by Mira Desai
Alex Pinto pushed his hands deeper into his pockets and trudged down Calangute beach. Wet sand squelched underfoot. A rough wind whipped the waves high and ruffled the palms lining the shore. A school of gulls cackled overhead, wheeling homewards.
The sky grew darker by the minute. A storm would hit shortly, a monstrous storm; the kind that would bend trees to the ground and turn night into day, crackling with electricity.
Once this sight would have got him whistling – the growl of thunder, fireworks in the sky, the plop of raindrops – he’d be happy, drenched. A hot toddy and some bhajis would’ve taken care of the chill. And then he’d have written a poem, or a story about a captain lost at sea some stormy night, whisked away to some neverland, or to outerspace …
Written. Wrote. Write. Would have written. Writers write.
But not any more. The words were gone. Kaput.
That bit of nastiness at the local writer’s club – perhaps Tabitha was right, perhaps he didn’t have it in him. “Just a hobby, like the gentlemen of Olde England played croquet to pass the time …”
That spate of rejections, one after the other, a flurry of no’s – all form letters. Nasty. That had cut.
He’d sit in front of his laptop, type in a line or two, hit delete. He’d perch by the window with a rough pad and his trusted ballpoint, and doodle or sketch clouds. And then he’d surf channels aimlessly, staring at all the lucky people, the plastic and shiny people who seemed to have it all, churning out novel after novel, officiating at literary launches, and sprouting quotes with ease.
And he’d fall into one of his black spells, pondering upon the past, dissecting scenes with skill, spend hours debating if he should have stuck to that ad agency job in Mumbai, even though the city had sucked the lifeblood out of him.
Three months now and the words refused to budge. Maybe Tabitha was right, the girl had studied in New York, you know – maybe he just got lucky that once with the script for that competition, beginner’s luck, and you cannot be lucky all the time. Maybe he should get back to smooth-talking the clients, the words just a will ’o wisp. Perhaps tinkering with words just a hobby, not his life’s work …
He rounded the corner by the cove. Jim’s tea shack was a speck in the distance. What gumption, the man was still open in this weather.
“Foul weather for a cuppa,” he shouted into the wind, shielding his eyes from grit, half his words blown away.
“Rough weather, but I can try,” Jim replied, pointing to the shielded stove. “Or use a shortcut,” he said, offering a thermos and a glass.
“That’s neat … but don’t you want to go home?”
“Every year there’s monsoon. And every monsoon has a few storms. Can’t keep idling all the time, gotta show up. Am the tea-man, aren’t I?”
Alex gulped the chai, put the glass back on the cart and surprised the old man by briskly shaking his hand and saluting.
“Right sir, gotta show up,” he said, and turned back home, to keep his tryst with words.
published 23 October 2013