How much?


An unusual mix

They gathered, the six jury members, to decide the best novel of the year. Shortlisted entries were on the shelf, all six of them leaning above each other, some thick some no so much. Before the judges sat together for reading, they thought it would be a good idea to get a few drinks. They went to a nearby bar leaving a window, or two, open. A cold gust of wind came and made the pages of the topmost book flutter. A character walked out. He strolled through the alley of fine literature, touching the lengths of books like walls of an ancient building. He opened other books like doors, and more characters came out. They took turns to introduce themselves, and, while judges were having a ball - raising toasts in the bar - here, these semi-opaque characters were too having a great time - laughing and telling tales they had come from. Then there was a sound of a knob clicking. The judges came in. The characters ran in confused directions, and everyone just jumped into the nearest novel; All of them ended up in the novels they didn't belong to. It was not funny because whole lives were changed: an illiterate driver who had killed his master in his original novel, now found himself teaching algebra in a primary school. The reading went on for weeks and a collective observation of the judges was published on the website: The mix this year is very different, very unusual. The winner was announced, and as the characters had remained intact in the copies sold worldwide, nobody thought the winner that year was a fair choice.


I am going to push the moon behind that, father said, pointing to the mountain across the town.

Son thought about it for a while. You mean the main moon? he asked, familiar with his father’s poetic implications.

Yes, the main moon, father replied, laughing a bit.

Behind that mountain?

That’s the one.

Alright, said the son, getting ready for the story.

In the breezy night of summer, they were on the roof, lying next to each other, sinking in the middle of a hammock-like cot, looking at the dark universe. Breeze from the nearby orchard brought with it just the right amount of familiar fragrance. On the way to moon, there are over a million villages, father said. They are invisible just because they are far away. What looks like dust might as well be a galaxy of villages with their own populations, transportation systems, health facilities, roads and everything.

In one particular village, he said, lives your mother. She has become a witch.

The idea of his dead mother living somewhere-else indulging in witchcraft was awkward. Curious and upset, he nodded asking for more. But not the harmful kind, father added, realising who he was talking about. She just tells futures; good and bad. That’s all.

The story moved on. Father crossed more villages and rivers, describing great wars, famines and sufferings of the people, and the son listened, believing in everything, visualising the encounters, his eyes firmly fixed on moon that could be pushed away anytime now. For a moment it occurred to him that he might be lying with the greatest father in the world, because at this ungodly hour, when all the other fathers in town were busy snoring, sleeping with their extended families, this one was actually doing stuff. Derailed from the story, son started to feel drowsy.

Soon, as a result of the planetary motion, moon dipped behind the said mountain, saying goodbye to its clouds, leaving them with a cold, uniform glow that wouldn’t last either. At that time, father cleverly brought his story to an abruptly subtle ending. How was the story, he asked his son who was deep in sleep. He jolted him. How was the story, tell me, how was it! Son opened his eyes and found the moon already gone. Very good, father, he replied most politely. Then he turned to his side and closed his eyes, waiting for the dreams to come to him and paint everything that he had missed.


Once, in a village, there was a boy who only wanted to paint. He smeared on his canvas detailed country landscapes, veiled village women, vigorous, heaving horses, vibrant kites fluttering in the sky, bullock-carts, vicious dogs chasing naked babies, and skinned them all of their beauty. So meticulously maneuvered were his brushstrokes, so apt his color, and so strong his desire to recreate world on his own canvas, only more beautiful. And so glad was his father. Einar’s father, he thought, they'd say, passing him on the street.

Things in Einar’s paintings did look more delightful than their real life counterparts. It was as if he was competing against the creator of the world. Mine’s better than Yours!

People who were exposed to his works – by want or accident – unanimously found themselves generally losing interest in life. Like an awful drug, his paintings created addicts who always wanted more visual delight than reality had to offer. Being an artist he was oblivious to all this, but the harmful outcomes were there; the town was growing sadder by the day.

He kept churning out painting after another painting – cloudburst, awakening, djinn, traces of summer, refusal, and so many others, and slowly, but progressively sucked village-life into a deathly oblivion of disinterest. Too late when the jeopardy was discovered, and there was hardly anything left to be done. If the boy continued to paint, more villagers would fall prey to his produce. If he stopped, those hungry for his art would perish. An off the cuff solution was proposed: separate the two worlds. Physically, that is. Keep those uninformed of his art in one compartment and the rest in another. It didn’t work out; couldn’t have.

Einar, like artists do, became an object of hatred, and deservingly so, for he had poisoned thousands of lives. Thrown them in the mouth of misery.

Generations have lived in that village since, and suffered its horrible history again and again, enduring, surviving, getting infected, getting killed even, having their moments of ecstasy nonetheless, and dancing with joy, but also, weeping against wood in the nights. Past has succeeded to survive. And made wise by this peculiar past, parents in that village still shudder at the first visible signs of creativity in their children.