What if Garcia-Marquez had been brought up a Tam Brahm? That is the subject of this experimental fiction piece.
Gopal-Giridhar Madhusudhan looked out of the window, idly, about to roll over and go back to sleep, only to recall the promise he had made to himself this time: to get more out of the trip. It was his seventh visit back to Chennai in as many years. Each December, he had returned, if not from a faithfulness, then from a simple, acknowledged, fear of loneliness in the darkest weeks of the year.
Over Gopal’s first few visits, he had not wanted much, content to laze around in his parents’ home, get driven around, and generally fed the middle-class version of a dream vacation. In later years, he became a more conscientious vacation planner. Once, he accumulated culture-vulture oomph meticulously, attending every lec-dem session in the December sabhas, downing cups of filter coffee with dhonnais of steaming hot kesari in the mornings. Another time, he collected greenie points from wildlife trips. From a Valmik Thapar rant, through discussions with a friend about RFID collars for endangered species and the ethics of it, he had chalked out and executed a trail through Sariska. Yet another time, he sought free-spirit points by doing unplanned road trips through a randomly chosen region, performing informal case studies of microeconomic behavior. This year again, he had set himself such a goal. He would later realize that each vacation’s goal could succinctly be summarized thus: to get a sufficient dose of ‘wholesomeness’ out of the December visit to last him through the next sterile winter.
Gopal sat down, pen in hand, fresh coffee by his side, lighting to his satisfaction. He wrote:
Creativity is not a faucet.
That same tired witticism he had picked up from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Not very creative. This was not some e-mail to a junior.
Lately, Gopal had been exploring the effects of the environment and elaborately designed mood scenarios on writing quality, the null hypothesis being that no morbid or weak thoughts could be forthcoming from the nourished, fresh-coffee-equipped soul, on a satisfactorily-lit Chennai morning. He wrote again:
"I'll give you 30 seconds in heaven", she said. "What, literally?" he retorted, faking a nervous laugh, by now. "Yeah, my name is heaven". He was snubbed.
No, no that’s not right. That’s terrible. He was snubbed? Snubbed? Staccato. Faking a nervous laugh? More like trying too hard and not enough altogether at once. No flow. My name is heaven?! Stand-up comedy? He scratched it out and tried again.
“I’ll give you 30 seconds in heaven”, she said. “What, literally?” he retorted, trying on a macho, assured laugh. Wrong move. The ‘Wh’ came out high pitched. He kicked himself internally, but it showed and she laughed. In future recountings of the incident to himself, he would always stress that her laughter was knowing and amused, a laughter of the eye, an ‘I get you, and that’s cool’ signal rather than an exposing, sarcastic laughter. “Yeah,” she replied with a blank stare, quickly checking her impulse to flash a smile, “my name is heaven”. Her future recountings of this moment were fond, and slightly self-congratulatory on account of her spontaneous naughtiness.
Better already. The drama was unfolding neatly. But the punchline had moved too far away for a reader to make the connection. But at this point Gopal checked himself. Too much academic writing, reader simulations, paragraph conjunctions. Humbug. More importantly, this was far from morbid. He seemed to be deviating from the task at hand. Was the null hypothesis undeniable? He tried again. Directness with two esses.
He had fucked a whore, bought himself a ticket to intimacy, barely conscious of the possibility of future remorse. He would later learn to describe this moment as a signing away of his 'claim to have always strived for the greatest good'.
Big deal. That came out just preachy, not morbid.