Note: The following is entirely fictional. It is a character from a novel of mine which is a work in progress. Occasionally, Ripudaman Ailawadi might jump realms and find himself on this blog.
This particular post is a very short portion from a fictional interview of a fictional author (Chandresh Chutvalkar) by a fictional journalist (Ripudaman) published in a fictional newspaper (The Delhi Morning Observer) as part a work of fiction (South Block).—Mayank Chhaya
By Ripudaman Ailawadi
The Delhi Morning Observer Staff
New Delhi: Best-selling author Chandresh Chutvalkar surely has a mirror in his bathroom and yet he manages to leave several unshaven spots on his face. On his otherwise smooth visage these tiny tufts of hair look like islands in a placid ocean.
On closer scrutiny it becomes obvious that the unshaven spots in fact have a clear pattern to them. They are shaped like the continents. As if to assert his Indianness the southernmost tip of India has been stretched unusually deep into the Indian Ocean.
Chandresh is wearing two different color socks and his footwear is uncoordinated. He is wearing one shoe and one sandal.
His rusty yellow jeans and parrot green shirt complete the picture of calibrated non-conformity that is Chandresh Chutvalkar.
I get up to greet him. “Hi, I am Ripudaman.”
“Then I might as well be Chutvalkar, Chandresh Chutvalkar,” he says.
I wait for him to take his seat but he says, “Please, please have a seat. I need to light a cigarette. I never light a cigarette while sitting. There is something unstylish about sitting and lighting a cigarette.”
I also notice that he prefers matches to a gas lighter. “Matches are so much more tactile than a gas lighter which I find devoid of any mystery. I am a fiction writer who likes friction matches. I have discovered a rather ingenious way to reduce smoking. If I don’t light a match in one shot, I do not smoke for the rest of the day after that. ”
Before he could strike his matchstick on his shoe sole, a female hand materializes from behind him with a lighter. He turns around to see whose hand it is. On discovering a statuesque woman in a figure-hugging yellow georgette sari, he says, “Thank you darling but I prefer a phosphorous flame to my ex-flame.” He extinguishes the lighter flame and kisses the woman’s hand as she slinks away. He turns to me, winks and says, “I used to date her. Then she became dated.”
Being the country’s most high-profile pulp fiction writer Chutvalkar is frequently on television and at glamorous events. He is recognized instantly. “Fame is very important. People bother you only when they want to flatter you,” he says.
The way he is presenting himself to me, I suspect he is confecting a persona for my benefit, right in front of me. He keeps minting aphorisms in the hope that he might hit on at least one that is memorable.
“It is like you cannot wear a three piece suit and then wait for a bus or even an auto-rickshaw. I mean if you are wearing a three piece suit, you better have a liveried chauffeur,” he says completing the thread of eccentricity that began with his lighting a cigarette.
Chutvalkar has given me a perfect way to start my interview.
RA: Are you in character or is this who you really are?
CC: Must there be a distinction? It is so boring to be one person all one’s life. But to answer your question I do always carry parts of what I was born as.
RA: Which parts would those be?
CC: I am not going tell you that. That will destroy my mystique.
RA: Before we come to the main interview I always wanted to ask you this. Your last name was Chitvalkar. Why did you change it to Chutvalkar?
CC: (He laughs out loud as if he remembered a particularly funny joke connected to his last name) Chitvalkar sounded too meditative to me. Chutvalkar, on the other hand, is very street. Also, I like it when women blush addressing me as Mr. Chutvalkar.
RA: Your latest book is called ‘Partially Whole’. I can’t say I understand the title. Are you saying that the parts are whole in and of themselves or are you saying that whole is partial but still whole? I don’t know what you are saying.
CC: If you have been derided as a pulp fiction writer all your career with no particularly literary merit, a time comes in when you get off the highway, go into a roadside café, order a cuppa and ask yourself, “Now, can you ever be a littérateur or do you want to traffic in silly stories forever?” The answer that I get is never that clear. ‘Partially Whole’ encapsulates that ambiguity.
RA: For a start, you might want to lose an expression like ‘cuppa’. It is so antiquated that it feels new all over again.
CC: Duly noted, sir.
RA: You do not seem to enjoy a particularly amiable relationship with truth. Why?
CC: How perceptive of you! To tell you the truth, and what a thrill it is to tell the truth if done sparingly, I find truth too austere, too shorn of imagination. Lie on the other is full of possibilities. It is a labyrinth which has lost its own way out. I like that. I do like that. You know it strikes me that when I said ‘I like that. I do like that’ I sounded like Naipaul. I have read everything he has written and yet emerged unscathed from his bilious condescension. A brilliant, brilliant man but not for me.
(To be continued)