisher’s first book and he had to recover his investment”
Rahul selling his favorite bullet dirt cheap and canceling his flat booking in Kolkata was not a mystery any more.
As I took out each tablet strip from individual paper packets, I read the printed excerpts I had edited and commented on so many times before. This is one of those pharmacies who try to be environment friendly and have banned plastic covers and carry bags. One of the paper packets also had a black and white photo holding a pen. That was the cover page, I remembered
I celebrated my anonymity.