Once It Is Done
Reader: Writer, write me a fabulous story. Pack it with all the surprise you can imagine, make characters nobler than those of yesteryears, make the men forthright and famous and let the women be as beautiful and intriguing as Cleopatra. Let each word explode a new universe. Let each chapter be the beginning of a fairy tale more apocryphal than unbelievable. Let each twist be measured as precisely as the hands of a Swiss watch and let the leash of narration be held so tightly that no one personage can even dream of opening a collar button to let some air in without your permission.
Writer: Reader, were I to do it I fear I would not be récompensed for my efforts. If the story is well-set you would say le langage n’est pas élegant. If the turn of phrase is very elegant, you would say the writer has talent but is unable to master the narrative form. Long sentences would lead to accusations of apathy, short sentences would mean I insult the reader’s intelligence. Overt references to elders would lead to charges of plagiarism, lack of secondary sources would mean I lack formal education. While I do this, the very roof under which I stand threatens to collapse on to my head. Would you supply the oil for the lamp which burns night after night into extinguishment? Would you replace me in bed as my wife waits incumbent so that we can do justice to our marital bed? Who will feed my infants’ teeming mouths? It is easy to say but difficult to imagine.
Reader: Is it not enough for you that someone should read your lies when the whole truth of your existence no one cares a fig about?
Writer: Would it be enough for you if the lies I write on the page were to take form in real life and replace me and the sordid conditions of my existence? Who will grab hold of the pen then and who will write?
Reader: Writer, you are not God, but a measly being who seeks to live off the virtues and misfortunes of others. Do not forget playwrights like you are a dime a dozen in every blasted marketplace of the world.
Writer: As measly a being that is allowed to exist, I name my own price and the terms on which my services might be bought, namely that I be allowed to exist in conditions which are similar or better.
Reader: Writer, you are a difficult being.
Writer: Reader, nothing great is produced without difficulty.
Reader: Come on, writer, I would make you the king of the world if you were to please me. I would fill your coffers with gold, offer you a choice of a hundred select beauties rotated biannually in your harem, your children would have ivory playthings to tickle themselves with and the walls of the house you live in would be of precious gem-encrusted marble.
Writer: Of what use are marble tables and chairs of gold to me when all I want to do is to be able to sit down and write. I might as well do it on a stub of saucisson and my humble glass of wine.
Reader: If you refuse to do this, I will chop off your hands and throw you in the darkest prison humankind can invent. Let me see how you then get on with the task of babbling unnecessary lies and asking us to take you seriously for them.
Writer: In that case, with my blood I shall write, for as pénible as this vocation is to me, I cannot live a day without it. Anyway I cannot bear to look at my work once it is done.
Arjun Razdan writes in English currently, and has been educated at the universities of Mumbai (St.Xavier’s College), Oxford (UK), Lyon, and Paris (Sorbonne). He has lived in the French provinces since 2011 (except for one year in Paris) and was born in the erstwhile princely state of Kashmir.