The Narrator






One of the first things Baddy wrote was this scene describing a game of cricket in a lane near my Aunt's house. The urchins played with a tennis ball. They hit the ball into the cranky old lady's house. Then followed their futile and comical attempts to retrieve the ball. I can't remember how the thing ended. But it was written in an atrocious, ponderous style like a failed imitation of some Eighteenth Century essayist. Baddy seemed to have written all of it in one sitting, in four foolscap sheets,
closely scrawled over.
I showed it to my English teacher, Mr. Amritpal. "Sir I have a friend who wants to be a writer. Would you care to look at what he's produced."
He peered at the sheets through his bifocals and said, "Hmm. Looks suspiciously like your handwriting to me. Give me a couple of days, will you? I'll let you know what I think."
Two or three days later, I confronted Mr. Amritpal. "Sir," I reminded him, "What about those pages I'd given you. Are they any good?"
He paused, then said, "How old did you say your friend was?"
"Oh, he's about my age, I guess. Fifteen."
"Well, then he has much work to do in the future. Tell him that he must keep writing no matter what. He has the potential."
"But, Sir, what about this piece."
"Let me be honest with you. It's all wrong in style. The writer pretends to be a hundred and fifty years old when he is just fifteen. It's so important to discover one's own voice."
"So this piece isn't very good, is it?" I persisted.
"No, son, I'm afraid not."
"Thank you, Sir."
"Why, I thought you'd be disappointed. You took it pretty bravely, I must say."
"But, Sir, why should I be bothered? I told you I didn't write it. A friend of mine did. On second thoughts, he's not even a friend, more like a neighbour--or a brother. I don't even like him."
Mr. Amritpal gave me a puzzled look, then went on with his work.
I was delighted with Baddy's failure. That should teach him, I thought. But it didn't. He wrote poems, plays, and he even started a novel.
The poems were about, what else, nature and love. They were uniformly bad. The novel that he started was never finished. He abandoned it after twenty pages. It concerned the life of Mr. Browne, a sub-inspector of police in an Anglo-Indian village called Whitefield. Apparently, Whitefield is a real place just outside Bangalore city. They had a fairly large Anglo-Indian settlement there, organized primarily around a large maidan. The cottages were laid out in two concentric rounds called, "The Inner Circle," and the "Outer Circle." They had a club house and two churches, one for Protestants and another for Catholics.
The colony reached its heyday in the forties and the fifties, but then began to decline. Families emigrated to Australia, Britain, and Canada. The White Anglos left first, then gradually the blacks began to go too. Those who remained were very old. They could still be seen going for a walk in the maidan in the evening. The women in printed cotton dresses and the men in dark suits; the men brandishing walking sticks and the women umbrellas; the men proferring a proprietorial arm and
the women daintily holiding on; the men clean-shaven or with mustaches (never beards), the women made up with lipstick and rouge. Most of them had a contempt for India and Indians, especially those around them. They had old cars and motor cycles which had broken down, but still lay in their garages. They clung to old relics and fading memories of the Raj. The sad thing is that some of them were very poor. Of the younger generation, the girls were fast; the men quickly went to seed, ending up as drunks or bums.
Baddy's story was about a man whose family had survived. He was as dark as an average Indian but still had British blood, several generations removed, flowing in his veins. Mr. Browne had an identity problem. The old world was crumbling all around him and at last he had to make a choice. Baddy intended Mr.
Browne to finally decide to Indianize himself, to pitch his lot with the country of his birth instead of living off borrowed nostalgia for the England he had never seen.
Whatever potential such a story might have had was destroyed by Baddy's youth, inexperience, and artistic incapacity to handle such a theme. The whole thing petered out after two dozen pages of very boring dialogue.
The next thing that Baddy attempted was a story called, "Sophia, with a wrinkled skirt who chewed gum." It was about a high school romance between, what else, an Anglo-Indian girl and a Hindu boy. The boy buys the girl a chewing gum every day till the last day of school. The girl doesn't show up. He tries to
telephone her, but is repulsed. He finds out later that she is to be married to a boy in Australia. End of story. As for the style, Baddy had tried to imitate Kurt Vonnegut Jr's Slaughterhouse 5.
This one was slightly better done. Baddy was very excited when he showed me the manuscript. He badgered me to get it typed for him. Reluctantly, I agreed. I went to my Dad's office and pleaded with his typist to do it. He agreed provided I gave him some used overseas stamps for his son. We made a deal. On Saturday afternoon, after the office was shut, Mr. Subramaniam typed Baddy's story on the old, heavy-duty Remington. I sat by and watched, fascinated as Baddy's scrawl took on the definitive impress of typed letters. Inspite of myself, I was excited.
"Where will you send the story?" I asked Baddy.
"To the Illustrated Weekly of India," he responded solemnly.
I couldn't suppress a titter. The Weekly was then India's most widely read and circulated magazine. It's editor was the legendry purveyor of smut and gossip, Khushwant Singh.
"Good luck, buddy." I said
"Baddy," he corrected.
I waited eagerly for the outcome of Baddy's maiden venture. I had helped him type the covering letter, proof-read the manuscript, correct all the spelling mistakes, enclose the self-addressed, stamped envelope, and finally, to mail it to an address which had nothing less than a magical ring to it: "The Times of India Building, Dr. D. N. Road, Boribundar, Bombay--400 001." I loved the old name, Boribundar. It was so British; only old-timers still used it. I was establishing my kinship with a
secret knighthood by using it, like a password or special calling card.
Four weeks letter, a fattish envelope bearing my name came in the morning post. I was soon to recognize that fat packets are bad news for aspiring writers. Sure enough, when I opened it, Baddy's story was there. Badly folded, quite battered, but still there in one piece. Neatly stapled to it was a small printed slip: "With the Editor's compliments and regrets." A rejection slip! The first one of the several that Baddy was to receive. The story itself looked soiled and rejected; as if the
virginal newness of the fresh paper and type had been gang-raped. Now there it lay, sad and creased, looked haggard and worn out. I took those tired and beaten sheets in my hands and cradled them. With what love and care I had had the story typed, folded, and mailed. And now it lay in my hands again, broken in body and
I couldn't help feeling sorry for Baddy. But such was life; it had no place for weakness and self-indulgence. To be a writer required a toughness which I knew I didn't have but I doubted if Baddy had it either. That's what worried me about him. How would he cope with the hundreds of rejections he would receive in the future? I was afraid he would disintegrate, end up a drunk or a socially maladjusted person. I didn't know how to console him. For weeks he disappeared from my consciousness. For a while, I breathed easily. If only I could exorcise Baddy entirely, I might even be able return to being myself, the bright kid who came first in class, always so well-mannered, and proper.
But, of couse, that was not to be. Baddy resurfaced shortly. It was while watching a really stupid Hindi film called, Kab, Kyon, aur Kahan. It was produced and directed by some Hingorani and starred Dharmendra and Rekha. Hingorani did his best to show as much of Rekha's cleavage as possible. There were the usual
dance numbers. Towards the end he had Rekha trying to grab something which was slightly out of her reach, stretching her hands over a cliff. Perhaps, it was a piece of rope meant to save her from falling. Or the roll of film which would expose all of the villain's misdeeds. The camera zoomed in on her tits from underneath, while she writhed on the rock.
I was watching the show with my parents, feeling somewhat uncomfortable in my pants. Suddenly, Baddy took over. He slipped his hand into my pants from under my shirt. He touched the tip of my cock and began to stroke my foreskin. He came, softly and dreamily. A little bit of sticky fluid oozed into my underpants. I learned that failure makes a writer even more horny.
Soon Baddy became an expert masturbator. Every film he saw had some half-way sleazy number which would stimulate his imagination. His favourite frig-objects, besides of course Rekha, were Helen, Reena Roy, Saira Banu, Leena Chandavarkar, and Aruna Irani. I remember the names of some of those films,
Victoria 203, Jaise Ko Taisa, Main Sundar Hoon, Carvan, Manchali and so on. Sometimes, Baddy came twice; once before, and once after the interval.
He also frigged looking at magazines, reading pornography, or sometimes just imagining things. I, of course, remained unfazed through his escapades. Baddy's masturbation stopped only when I reached into my early twenties. By then the amount of cum that he had generated was so great as to make the act truly dampening
and soggy. Throughout, I disapproved of his actions. I considered him a dirty boy, and made my opinion pretty clear to him. He said he didn't care. I tried to shame him, to stop him. But he refused to change. "Masturbation is a perfectly normal activity. It helps to release tension," he pontificated. I, however, remained
pure, distancing myself from all of his misdeeds. I watched over his antics with dispassion, though always bordering on embarrassment and disgust. But, throughout, my conduct was irreproachable. Baddy was a liability, like a disease or a bad relative. He couldn't be banished or wished away. He had to be tolerated, borne patiently, without undue rancour or sorrow. He was my cross, and I decided to bear him bravely. I would be compassionate and forgiving, but never allow myself to be corrupted. That way, I was safe, I repeatedly told myself.

  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape