The Story Teller and Other Pieces -Interview with Writer Pramod Kumar

The Story Teller by Pramod Kumar

Some untold stories

To die is one thing, to fall in love is another…

To live is one thing, to be alive is another…

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The café was full as usual. Though located in downtown, it was particularly mannered compared to its other counterparts.

It was not the aroma of the freshly baked coffee beans that pulled women to this part of the town, but the young lad who used to tell stories- stories with strange endings, which sometimes would leave the audience spellbound, sometimes in rage of anger, sometimes in tears. They would promise themselves not to come to him again, not to listen to his stories again. But the promise was too hard to keep for they had become addicted to the drug he secretly served in his stories.

The café owner walked up to the lad, held out his purse, and handed him out five shriveled dollar bills. He smiled and said, “You know I don’t need these.” But before the lad could hand it back, the owner had turned his back towards him.

“Keep them for future. Save it for the days when I fire you,” the owner said with a chuckle, waving his finger in the air. And then the owner left.

The young lad had his bunk in the store of the café, and pretty much everything he needed in this world was there.

Retiring from the day, he switched off the lamps and closed his eyes. And within no time, he was in his stories, stories for the following day, stories which waited for its audience.

The following evening, as usual, the café was full of beautiful Spanish women, ravishing to say the least. So at peace, they were listening to the stories. It was a sight to watch.

A woman’s silence is all a man longs for- when she is listening to every word you say. Because you know deep inside, she is falling in love with you, however far and different you may be.

But this was not going to be the same any longer. A young, pretty maiden walked in through the door. She looked so innocent that all other women who looked ravishingly beautiful now looked like a pack of wolves staring at an innocent lamb.

The young lad raised his eyes as the ebony smell of her body hit him. For that instant, he was stuck, and no one but the damsel and he felt the moment. That was when he realized he was smiling stupidly.

It took him a lot of such moments to come back to life. He cleared his throat and finished the story.  For the first time in his life, he felt the urge to finish a story, for he wanted to speak to the girl. He knew she would come to congratulate him.

Unceasingly, his eyes searched for the girl as he shook hands with people who came to thank him, but she never came …

Going to sleep was particularly strange that night. He tossed left and right, but couldn’t find the right comfort. Yet he was smiling and found himself in a strange world. It was a long night, a dreamless night.

The following evening, he didn’t have a story to tell for the dreamless night. He didn’t remember any of his previous ones too.

So the women had coffee and chattered in disappointment, talking and gossiping through the happenings of the day.

The night repeated itself. The days and evenings did the same …

The storyteller was out of stories…

The café gradually lost its ‘customers.’ and the owner was left with no other choice but to ask the young lad to leave.

He packed his bag, his small tattered bag, the only bag he had which had all his worldly possessions. He headed to the market place to catch a bus for he wanted to leave everything behind.

As he walked uneasily through the market place, the ebony smell hit him again. Startled in excitement, as if a baby to the sound of its mother, he turned. The strange smile was back but short-lived this time, for she was holding the hand of another man who could barely walk.

He noticed the pensive expressions, the paralyzed look in her eyes. He walked up to her, dropped his bag at her feet, and said,” I hope it’s enough. I never used it, never felt the need.”  He smiled, looked in her deep eyes. He could feel the flow of tears through them.

So he left, keeping himself strong. He had realized love was not about loving someone and expecting something in return. But it’s actually about the inability to see someone in tears. It’s about the power to witness two loving souls and to feel their pain, and feeling the happiness by seeing them smile together. And it only grows when you know that it was you who made them smile.

 This way, it is eternal and heavenly…

Now he could sleep in peace. He could have his stories again. Only now, they were about eternal and true love. He used to tell them to people who would come to visit him under the tree.

But later, this became a pilgrimage for all the spirits in love. For them, it was a place where they found true solace. For him, it was just another day at work.

To read more of Kumar’s stories, click here: Brains and Heart

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Interview with Pramod Kumar- Writing as Freeing

“It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.”

Pramod

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a small village in Kerala, India.

Was writing a part of your life from a very young age?

The first time I got published in a newspaper was when I was in 7th Grade. I used to write short poems back then.

You said that you wrote more when you were dealing with sadder or heavier emotions in your life. How did the process of writing about these experiences make you feel?

Writing helped me with dealing with sadness. I felt relieved after writing stories about the experiences. Sometimes, as a guy, you have very few people around you to talk to about your feelings, especially when everyone is trying to come across as macho as they can. When I wrote my feelings down in a story, I could read them and talk to myself through them. Who else knows you better than yourself, right? Now, with the stories, I could separate the guy who was sad from my self for a little while, and talk to him. Now I could share the pain and it felt better.

Wow! I love how you describe that. Talking to the sad self.

Does reading those pieces now bring up the old emotions or memories?

Reading my blog now with all of those old pieces is just like reading a diary entry.  I feel good. I believe our emotions dry down as we age. These pieces I wrote back then still keep me green. I am glad I wrote what I felt. It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.

“Show, don’t tell” is a very common tip given to writers. I get lured into your writing instantaneously, from the very first sentences, because of the way you describe the feelings, emotions and details of things around and within your characters.

Are you aware that you are doing this or does it just come to you naturally?

Honestly, I am not sure if I could have been able to write it in any other way. I wrote as I remembered the experiences. When we sit in the sun and are having a conversation with someone, the sun warms our skin. If you are having a difficult conversation, it might make you uncomfortable, and if you are sitting with someone you like, you would love the warmth of the sun. I just happen to write about it. To me, it’s a simple thing that everyone can relate to.

It’s interesting that in the two pieces I’ve read so far of yours, it isn’t obvious what the setting for the story is- whether it is in India or Canada or even somewhere else. Do you still write creatively like this no matter which home or setting you are actually in, or does the environment around you, especially where you are living, dictate how much or whether you will be writing?

The stories you read were written when I was 22 years young. I was in India back then- confused, with less self-direction and with a million things going wrong.  Writing helped me work through this. In my opinion, it’s not the geography that dictates the flow or the settings of the story but the place in life that you are in. Happy, sad, tired- it’s all in the state of heart.

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Maa….by Pramod Kumar

We all have come to this world with a specific purpose, and it wouldn’t be long that we shall figure it out too. She came to this world to become a mother. She came to spread love, she came to take care of everyone, and I am one of the lucky few who stood on the receiving end.

She was introduced to me by my mother as my sister’s caretaker, and I had no idea that this introduction would lead to an everlasting friendship and a bond which I would treasure for years to come.

She was in her late 40’s. A typical Sindhi woman, dressed in her bright Punjabi suit, tall, a little on the healthier side, pink and plump cheeks, big brown kohl lit eyes , henna colored golden brown hair carefully pleated in a ponytail, elegantly covered by a chunni.  She had beautiful, slender fingers and a smile which could give a run for money to any young aspiring model.

If I was ever asked to describe an angel, I might probably end up adding white feathers to the same word picture.

She used to come over before I would leave for school and stay until mum and dad returned from work.

Every day, she would walk me to the bus stop. On the way, she would ask about my friends, my teachers, my favourites in the class, people I disliked, everyone.

She would inquire if some kid was bullying me, if I had completed my homework, and many other whats, whys and whos.

She used to blend her questions in such stories that I never realized I answered them.

She knew everyone, from my small world, from the girl in my class whom I hated the most, to the man who used to sell samosas in the small stall outside the school. She knew about our old driver Ji who I used to talk to on my way to school and on my way back and about the conductor who took away the whistle from me, which my friend gave to me in school (I blew that whistle, and driver Ji thought it was the conductor. He stopped the bus. They looked at each other puzzled, and after a small debate, my red whistle was confiscated for no reason!)

Breakfast was something she was very particular about. She made sure I finished it.

I had probably tried every trick in the book to fool her with the glass of milk, but never did I succeed.  I used to get annoyed at her for making me drink all the milk and making me finish my breakfast. But a frowning face was too tough to sustain after the shower of compliments and friendly teasing. She had an antidote for everything.

Her book must have been heavier than mine.

Every day, after sending me off for school, she would return home. She would give my sister a bath, feed her, sing her a lullaby, wave her until she would fall asleep. She would try to finish the regular cleaning as much as possible until my little devil of a sister would get up and start crying again. It must have been a tedious job, for I remember, when my kid sister used to start crying, it once went on until the neighbors came knocking on the doors. There were thousands of diapers that needed to be changed, and hundreds of clothes which needed to be cleaned as the day would come to an end. But never did the babysitter complain.

I used to return from school in the afternoon, sometimes tired of the bus, wrestling with other kids. Sometimes, I was happy and full of energy over a newly acquired action figure, or some heroic story of how I beat someone in the school bus wrestling. Sometimes, I would hide the oil slick on my shirt caused by the tight Tiffin box, or the torn pocket. She would let me say my story, decide over it, and tell her verdict. I never lied about anything to her because she listened to every word I said. She let me grow.

She was totally against me fighting with other kids, and would often get upset about it. But I would explain to her that it was just a way of testing the righteous owner of the window seat. She would smile and run her fingers through my hair. I wasn’t so fond of that. I would complain and tell her that I never liked it, to which she would tease me saying “there aren’t girls around here.”  I would blush and try to hide myself in her loose suit.

I remember making her run behind me for changing the school uniform, going to bed in the same uniform after getting tired, and getting up in different clothes.  I still wonder how she used to do that. Probably all that and much more came from her book. Her magic book!

She allowed me to watch T.V. until she cooked lunch for us and until I finished it.

Here, I used to play a trick. I would eat slowly, chewing over a thousand times, so that I could finish at least two of my favourite shows. Both of us hated watching the news, but it was fun with her. She would comment on the way the news reader dressed up, that her cheeks were red like tomatoes, and that she resembled someone from her neighborhood who was fat and lazy.  

I remember the funniest jokes being told by her.

She was fun to be with, and an expert at making friends. She was fun to talk to and even though all her stories had the same characters and would somehow end in pretty much the same way, they were fun to listen to. She used to fill them with so many details that I used to dream with my eyes wide open, and sleep in her lap. I remember asking the same questions over and over again and being answered patiently.

Before she came to take care of my sister, she was used to working in a kindergarten. Even though she couldn’t read, she knew all the alphabets, mnemonics and all the nursery rhymes.  As my sister grew and began talking in her rickety tone, eating half of the words, the baby sitter started singing rhymes, which she remembered, to my sister. Sometimes we all used to sing together. We had our own choir.

Me, my sister and the babysitter – together we could give any choir some serious competition.

Summer vacations were the time when we would not see each other for long periods. Instead, my sister and I would visit my grandmum in Kerala.  The babysitter would bring something for me and my sister to eat from her own journey.

I never cared for fancy chocolates. I liked the orange candies she used to bring, 8 for 1 coin.

She would bring hundreds of those and give them to me.  She would ask for a few promises- not to skip any meal of the day, not to fight with anyone- and a thousand other things. She would kiss my sister and me goodbye, and I always wondered why her eyes used to become so wet.  I wondered if she was crying. It was tough to tell, and on being asked, she would break into a chuckle and hug me tightly and run her fingers through my hair. Some of those times, I didn’t mind.

Once, I heard my mother tell my aunt that ‘she’ didn’t have any children. My mother was wrong. The babysitter had children and lots of them. She probably had more children than anyone I knew of.

I always believed, even with a hundred children around her, she would have loved us the same way.

She saw us grow. Soon, my sister was old enough to go to the school.

Usually, and in fact on all occasions, children cry on their first day of school. But my sister did not because the babysitter was there with her the whole day. She was there to feed her lunch, and to help her make friends.

And my sister in turn introduced her to all her friends.  The babysitter now had a big lot to take care of, and she did it with all her heart.

I do not remember her last day at our place, but I do remember waiting for her. Those must have been the longest days of my life. Our choir was short of a member, I was bereft of a lap to sleep on, and there was no one to listen to my heroic tales, absolutely no one to comment on the news reader, and no one to tease me.

I wouldn’t have minded if she wished to run her fingers through my hair. I only wanted her to come back.

A few years later, she visited us, and the kohl lit eyes were still the same- beautiful and big. The cheeks were pink and plump, frilled with a few lines of wrinkles near her eyes. The golden brown hair had strands of gray in them. She was as beautiful as she had ever been, and could give any young girl a run for her money.

She was a mother, to us. She was our maa ….

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To check out these and more of Pramod’s captivating stories on his own blog,

click here:

Brains and Heart

 

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