"Sir," mumbles Chunaram. "Sir, I am so sorry, this boy says that if he talks to the eyes the book must contain only his story and nothing else. Plus it must be his words only."
Only his story? His words only?
"Sir, he is a beastly boy, but it's a good story."
Jarnalis, your brow creases, strange figures dance on your forehead. You gitpit with Chunaram, who pleads, "Drop this demand. It's impossible. This jarnalis already has a plan for his book. It is already agreed. Jarnalis talks of an agent, plus a type called editor."
Makes no sense. How can foreigners at the world's other end, who've never set foot in Khaufpur, decide what's to be said about this place?
"I guess the way it works," says Chunaram, "is jarnalis bribes agent, agent bribes type. Business, na?" He gives a laugh, smirky bastard thinks he's won.
Well, I'm in a shining fucking rage, here and now I will cut the throat of this plan. "Give me the address of this editor type, I'll send a letter! I'll say this Jarnalis should not be allowed to tell my story. Comes here strutting like some sisterfuck movie star. What? Does he think he's the first outsider ever to visit this fucking city? People bend to touch his feet, sir, please sir, your help sir, sir my son, sir my wife, sir my wretched life. Oh how the prick loves this! Sultan among slaves he's, listens with what lofty pity, pretends to give a fuck but the truth is he'll go away and forget them, every last one. For his sort we are not really people. We don't have names. We flit in crowds at the corner of his eye. Extras we're, in his movie. Well bollocks to that. Tell mister cunt big shot that this is my movie he's in and in my movie there is only one star and it's me."
"I'm not saying all that," says Chunaram, but we both know he must, it's Animal he's dealing with, not one of his stooges, no one can get the better of me, I do what I want.
How often have I watched Chunaram make deals? After all the talking, there is always a silence as money changes hands, notes are counted, folded, put away. What is that hush? Jarnalis, I will tell you. On your side it's shame because you know you're paying shit for something priceless. Chunaram has no shame, his silence is delight, he has taken a fortune for a thing he considers worthless.
So then there's silence.
"One more thing, he must give me his shorts."
Two days pass, comes Chunaram with a bundle. Inside is the tape mashin and many tapes, folded on top are the shorts. First thing I do is put them on, they are too big but by tying string I make them tight. There's a lump in one of the pockets. I put in my hand, out comes the shiny lighter. There's a picture of a cannon on it, plus some writing. Holding it to the light, I make out Inglis letters. phuoc tuy so I guess that's your name, it's Phuoc Tuy. On the other side in Hindi is my name, animal, so then I know you've given me your lighter too. Chunaram reads the letter you sent. "Animal, you think books should change things. So do I. When you speak, forget me, forget everything, talk straight to the people who'll read your words. If you tell the truth from the heart, they will listen." There's a lot more like this, then a good bit, "The shorts come from Kakadu where there are crocodiles."
Such a fool you were, Jarnalis. Gave your shorts but left Khaufpur with nothing. Not a single tape did I make. Not one. Chunaram said if you are not going to use the mashin, I'll sell it, so I hid it in the wall where the scorpions live, from then till today solid time has passed, you must be wondering, why is this putain telling his story now? What's changed? What happened?
* * *
What's changed? Everything. As to what happened, well, there are many versions going round, every newspaper had a different story, not one knows the truth, but I'm not talking to this tape for truth or fifty rupees or Chunaram's fucking kebabs. I've a choice to make, let's say it's between heaven and hell, my problem is knowing which is which. Such is the condition of this world that if a creature finds peace, it's just a rest before greater anguish, I do not know what name you could give to the things I have done.
Copyright © 2007 by Indra Sinha
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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