This is a true story.
I was in Jawaharlal Nehru Public Library, Kannur. It was a Friday evening. Time—almost 5.30. I had made the visit to the library a habit from that very week after I started scribbling down something that made me feel as writing my first novel. Writing that story something that, I felt, could extend into a book was highly delightful and relaxing.
After my daily classes where I was working as a lecturer, I would reach the library at around four in the evening, and engage in reading and writing until six. Then I would catch my bus home. For almost four days, these two hours of exclusive literary activity rejuvenated my soul that was decaying from the lack of time I was able to devote to any literary deed, sometimes due to my hectic schedules and at times due to the one step I could not take—daring to challenge time.
I challenged time this time and, I won—or that was what I thought, until I had my other experience in the Friday evening about which I began. I opened my note book and my pen rocketed with the instillation of ideas my mind supplied, although pace in a writing process does not contribute anything special to the product or producer. But pace gives a feeling of self satisfaction when thinking of the writing process later, cherishing the unhindered ease one enjoyed in the creative activity. This would be a helpful memory, especially when you are fighting your writer’s block; a memory which you can recall and savour. In some corner of your conscious awareness you can rejoice about the extraordinary zeal you were adorned with.
Someone tapped on my shoulder, the left one. But I could not find anyone, when I looked back. Who would that be—playing fun with me here? I looked back again and found a white clad man on my right. He was in full white—white shirt and white dhoti and white hair on his scalp and face.
His ugly face took a nefarious twitch. “I have been watching you writing something for a hell lot of time. What is it?”—he scowled.
He was the caretaker of the library. There were usually two caretakers excluding the librarian, both of them were old with white “uniforms”. The library was a two storey building with its book shelves situated in the ground floor. The ground floor was structured into three halls, one—a reading room for the public, where one can find news papers in English and in Malayalam, two—the vacant hall adjacent to it, where at times book exhibitions and sales and also some conferences take place, and three—the library with shelves of books. The top floor was a long empty hall which was used for book exhibitions and for conducting conferences.
And this man, his eyes with scorn in them for me and for my art, said—“This place is not meant to writing. Only reading,”—he was murmuring and for sure, wanted me to hear it. It was like throwing one out of one’s comfy writing room: yes, it was, for me.
Jawaharlal Nehru Public Library, Kannur was the place where it all started—my serious pursuit of literature, the quest for the magic of words and writing. And I called it my second home.
The sun was curving in the horizon. The street outside was varnished with a grayish evening charm. But everything went dark around me, even though it was no time for the streets to bath in darkness. I sat there trying to gain back my thoughts, to balance the world of my creativity and the present one close t hand, tangible. I won’t prefer calling the present tangible situation ‘real’ as people do, for it creates a breach between the individual and the Attainable. Every individual is capable of changing the world around him or her according to his or her own inner tastes. But when this world outside is identified as ‘real’, it cancels the vastness of possibilities. Because usually, the word ‘real’ is equated with the word ‘truth’—for most of us, something ‘real’ is ‘true’ too, forgetting that reality is only one dimension of human existence and there could be other equally significant dimensions as well. But if what the man was trying to do was reality, then this very piece of my writing is a challenge to that ‘reality’, for he was trying to stop me from writing but I created an altogether new and different narrative, which is now in front of your eyes.
I quickly finished the remaining sentence and put my notebook back in my bag. But I did not want to leave that place all of a sudden, because that would prove my act to be out of cowardice or embarrassment caused by someone so unimportant like him. That would be giving undue importance to my ‘enemy’. Enemies who do not deserve one’s respect should not be given the impression that the bread of respect is shared with them, I reminded myself. So I decided to spend as much time as possible in that very place. I took Mario Puzo’s The dark Arena from my bag and started reading. But I could not concentrate. The book was unreadable that was true, but the reason was more than that. It was too hard being ousted from one’s second home. I sat there for fifteen more minutes which seemed five hours of waiting for my enemy not to feel too much undeserved pride.
Memories are precious. They must be kept close to heart since with each heart beat we can re-live every one of those moments—delightful smiles or heart breaking cries—so that every path in our present and future would be bright with the light from the past. I walked out from the library, knowing well that this would be a painful one among my December memories.