Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Storyteller's Diary

The Storyteller's Diary

"We'll never know why people enter our lives....we'll never know why they leave. It is in these pages I preserve them..." The introduction to the diary read.

There was a bag next to the diary. It belonged to the owner no doubt. The train whistled and moved out of the station. Ten minutes later, the owner hadn't returned to claim the bag...or the diary. I was curious and turned the pages.....

Each page contained a different handwriting. The diary clearly didn't belong to a single person. Or atleast the content. I started reading, from a random page:

"The old lady still haunts me. She was  distantly related to my grandmother. Though we never spoke of her often. All we knew was that she'd come to our home once a month. She would go directly to the place where my grandmother's picture was hung, after her death. She would look at the picture intently. Then curse her for a long time. After a while, it would be praise. I still don't know why she cursed...neither do I know why she praised. But then, there was this depth of feeling when she spoke that I can never forget.....I sometimes thought she was senile....

Then that day..she entered our home. She didn't go to my grandmother's photo at all. She asked my wife to serve her food. We were taken aback. She had never asked even a drop of water. We served her anyway. She wanted just rice. No Sambhar...no curds I've never seen anyone eat with such gluttony. She ate as much as my entire family would eat in a meal. And weirdly, didn't drink a drop of water. She then massaged her stomach...I'd never seen a sane woman do that. She then looked at me intently and said 'Today....I'm satisfied'. She walked out of our home, without even looking at my grandmother's photo.

She didn't come back the next month. Or the month after that. Six months later, I wanted to find out what happened to her. Weirdly, we were missing her. Or it was more the phenomenon of her monthly appearance that we were so used to, that we were missing. I went to her home - in a village some 10 kilometres east from my place. When I asked her son, he said she was dead for more than a year now.............I barged in, not willing to believe. And there it was...her picture hung on a wall, with a death date that said it had been 14 months since she died.

In a corner, there was also a picture of hers with my grandmother. It had to be her. But how was it that she was in my home six months ago.........I still wonder. If she was a ghost....it defies logic....but then, she could never be human.....she still haunts my dreams sometimes...I can never confide this to my family for they'll get scared too...but yes...she haunts me...


I closed the diary for a moment. I realised it was someone else's property and placed it on the owner's seat. The owner was nowhere in sight yet. My impulse yearned for an other look. An other read.I snatched the diary into my hands and started reading.......

"I started stealing by accident. I was involved in a robbery when I was very young. My father made me climb the attic of his in-laws' home - just because only I would fit there. I passed him all the gold. In the morning, he was gone...away from my life....and my mother's. I don't know if the incident showed the way or just reinforced destiny...but I took to robbery for my livelihood. 

I never rob poor homes though. I mark my victims with care. People who're rich and can 'afford' a robbery are my targets. And I also make sure that I use a part of the money to help the needy. It eases my conscience in a way.

It was on a summer morning that I entered a house. There was a young girl playing in the garden. For over a week, I had observed the routine in the house. The parents would leave for office, leaving the girl in the care of a maid. The maid would play for some time with the girl. Then she'd go out and return after an hour. That was my chance. 

I tiptoed into the parents' bedroom. I suddenly sensed someone following me. It was the girl. She smiled innocently. I smiled back. I told her I was her father's friend from office. And that he had instructed me to get certain stuff from the house. Without further thought, I robbed the house of its valuables. It was when I was leaving, that the girl called out to me and waved at me. A sweet sign of good-bye.

That good-bye had an impact. The image of the girl waving at me has never left me. It makes me feel guilty. It reminds me of the charm, the innocence of childhood - something I couldn't experience because of my father. It hasn't made me guilty enough to quit stealing...I guess it's something hereditary. But then, I still send an envelope with some money to that house every year, on the day I made the robbery. It's not that the robbery hurt them; I feel that that particular robbery hurt me more than it hurt them. To send the money  is the only way I can relieve some amount of the pain....."


This came from a completely different personality. The diary seemed to be a gold-mine of experiences from people in various walks of life. I couldn't resist reading a third page.......

"I was happily married for 3 years when I met him. It's just that some people..you're destined to meet them. And later you wonder why you met them. 

He was young, single, charming and sincere. No airs about him. Plain. I still can't understand what was so special about him. We met in office and our thoughts linked instantly. Our ideas mirrored each other. Our thoughts connected in a brilliant way. Naturally, we became good friends. 

And suddenly, I felt our gazes met a little too often. He'd look for me. I secretly wanted him to look for me. I'd look for him unknowingly. And when we met and talked, my pulse would start racing. I could sense his anxiety too.

I still felt there was no cause for alarm. But then, I started thinking about him at home too. My husband caught me thrice - preoccupied like never before. And then, out of the blue, he confessed. He was as sincere as ever. Admitted that he never wanted to be a thorn in my marital life and would walk out of my life with a transfer at work. I guess I melted there. I confessed too. But somewhere, I guess I wanted his presence. I told him not to take such drastic steps. That we could remain colleagues and maintain a certain respectable distance, emotionally.

He went on leave for a week, telling he needed time. When he came back, he waved at me. I went to his desk and shook hands with him. And for whatever reason, that touch sparked a sense of guilt that I wasn't able to extinguish for a long time. We'd shook hands hundreds of times. But then there was something different about the experience that day....that made it unbearable for me to even look at him.

I tried reconciling for 2 weeks. I could not. I decided enough was enough and quit the job. I didn't even look at him even on the last day. He has tried contacting me many times since then. Most times he's been sincere, apologetic. His mails, messages...all speak of how he tried to be just a good colleague...and the rest was a momentary lapse on his part......I never respond. He'll stop trying to contact me soon..I hope.

To this day, I believe him. May be, a part of the mistake was mine as well. And may be, if we hadn't confessed to each other, we'd never have been guilty. But then..would it have been right? I still feel bad for him. May be I could have handled the situation better. But then....I had to save what was already mine....the people in my world. He was just a mirage......"


An old man walked in and sat opposite me. He was almost bald. He wore a kurta-pyjama and a pair of dark glasses. I didn't have the time to put the diary back in its place and was caught red-handed. 

"So.....you liked the diary?" he asked.
"Quite a bit...I understand that these are experiences of different people...." I said.
"True that."
"But how did you get them to write it for you?" I asked. Curious than ever.
He smiled. "Do you think they'll ever open up to write in a diary? Actually write in a stranger's book?"
I felt sheepish. Ofcourse not. "So....what about the different handwritings?" I asked.
He removed his glasses. I could see he was blind.

"I was born almost blind, young man. And I turned completely blind when I was 3 years. It was darkness. My mother raised me. She had immense patience. She made me touch and feel objects to understand their shape. I could never read or write. My parents didn't know Braille even existed, at that time. Now, I don't have the motivation to learn. But then, I always wanted to be an author. So....this is my book...."

"I don't understand...so these experiences...? They're not original...is it just fiction?" I asked.

"Not completely. But then they're not completely true either. I have this unique quality of getting people to open up. It's probably because I'm blind. People feel secure confiding in me. And me being an aspiring author, I never stop them. I listen to them. Record their experiences in my memory. Then tweak a detail or two and present the story in the diary."

"But then, what about the different handwritings?"

The old man smiled. "If I said I had an interesting story that could help you pass time on this rather boring journey...wouldn't you offer to write it for me? Specially when you know you can read more from that interesting diary of mine..."

Somewhere, I understood he'd tricked me to doing the writing for him, though he never said it aloud. As though by instinct, I took out a pen from my pocket.

"That's nice...you're ready already" he chuckled. The train coasted along...and so did the Storyteller's Diary....

                                                                                     - 15th June 2014

This is my 50th Post in this blog. It has been a journey of almost 5 years. It is my opinion that experience is the Mother of all writing. Thanks to people who've made me go through experiences, which have inspired many posts in this blog. I've also witnessed and listened to people's experiences - and that has been of immense value. Thanks for the opportunity. An author never feels his work is complete, until he's read by an audience. Thanks to all you readers - both regular and non-regular. The feedback, the criticism..always inspire.
"We'll never know why people enter our lives....we'll never know why they leave. It is in these pages I preserve them..."