Sunday, February 19, 2012

Indian Literature

This is a moment of pride, and honour. A short story, written by yours truly, has be published in the special, ‘Same Sex Love’ fiction issue of ‘Indian Literature’ (Nov-Dec 2011). ‘Indian Literature’ is the bi-monthly journal published by the Sahitya Akademi, the Indian academy of letters. I’m told that being part of the ‘Indian Literature’ is a big deal. So, I guess, this is my moment of arrival.

The story is called ‘Let Me Sin Then!’, about a Buddhist monk in mediaeval India. The story was written a long time ago, and went though a number of revisions. It all started with a name — Mitrabasu. The title was suggested by an American friend of mine.

A long time ago, I had posted the story in this very blog (since I’ve deleted it!); the story was also published in a small time-magazine sometimes back. Since then I’ve revised the story a bit.

The following are a few paragraphs from the story:

One day, it was all over. I was awarded the highest degree. I returned home, a winner. My father was a happy man. He would show every visitor to the household, the sanchi scroll that I received as a token of my achievement. I was the first in my clan to achieve such height of scholarship. I was the icon of pride in the household, a preciously cut and polished diamond.

Once again, I began to grow hair. Once again I started to wear silk, gold ornaments with sparkling jewels wrought in it, sandal paste on my forehead, and flowers around my neck, such as a nagarika in Pataliputra dressed. I began to drink madira. I even visited courtesan Madanamanjari’s palace on several occasions, hoping to get some solace. But her sad songs played on a harp made me more desperate.

I would run through the empty streets at night looking for Varunmohan. I was not happy, not a bit. There was something missing beyond my stupendous luxuries. Sleeping on the plush couch in my father’s oppulent house, I longed for the rocky bed of my Nalanda room. I longed for those days in Nalanda in desperation.

And today, sleeping on a bed like those of Nalanda, I am not happy either. Sankhaneel tells me, happiness is a state of mind. I understand. But my mind is no longer there with me. My mind roves around in Nalanda. It searches for him everywhere, Varunmohan. But he can’t be found. He is no longer there in Nalanda. He is no longer the same Varunmohan I knew in Nalanda.

This place where I live now is a warm country. After leaving home on that fateful night, I walked for three months with Sankhaneel to reach this place, to a Buddhist monastery among arid mountains. They call the place Amravati. But I can see no sign of Lord Indra’s heavenly kingdom here. The place is inhumanly solitary. The nearest village is half a day’s journey. Except for chanting of my fellow brothers, I can hear nothing. Even no birds come here for food. I cannot have my peace of mind. I remain restless. I cannot sleep, or chant mantra, or read, or do dhyana. I walk alone among the gray mountains searching for him who cannot be found. My feet bleed, tears flow from my eyes. But I cannot rest. I cannot forget him. I cannot have my peace of mind.

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