By Devraj Singh Kalsi
Picking up a second-hand classic from a College Street bookshop before entering the Coffee House made you feel like a literary icon in the making even if your secret mission was to clear the national or state level entrance test and join any college as a lecturer. Having a girlfriend who saw in you the potential to become the next big novelist or a poet par excellence with utmost sensitivity – just because you took unusually long to gently push back a curl of hair from her face – was fine to stay motivated but you knew full well that she was creating a romantic rebel for a torrid fling before marrying a businessman or a secure job holder. So when she insisted you should write and write and write, she was pushing you into a dark pit from where you would never emerge again to give her a chase and disrupt her marital harmony by sending across your self-published volumes of poetry in India or in obscure journals abroad to prove her right.
If you are a professor who wanted to be a writer or a poet, you have probably saved yourself from imagining the peak of literary success too early. If you have become a writer or poet because of a girlfriend who wanted to love a literary guy, you have done the worst by following her advice. You stand ruined because of love, love, and love alone – love that not only made you lose her but also your career.
It is not a tough task to find tutors and trainers who were once upon a time literary dreamers. Once they lost the plot and the pressure of survival took a toll, they had to take up odd jobs. In their possession, you found a trove of poems written as an ode to the lost love, the burden of amateurish stories that are amusing to read today but were once considered classic material by a bevy of garrulous girls in the canteen. You read out those to her sitting in the park and she fiddled with her locks and admired your stuff with an orgasmic wow. You were inspired to write love poems and you wrote dozens and read them all to her. She was thrilled she was creating a poet for the world to applaud – a poet who made her the muse. If you were a campus poet or a lyrical bloke of such intensity for years, console yourself for the inevitable self-destruction you have brought home. If you have been able to salvage your life from the ruins she left you in, consider yourself a lucky fellow. Because most of such types seldom recover later: some go mad trying to prove the correctness of their muse and spend their life in an asylum, some end their lives by committing suicide and some die in abject poverty.
Those young guys who became poets and writers in their college and university days to win the love of the girlfriend or to woo the most beautiful girl around and impress her were the ones who belonged to a sad club of jilted lovers. These guys eulogised their lovers to the skies and they were rewarded with hugs and kisses. They continued to prove an artist was throbbing, lurking, or blooming somewhere inside while the beauties mapped out their future well. One fine day they would come to inform about their marriage that was part-arranged part-love, to deliver a formal invitation to come and shower red roses and marigolds for their happy married life or play on the grand piano a mushy song topped with best wishes for the future.
You did not realise she had no dream of struggling with an artist and dumped you at the earliest, expecting that this heartbreak would just be the right blow to make you write a masterpiece. Unable to bear the rejection you went to a bar, gulped down several pegs to drain out the last dregs of sorrow, and spent the dark, treacherous night comforted by a matronly courtesan who understood your heartbreak and shared her saga of betrayals in love that continued till the wee hours of the morning.
The vivid memories of lost love remained and you channelised the passion to write an ambitious novel that consumed three critical years and you spent another three to get it published. By this time you were well past the age to be eligible for competitive exams. If there is a survey done to gauge the extent of damage done to spurned lovers in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you will find many middle-aged and senior citizens now regretting fulsome praise from lissome campus beauties who spotted talent where editors found nothing literary. .
If you meet any such writer or poet who destroyed his life for the sake of unrequited love, please show him some sympathy. If there is any romantic fool in the family or the neighbourhood who still adores lost love and feels her true love will make things turnaround soon, there is nothing more illusory for the eternal optimist who refuses to see the reality around and still thinks she was right not to waste her life for him. Although this misfortune was a creation of his choice, it is sad he was made to overestimate himself, like an overvalued stock in the market that would crash anytime. Was it right for the guy to think he was a literary sensation just because a girl or her cabal of friends told him so? For a sound reality check, he should have approached the head of the department and got his creative writing skills assessed with objectivity or tried sending his output to magazines and newspapers – to experience rejection in love and rejection by editors simultaneously.
And yes, had the girl wanted to choose him, she would have certainly taken him away from creativity or urged him to try these things later. How could she commit such a crime? It would have led to a sacrifice of another kind – separation from art for love’s sake.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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