It was a sultry afternoon. The day stretched endlessly, waiting for twilight. The orange popsicles stained his tongue but didn’t quench his thirst. He wasn’t sleepy for lack of physical activity. He read books, heard songs on his laptop, played mobile games but time stood still, fatigued by the heat of the Indian summer.
Bored, he picked up his drawing kit and started sketching a treasure map to reach the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He drew ardently, painstakingly filling vibrant colours in the verdant landscape, flora, and fauna. The emerging terrain captivated him. He paid attention to every tiny detail. The sound of wax crayons against white paper, echoed the unstoppable rhythm in his delicate fingers.
Beyond the tanned mountains, arched the seven colors of mystic beauty. At the corner of the sheet, a speck glimmered. He added final touches to the elusive gold and rested the point of his crayon, in a finishing move, just as the first star of the night rose in the burnished horizon. In the twinkle of its light, with sweat beads on his brow, he sailed through the azure skies, having fallen from the edge of the map.
When you don’t feel belonged, you are isolated, lonely, and then the voices in the head become larger than life, and the fine line between the real and the perceived diminishes.
The short story is a strong but difficult medium. In many ways it is more potent than a novel because it can leave an impact with few words, consuming little time. An observant writer can concoct many stories using everyday themes and images, telling extraordinary tales about ordinary people, evoking emotions and reactions from a diverse readership. In the preface to The Goat Thief, prolific Tamil short story writer, Perumal Murugan, talks about his own tryst with the skill of story writing and how he came to evolve his own style and rendition.
It started with the small blue notepad his mother handed over to him. She was busy in the grocery aisle; he was running around, getting in the way. She ripped out her shopping list and gave the notepad to him to entertain himself. His 6-year old fingers doodled and channeled his tiny self out of trouble.
Waiting in the checkout line, she entertained him by dictating all the items in her shopping cart. He was proud of his first list. He felt almost grown-up that day. After all, writing and list-making was the effortless skill of adults. A notebook became his constant companion.