On Trying to Write a Short Story

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Long but not too many years ago, after having read a significant number of books of poetry, essays, novels, pornography, religion, health, self-help and many other topics in both Hindi and English, I determined that I would write a short story someday. Yes, a short story… Not a novel or a poem or an erotica, but a decent short story.

Well, there are many reasons why I chose a short story only. Firstly, it is less complex to understand and easy to draw a uniform meaning out of than in case of poems. Secondly, a short story is shorter than a novel and an impatient reader like me feels easier to start reading a short story than a novel. One does not have to  refer back the pages already read as in case books of several volumes. There can be many more reasons but let me not dwell upon them for now.

So here I was, just wanted to write a short story without an idea about what to write. However the only idea I had was that I would write a short story which would be set in places similar to the places in Ruskin Bond’s stories, the story would have unexpected twists like in Roald Dahl’s, and touching moments of sorrow and pain as in Prem Chand’s stories. And all this would be blended with some heart-warming and then some heart-breaking romantic trash.

 For a couple of years, I tried to discover an idea for my story but never succeeded. Most of the times, the idea was either too unexciting or too similar to an existing masterpiece. And sometimes the idea was so autobiographical and so much about me that I did not consider appropriate revealing it for my own good.  So I decided to be patient thinking that someday the idea itself might come to me spontaneously and unexpectedly, like it were destined.

 Another year and many books passed by but that idea did not come to me.

 So ultimately, I decided to draw inspiration from somewhere and started writing the short story of my dream which I intended to be a one-sided love-story of a male book —a cheap book of badly written folk songs— which is brought to a library located in a beautiful hill where it falls in love with a pretty female book of Ruba’is (a kind of Persian poetry).

Awkward, isn’t it?

The story was to be set in snow-capped mountains and was to have a lot of twists and turns, love, pain and some ‘sex’, maybe.

After weaving this idea which seemed great to me, I started writing this story a few days back with a lot of excitement. But it is only a few paragraphs I have completed, and have already realized that with so many indescribable limitations of mine, including laziness and hatred for love stories,  I am not enough efficient and capable of writing such a story which would include a sex-scene  between two books.

So finally, I am quitting this dream as of now. However, without any expectation of getting any appreciation, I am sharing whatever I have written so far.

Hope you try your best to like it!

Here it goes:

Title: Was to be decided when I could have finish the story

Centuries ago, when the Mughals built the Shahi Quila in Lahore, there were a lot of large and precious stones which remained after the grand construction of the Fort. In order not to waste them, a wise man in the emperor’s court proposed them to be taken to a valley located on the foots of Hindukush Mountains, about 400 miles from the city of Lahore, to build a beautiful library where the readers, poets, authors and loners could find solace and solitude.

In that era, it was a unique proposal which the emperor did not decline and this beautiful library was built in the valley.

The library was surrounded by great mountains and beautiful forests. In the summers, one could see the green hue of the woods from the bottom to top of the hills. And in the winters, the serene beauty of the snow-capped mountain-peaks in background of blue sky could be relished while sitting beside the fireplace with a book of shairi and a pot full of Kuhwa.

 During snow-falls, it was the grand brown wooden gates of the library that caught the first attention of a visitor visiting the library, even from miles away. When he entered the library and closed the gate behind his back, he felt all his miseries gone.  All the pains seemed cured the moment his eyes met with the view of several racks of dark red and brown covered and beautifully bound books and the orange light of the fire-place and candles which illuminated the library.

The library was full of books of Urdu and Persian Poetry and Philosophy written by Great Poets,Sufi Saints and Royal Courtiers. And later on, when the British came, although they gave these old books their due space and importance, they renovated the library in Western style and brought her great books of Western History, Botany, Chemistry and English and French Literature along with some newly found Kamasutra books.

Even after all this beauty and arrangement, the place had been visited only by a handful of people. Since the library was in a remote part of the country led to by a dangerous trek in the mountains which either the brave or the passionate dared to embark for.

It was 1947, when the partition of India was taking place. And it was decided that all the assets including furniture, bells, vehicles, currency, weapons and many other things including books  will be divided between the two nation– India and Pakistan— bigger share to India and smaller to Pakistan.

Many books, even the dictionaries were torn in some pre-decided uneven ratio. For instance, a dictionary’s pages of words starting from letter ‘A’ to letter ‘N’ were given to India and rest up to the letter ‘Z’ to Pakistan. However, there were some lucky books also which were not torn but just were to be sent to one country from the another.

In Jaunpur, a small district in today’s Uttar Pradesh, India, on a sunny August afternoon, two library clerks— one representing India and another, Pakistan– were segregating the books to be sent to Pakistan. They segregated a pile of books and loaded them in a bullock-cart which was set to go to Pakistan.

Three months later, on a cold winter morning, bundles of books from India were brought to the remote library in the mountains. Apparently, these books did not worth to be put in any of the cities’ well-known libraries of newly born Pakistan. The Pakistanis thought, India had sent them only trash in the name of the books. In fact, both of the countries had done the same to one-another.

The poor servant at the library who was an orphan and worked there for food and shelter which he could find nowhere else in the area, started unloading the cart loaded with the old rotten books. As ordered by the caretaker, he arranged these cheap looking termite-eaten books in the shelf located in the farthest and the last row of the library.

By the time the allotted shelf for these rotten books was full and could not stand even one more book, there was only this small and ill-bound book of folk songs still left. Without much thoughts, the tired servant put this last book on the heap of hay and woods which were to be used for fire later that winter.

A few feet next to the heap was the grand shelf which was located beside the west side window of the library, from where the snow-covered peaks of the Hindukush Mountains and setting sun at the dusk time were visible. It was the best possible view for any man or for any book (if it could see) in the library.

The books kept in this shelf next to the window were the luckiest and the most deserving for that view. These were the rare books of Ruba’is which were favorites among the frequent visitors to the library. While he— the ugly book from ill-literate Indian Province– was lying there on the heaps of hay and wood, behind the very shelf where these Persian beauties were kept.

He was moist with all the snow that fell on him in the cart on the way to the library. Since he was not well-bound, at this new cold place, he felt so cold that he feared that the string which held together all his pages will break very soon. It felt chilly all the way into the innermost page of his being. But most of all, he felt loneliness and sorrow.

Somehow he was trying to comfort himself by remembering his days in his last library which was located in a warm place— India. He remembered how not being properly book-bound as the English books were, never mattered to him as far has those village folk singers learned and sang songs from his pages, as far as the song contained in him were danced on, as far as the kajaries contained in him was enjoyed by drunk villagers. 

But this remembrance gave him only pain and hopelessness.

=End of Writing the Short Story=

….

Well, only this far I could write.

If you liked it, create and imagine the story forward from this point as if it were you writing this story.

And if you didn’t like it, let me tell you this is exactly what I expected.

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