The night has arrived with the lantern at my window as I stare out in the sky lying on my bed. Time is passing by, but I can’t just shut my eyes up. When I see the moon, the full moon lingering up in a cozy sleep, I wonder how it would be if it weren’t there, how it would be if there was darkness all around. Trying to push these thoughts away, I can now hear the owl howling over the roof. With its every howl, I shudder under the thin white blanket as if I am a little child who’s being told the scariest story in this heck of a night.
But I’m not; I’m a writer, almost 23. I write fiction, I love fiction. I still remember how, when I was leaving India to come to Paris, my own people had cursed me, had discouraged me that I would be as it is wasting my time and money through this profession. But I kept up the hope. I felt a sudden boost of power when I saw the plane landing and making that screeching noise as it landed; I felt somehow I will make it. But now it feels as though leaving India was my biggest mistake.
I rent an apartment here with another person, Dipankar, who’s from Bangladesh and runs a small grocery shop a few miles away. The reason of my sorrow is nothing much to boast about, it’s just that another publisher has rejected my latest book, a psychological drama- The importance of being stupid. Well, I can’t quite recall how many times have my books been rejected but I can fancy it be over a hundred times or so. I came here to calm myself, to show those people there that yes guys I have rolled it up here, see. I try to close my eyes and push away all the thoughts but as I do I see a few people standing and laughing at me, at my pitiful appearance.
Just go to hell you ra**als, I say. Exhausted, I get up, wear my slippers and jacket and move out. It’s very cold outside and about 3 am; I can’t see any soul out at this hour. All alone, I walk with my hands in the side pockets and a cap on my head. It isn’t a small place where I live. The people here are madly lost in their own lives, busy in their thoughts and lively in their behavior. I stayin Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île in Île Saint-Louis.
Île Saint-Louis is one of two natural islands in the Seine River in Paris, France. It is is connected to the rest of Paris by four bridges to both banks of the river, and to the Île da la Cite by the Pont Saint-Louis. It is one of the pretties and quietest neighborhoods of Paris, with its 17 century town houses lining the quais next to the Siene. The street lights are on, giving a yellowish glow over the perfectly charcoaled streets. I light up a cigarette as I walk. I can see the smoke fading up in the air, flying up joyously into the vast stretch of the night sky. The street is a little congested, sandwiched between a series of grandly crafted buildings. I have taken with me the script that I was told by a TV show director to write, involving the recent mystery of a murder of an Italian woman in the Champ de mars.
I had spent the whole previous night researching and writing this unusual murder mystery. I was told to be in his office by 6 in the morning which is in Rue Boutarel, just a kilometer from my place. I take a little jog as I pass through the restaurants which are famous for their Baguette, Pain Au Chocolate and pastries and their reputation for being called the expensive-bargain-shops. Only sometimes, I and Dipankar have visited these delicious-serving-restaurants at the start of the month.
As I pass through the restaurants, I can see the splendid Pont Marie Bridge. It looks beautiful resting upon the shoulders of the island and the land afterwards. With no traffic to jam my way, I brisk through the Pont Marie street. It’s still dark except that the lights are coming out from the continuous shops lining my way towards Rue Boutarel. I take a deep breath as I reach the curve landing the Office. I ring the bell and softly bang the boor. A lady comes over and says, “Pas encore ouvrir, désolé”
She saw the confusion on my face that I didn’t understand what she said.”Not open yet”
”Oh…. Well……Sorry for turning up so early…Actually, I’m a writer. I have come for the Champ de mars Mystery one.” I said, eyeing the watch.” If you will be so kind to give it to the director…..I’m mean…..Mr.………… ”
“Yeah…Mr. Marshal” she smiled and said, “Bien”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I meant ‘okay’.What’s your name?”
”Thank you.” Then she starts to close the door.
”Hm….well…one more thing? ”
She opens up. “Oui?”
“Is there any good coffee shop here?”
“Désolé monsieur. You can’t get a coffee shop here. But there crossing the Pont Maire bridge you can get into a number of cake shops. Will get opened by 5.”
I smiled at her. “Thank you, dear. Nice to meet you.”
I have been in Paris for about a few months now but the language still seems to be a barrier. After some lingering, I get two croissants to the apartment from a cake shop. Dipankar is still sleeping.”Hey, get up dude. It’s 6. How much more will you sleep? ”
“Hain…baba…..uthchi…ektu ghumote de…”
He still thinks he is in own country, his own village there and forgets that he can’t speak in Bengali here. Anyway, I don’t mind. I get most of what he says by just the manner of his speaking. The sun is coming out and a little part of the city seems to have woken up by now. The atmosphere is reminiscent with the shiny presence of the city. ’Bon Jour’ as they say it, a lively atmosphere shines up as the nightingale clears its throat to speak-‘Good Morning’.
After eating my share of croissant, I start working on my new book which is set against the back drop of the island, a melodramatic family drama. Dipankar goes to his shop and I’m left alone in the apartment. Sometimes I go to dawdle near the water when I get too much fed up with the research and the editing. There must hardly be a hundred people who must have read my first book, a suspense-thriller. I killed 30 people in it; still no one had liked it. As per my second book, I can’t even ponder about it.
It took me 2 years to write and a year for the publication part. It got banned for the excessive violent content and unrealistic theme. I remember, I had cried that whole night. Then I had come here for its rich culture and literature, hardly a few months ago. But the story still remains the same. My third book, the importance of being stupid has been rejected by a dozen publishers here. Every day, I go to a new publisher in a different part of Paris and in the night when I return I never see my face with a smile but frustration.
But each day, I still hope that this day would be lucky, that this very day I am going to make it. It’s been a few months; I am working on my new book, ‘J ‘espère que je vais gagner’, which says I hope…I will win’, a melodramatic family drama. I thought giving it French title so that I may somehow encourage my own self. I don’t sleep in the night often; I just keep working on the book.
It’s been one of the sleepless nights that I am working continuously and suddenly felt a tear drop over the laptop keypad, and then a second big drop falls off and finds its way through one of the gaps deep into the keyboard. I wipe off the others which try their way down the face and try to calm myself but can’t. I slap on my face.
“You came here…you left everything and you…chose this!” I blurt out to myself.
“You have to do it, you have to……..” But can’t control the conscience and break off to a cascade of tears. I slap again hard on the face and then slap myself continuously until something hard holds my hand and tries to calm me. It is Dipankar.
“Emni korishna…..don’t do it, brother, don’t do it to you.”
“Leave me, please, leave me. I must slap myself. I must…..”
“Just shut up!”
“Just shut up! Okay? Just shut up!” Then there was silence. My head aches and I unknowingly jump to a deep slumber, into a deep dream in the city of lights, in the city of dreams. When I wake up, I find myself on the bed with the blanket over me. I scratch my head and press it with both the hands. It is still aching. As I squint to see the time over the clock on the wall, I panic. Oh no! What have I done last night? Damn! The clock ticks 12 past nine. Hell! I slept for about half a day? Then a call comes on my phone. I get up to take it.
“Hello?” I say half-drowsily.
“Hello. This is Dipankar.”
“Yeah, Dipankar. What’s up?”
“Well, firstly, have your breakfast. It lies on the table. And…..”
“And brother, forget about what happened last night. It happens sometimes. We won’t discuss it, okay?” my lips curve to smile.
“Well, nothing. Let it be. Forget it. It’s okay. Huh?”
“Fine. Have some rest today. Don’t work on anything, right?”
“Okay then. Bye.”
“Bye.” I know I am being stupid, I am being ruthless with myself, but this mature call from such an impish fellow makes it seem all right. I feel lighter, I feel fresh. I have a bowl of cornflakes, and then again as habit rush into my work. I have completed about half of the book, still a long way to go. I start typing and then get glued to the laptop. Time passes hour by hour making me more engrossed. Down there, the street is virtually deserted except for a few brave souls trampling in the summer heat in search of ice-cream. This island is undoubtedly famous for its ice-cream. There isn’t any restaurant in the island that doesn’t serve some of their 33 flavors of ice-cream and 30 flavors of sorbet. Further down the streets, there are few gift shops and enough tempting restaurants that will make your dinner decision a tough one.
As I keep working, I get a call from the studio. It’s that lady; she says that my script is being selected and that I am being supposed to write another one regarding the much talked about Louvre murder case. I feel thrilled and somehow revealed of all the tension. This day has brought a new hope for me and I stand up to stroll out for a self treat. The weather is a little oppressive but the place looks a dozen fold calm and fresh in the increasing daylight. I treat myself to a Chocó-chip ice cream from the famous ‘Berthillon’ and get a one for Dipankar. Then I walk down to the romantic Pont Marie river bank.
As the sun gets higher, I can feel a little sweat trickle down my neck. I sit down over the dry grass and see the shimmering river twinkle beneath the vast sky and over that the small orange sun setting down. It gets downer and downer with each passing moment. Soon it dies and leaves behind its warming effect against the chill of the dusky evening. Then, it starts getting darker, then denser and I rush back home for Dipankar would be up there, waiting.
When the cuckoo starts singing, I get up, still drowsy. The curtains are open and the sun rays are coming in, making figures over my body filtered through the shadows. I smile, smile so widely that my teeth become visible. I get up and sit. I can see the sun peeking out through the light fluffy clouds; as if some soul has got a new life again and he is shying away to show his face to the world, to show that he hasn’t died yet, that he’s still alive. I feel a certain kind of hope, an array of satisfaction, a fountain of desire rising up from the heart. I don’t know what life has in store for me in the future, I don’t know where I may reach but I know I won’t give up. Now, I feel, the time has come, I mustn’t turn away from it; maybe the train upon which I have climbed upon isn’t the correct one but I still feel that, perhaps, this wrong train will get me to the right station. Let’s see.