Posted by: cochinblogger | April 1, 2011

No Story Ever Ends

Let’s call him Abe. He is a strikingly handsome 26-year-old bachelor, and happens to be my friend. From time to time, we repair to our favorite bar, and over vodka and chilli gobi or a plate of chicken liver fry, Abe opens his heart out to me and pours out his hopes, frustrations, and troubles, drawing consolation from my sympathetic ear, commiserative clucks, and greater worldly experience (I’m middle-aged, after all). Alcohol in small-to-moderate doses often acts like a truth serum, and there is no better lubricant for the convivial confessional conversation.

Abe hails from the high ranges of Idukki, where his family owns plantations. Abe fell in love when he was in the third standard in school. Here is how it happened. It was the dance class in school, and Abe’s partner was his older sister. The dance teacher saw that they were an ill-matched pair, with Abe’s sister being a head taller than Abe. So the dance teacher took Abe’s hand and walked with him through the throng of students, finally stopping before a girl. He put Abe’s hand in this girl’s hand and told Abe, “She will be your dance partner from now on.”

Abe looked at the girl — and fell head over heels in love. He was all of eight years old at the time.

In middle school, a rival for his beloved’s affection appeared on the scene. Abe called him one day and told him he wanted to show him something interesting. They walked together to a corner of the school yard, where Abe stuck him unexpectedly on the nose with his fist, almost breaking the nose. “Lay off my girl, do you hear!” he shouted.

Another day in school, Abe spotted his girl with her friend eating lunch. He waved boisterously to them and shouted some nonsense words in high spirits. The friend complained to a teacher, and Abe was hauled up in class by the teacher. “Why did you behave like that?” the teacher asked. Abe was unabashed. “Because I like her, because I love her!” he declared before the astonished class.

The teacher asked Abe to return to his seat, but to meet her after class. The teacher then told Abe, “Love is for older people. Not for schoolboys.” But Abe remained unconvinced.

Abe passed out of school, and parted ways with the girl. In all their time in school, they had not spoken. Not even once.

Ten years later, after college, after a stint in the Gulf, and now working with a private company, Abe has got back in touch with his school sweetheart. In fact, it happened just four months ago. Gentle reader, can you see the ending of this story?

Strangely enough, Abe now feels the girl and he are incompatible. She does not react to his jokes, he complains. She is passive. She says she is willing to marry him, but also says she is fine with the idea of not marrying him. Abe can decide, she says.

Abe has almost decided not to pursue marriage with her. He is despondent. He has sacrificed many a promising proposal on account of this girl’s memory.

How will this story end? Who knows?

And do stories end, anyway? Don’t they keep spinning and extrapolating themselves in the minds of readers long after the last page has been turned and the book closed? And how much more true is this of real life, where one story segues seamlessly with the next, and the next, and the next … The story of Abe and his girl ought to have ended after they left school, but flared up anew ten years later. Even if they part now for a second time, who can proclaim with certainty, “This is the end”?

The foregoing thought was planted in my mind by the following dialogue between the famous poet Kamala Das and Merrily that ends the book The Love Queen of Malabar by Merrily Weisbord:

“I guess you haven’t finished the novel,” I say.

“It’s not ended. Nothing ends in the last chapter. We end, legs thrashing, breath ending, but the story will never end. The characters stay where they are, like they’re frozen.”

“And Sadiq Ali and Annasuraiya — what happens to them?”

“They could not spend the night together. They recognize each other, but an avalanche descends, a snowstorm. They are kept apart. But it doesn’t end because their longing goes on, remains in other people like a candle snuffed out and another one lit. Only names change, situations, destinations. We stop writing, someone else continues. No story ever ends.”

A wonderful end to a wonderful book! Stories don’t end, you see — but books do. 🙂

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Responses

  1. Lovely post … really enjoyed it!

  2. A beautiful and intriguing post…
    I have long thought that much of the satisfaction we derive from story-telling is the way we’re provided with a neat beginning, middle and end. So much easier to cope with than life!


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