“Once Anton Chekhov”, I said to my chum, “told his friend that a good writer just has to see an object and he should be able to write a story about it. His friend was skeptical about it and challenged Chekhov to invent a story about a table knife (they were at a restaurant). Chekhov responded with a masterpiece to prove his point.”
My friend too was interested and asked me, “Could you do it too? I mean, I will give you an idea and you can make a story about it.”
Before I could respond he gave me a lead, “A boy and a girl …”. There were possibilities so I just made a whimsical start by adding further that, ‘A poor boy and a rich girl meet in a college.” My friend – the eternal romantic – gushed in to say, “Oh! You mean to say that the girl was rich and conceited and a mediocre student while the boy was poor, principled, intelligent and modest as well.”
This was going to be fun so I retorted, “No, actually it was just the reverse. You see the girl had all the advantages of money and society which helped her procure a good education.While to the boy’s credit, I would say, that he was keen on self-improvement else he would not have survived his sordid surroundings. Nonetheless poverty prevented him from tapping his full potential. Well anyway they became friends.”
“And fell in love at the first sight”, exclaimed my friend. I wanted to rub it in so taunted him, “Certainly not, how foolish of you to suggest that considering that their interests were as different as chalk and cheese. She was well read and had a good taste for art and culture, music and theater. In stark contrast, the boy struggled to exist. When he was not studying, he strove to eke out his living. But the girl befriended him, wanting to show him the better side of life and to teach him some social skills.”
“And at least he was a good student ..”, squeaked my friend half-heartedly sensing that I had other fish to fry. I was enjoying myself by now and so continued to play spoil sport and added, “Actually he couldn’t relate to it at all. All he saw was extravagance and ostentation. He felt that the rich don’t realize their money’s worth and so squander it.”
My friend protested fiercely forgetting that it was only a story, “Well he has a point you see. There is so much fantastic waste …”
I didn’t let him proceed any further and cut him short by saying, “Listen, we are not discussing tastes and proprieties. All riches are relative. Anyway the point is that the boy didn’t appreciate it and so the girl was disappointed. Finally they parted ways feeling that they had nothing in common.”
So there it was – a sad end to my tale, I thought. My friend still saw possibilities to take it further, “And many years later, they met when he had worked out his guts to achieve riches and they lived happily ever after.” How is that to talk about the “never-say-die” spirit.
“Hah! You dreamer … no, they never met again. She married a business tycoon worth millions while he became a clerk and married the plain and virtuous daughter of the retired school teacher of his village. He was destined to spend the rest of his life in misery forever struggling to make two ends meet. He looked old and weary when he was barely in his 30s ..”
My friend could not stand the negativity any longer and flashed out in anger, “What kind of cock and bull story is this.”
‘A story with a difference.”, I concluded, with a smile.
This article appeared in ‘The Middle’ column of a local newspaper, ‘Maharashtra Herald’ in Pune, India on Sept 15, 1997. I have added a few things from my original notes because the published story was all smashed up to fit the word limit requirement.
It was made up in a moment of light-hearted fun but it also reflects my aversion to believe in the convenient ‘fairy tale’ happy endings even then. And it was my rebel phase as well wherein you tend to have a worldview, ‘I am not OK – You are not OK’. Thankfully most of us grow out of it.
Looking back now I am still amused by the creativity and imagination shown in the repartee though it could have been toned down a bit. I believe this one will pass muster to be regarded as ‘readable’.