It is a common misconception that a writer endlessly imagines and creates characters and scenarios and weaves the twenty-six alphabets in an arrangement that tells a story. But, the opposite is true. Once you begin to write, people bring the stories and characters to you.
The following is a story narrated to me by a woman while I was on a trip and was staying at a hotel recently. It was late afternoon and I was sitting alone in a disserted café of the hotel, in quite a gloomy mood, on a corner table by the window, sipping on a now cold coffee, when my empty thoughts were intruded by this woman. She seemed to be in her late thirties, her face mildly puffy and was wearing a green cotton saree, wrapped further with a black shawl, and decorated with the signs of an Indian married woman.
“Beta?” she called out to me, sitting on the next table.
Flattered, I thought to myself, “Do I look that young?” But then again I remembered an older cousin of mine, who after giving birth to her son, began calling anyone younger to her beta.
I gave her a shy, half-hearted smile. “You seem off,” she continued, “Like you could use a cry, or a talk, whatever you prefer.”
And it was at that moment when all my emotions burst open through my eyes, and I broke down in tears. This is when the lady got up and placed her hand on my head, gave a very short sideways hug, handed me a glass of water and proceeded to sit on the chair opposite mine.
She sat silently, which was surprisingly comforting. “I regret,” I finally said taking a deep breath, still feeling numb. She looked at me, keen to be the ear. She said nothing and waited for me to continue.