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Indrita Ganguly


POETRY & SHORT TALES
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3 MIN READ

Manto vs Bukowski: A Comparative Study of Guts and Belief

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indzganguly944
24 days ago
24 days ago
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(1954. Winter has dawned upon successfully. An old, brown house comes into view, but then the focus

gradually zooms into one of its rooms. A large easy-chair takes up most of its centre, and a sombre

yellow light satisfactorily lights the room. A silhouetted figure is noticed on the chair, and his hand

dangles beside the armrest. He brings his hand closer to his face and takes a long, slow drag from the

burning cigarette. Closing his eyes, he noiselessly savours the flavour of the smoke in his throat and sighs

softly. Suddenly, the south-east door opens and a man clad in white enters.)

Person 1: I see you’ve come again.

Newcomer: I see you’re smoking again. And there’s leftover alcohol in those scattered bottles by the

bed, if I’m not wrong.

Person 1: They’re essential for me.

Newcomer: As am I.

(The man in the easy-chair grunts and turns his head towards this person. Adjusting his black spectacles,

the newcomer smiles ruefully and points at the bed.)

P1: You’re going to sit down anyway, eh? So, just help yourself.

N: Why do you dislike me so much?

P1: Because you’re that part of my life that I don’t like to deal with.

N: But don’t you always write about the future?

P1: Nah, that shit’s scary. I dwell in the past.

N: What’s the fun in re-knowing what has happened?

P1: You can recreate your mistakes, or un-fuck yourself; whichever sounds more pathetic.

N: You mean poetic?

(Person 1 shrugs.)

N: So tell me, Charles, what is the main reason behind your pessimism?

Charles: It’s not pessimism, M. It’s the damn truth.

M (laughs): Will you never learn my name?

C: I’m hoping no.

(M implies Charles to continue elaborating.)

C: Okay, here’s a simple analogy. When I wake up tomorrow, I may find a million dollars beside my bed

or may not. The result here will always be tied. Optimists will want to have faith in their judgement and

hope for the positive result. Pessimists will believe in the negative, right? But that’s where realists come

in. Whatever the result is, they don’t let it affect them much because subconsciously they know that it

might not be true. I belong in the third category. I might end up losing everything if I became an

optimist.

M: Or gaining everything.

C: Is this a prank?

M: I certainly assure you it’s not.

C: So tell me, M, what makes you so optimistic?

M: Because I know by this time next year, I’ll be dead.


(C sat up straight in the recliner. M lay down partially on the bed and angled his head so that he could

still see C.)

C: How do you know that?

M: Gut, mostly.

C: And? What noteworthy thing have you accomplished till date?

M: Oh, I’ve written a bit.

C: Enough to remember you by?

M: Enough to remember me by.

C: Got you a family?

M (smiles): A wife and three daughters.

C: So who will look after them after you, you know-

M: Allah will.

(Silence befalls in the room. The sound of a faint drizzle is heard. After a pregnant pause, C clears his

throat.)

M: So, will you do it?

C: It’s not going to be easy, you know. (smokes)

M: Charles, I had to stand in the court because I described women’s breasts in my stories.

(C laughs out hysterically. M shakes his head and a poignant smile furnishes the corner of his mouth.)

M: If I can become a writer from that shithole place, so can you.

C: Isn’t it too late, M? I’m fifty, I’m a raging alcoholic, my hands shake when I write and I’m withering

away.

M: Remember, Charles. A writer always picks up his pen when he is hurt. Are you hurt?

C: I’m numb.

M: Good. Use it.

(M gets up and walks towards the door. It creaks and he stands in the passageway for a moment.)

C (calls out): I actually have thought of a plot for a novel.

M: Oh?

C: And I have thought of a name as well.

M: Well?

C: ‘Post Office’.

M: Sounds interesting. I’ll surely drop by to read it.

C (calls out): Hey, M?

M: Yes?

C: What was the first short story you wrote that changed you forever?

M (after a pause): Toba Tek Singh.

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