Get Shorty

Ramanand passed me the 55-word-limit-short-story baton and here is an attempt:

Am a ten pointer. Doesn’t mean that it’s been easy. My neighbors (let’s call them ‘R’ and ‘P’ for now), cheap scorers, but so popular still; seen everywhere, unlike me (sigh). Me, gotta wait for you to complete me. Ah, there you are! come now, lets append ourselves to ‘art’ near that double word score.

My love affair with short stories began with Doordarshan’s Mitti Ke Rang, which used to adapt the best short stores from the likes of Chekhov, O’Henry, Maxim Gorky, Guy de Maupassant, etc. into 30 minute episodes. This was when I first heard that short stories were a different genre altogether.

Earlier, I had tried my hand (or rather, Akka had lead my hand) into some Panchatantra and other Hindu mythological tales. Later, when I did venture into the world of short stories myself, I was amazed at the depth, creativity, storytelling, philosophy, characterization, and everything else that makes a great short story, not to mention the proverbial twist in the end. I am still to see a short story which anticipates that the reader is expecting a twist in the end, and comes up with a double twist, or no twist at all. To top that, this story must be a part of a compendium which has twists/no-twists in a calculated order to snare the reader throughout the book. Just a game-theoretic idea.

Of all the authors I have tried, I have been most impressed by Roald Dahl, Maxim Gorky, and Jeffrey Archer. Rahl is black, dark, and creates an air of eerie pathos that kind of tells me what horror writing is all about. Gorky, the few stories I have read: they were abstract, and created visual images that were beyond the ordinary. I find it very hard to capture that imagery into words now. As for Archer, he is the master of feel-good cheesy stories with his standard elements – wine tasting, courtrooms, bankers, good looking men and women, Oxbridge, etc. Have read all of his, and liked most of them.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

In one of my favorite romantic films: Before Sunset, while on a cruise near the church of Notre Dame, Jesse talks about how he has this idea of his Best-Self, and he wanted to pursue that, even if it might have been overriding his Honest-Self. This is said in the context of his marriage, and how he married someone by thinking that commitment, appreciation, respect, and trust were all that mattered. This was his definition of love when he got married, and his Best-Self told him that if these were around, he need not really wait for the perfect person to come along, and his marriage would work out. The marriage went on to become a sham because his Honest-Self just didn’t love his wife, and his Honest-Self is what lived his real life and decided on happiness, bliss, and peace.

I have felt this Best-Self vs. Honest-Self dilemma in many contexts in life; be it love, relationships, career choices, idealogical living, and countless other everyday situations when the principled Best-Self overrides the self-centered and materialistic Honest-Self – to mixed results.

Are there two or more people inside me? the Best-Self? the Honest-Self? the actor? the director? Why is this craving for the Honest-Self to emulate and finally become the Best-Self? Who are role models? How do we define our Best-Selves? Are people who stick to their Best-Selves all the time better off? Do they become role models?

What about hapless victims like Jesse and me, who have Best-Selves, try to stick to them; but whose lives are being directed by their Honest-Selves, and they just are not able to reconcile…

What about unabashed sensualists who do not bother about idealistic visions, and pursue their Honest-Selves without regret, remorse, or guilt. Do true Hedonists exist? Do they have internal conflicts about duties and rights? Or is there a Jesse in everybody, with differing degrees of will-power, conscience, and principles?

I am sure generalization of this sort won’t work, and time and situations bring out a mix of our selves, and we just act on what seems right at that moment. The dilemma only arises when I have the time to decide on which self I allow to dominate me. That’s when I have a choice. This choice is also coupled with the knowledge that the dominating self of that time won’t be dominating all the time. The future will be different, and I will have changed.

I am a prisoner to this dilemma.