Ajeet is sitting in the publisher’s room clouded with apprehensions. The room is cluttered with bundled up manuscripts, which is much nicely bounded than the one in his own lap. But he could not let those things intimidate him. Not now, when he had finally got the chance to meet a publisher for his book. He had to pull some strings to get a reference, but that was just how things worked around here.
The publisher came in hurriedly and gave Ajeet a quick smile. He had a small spec placed forgetfully on the bridge of his nose. Ajeet bets it was just for appearances.
“Hello,” Ajeet said courteously, trying not to look too humble.
“My editors read your Manuscript..” publisher said cutting to the chase “ And it was …” He looked for the delicate word “ Interesting but usual…”
Ajeet knew better than to take offense “it’s more about how it is written than about what..”
“Yes, but still people should feel astonished at some level, surprised or wowed…” He said trying all the tactic words from his dictionary to say this book won’t work. But Ajeet won’t give up so easily.
“ It’s more of a drama than a thriller..” Ajeet tried to explain but was cut short.
“You know what I mean ” Publisher waves his hands in the air “ If this was to be based on a true story or real-life event, people would gasp and feel for the protagonist…but since it’s just fictional they would go ‘this never happens..’ or ‘this always happens’ “
“So you are saying that the only problem with this novel is that it is not based on true events?” Ajeet asked.
The publisher gave it a little thought. It was a better way to reject than saying ‘write something interesting’. Feedbacks to writers are a messy business anyway.
“Yes,” He said “ If this was a true story, I would have been very easy sell. ”
“ I understand..” Ajeet said getting up to leave.
“Don’t be disheartened.. You never know when a hit plot just drops in your head..” The publisher gave him a practiced ‘goodbye forever’ smile. Anyone else would be rightly dismayed, having his manuscript rejected for continuously five years in a row. But Not Ajeet. He knew exactly what needed to be done. Because just like publisher said, a unique Idea had just dropped into his head. All he needed to do was to find a life that could fit seamlessly into his plot. In a country bustling with so many people, it was highly probable that someone was indeed living the life that was in his story. He just needed to find that out and tag his story as –‘ based on true events’. An Ingenious perfect plan.
The task wasn’t simple enough. He would have to invest some time in research work. But that’s what every writer does as a part of his work. He went through the secret networks of his friends and finally got hold of a high profile private investigator named Mr. Katakar. His office was surprisingly devoid of all the drama that the commercial cinema bring to the life of private investigators. He had a forgetful face, who could easily get lost in a crowd without a disguise. Someone you couldn’t recognize in a police lineup.
“So, what can I do for you,” He asked Ajeet.
“I have a strange request here…” Ajeet was little hesitant.
“Aree sahib… I can ensure you that nothing is normal in my business. But every request has its price..” Mr. Katakar said in a businesslike manner.
“Well, you see… “ Ajeet said leaning in “ There is a high profile person out there, who is having an affair with a girl half his age….”
“And who is this high profile person that you need to investigate..”Mr. Katakar asked.
“Well, that’s where it gets strange…I need you to tell me that…” Ajeet looked at him hoping he made some sense.
He looked at him strangely “So you don’t know who this high profile person is who is having an affair with a girl half his age..but you would want to know..”
“Yes…to clarify.. I am looking for inspiration to write a novel. If I could find a person who fits in my plot, I would be able to write more efficiently….”
Ajeet was expecting a laugh or a confused face. Rather Mr. Katakar nodded thoughtfully and took out two huge boxes of files.
“These are the two boxes of the information which my team stumbled upon. When something like this happens we try to see which party would pay more for this information and then approach them. If you feel anything from here fits your request, you can pay us the money and information is yours to use.”
“Is there a public figure in here..” Ajeet asked
“Yes.. a couple. But they would cost more, “ he said pushing the bundle towards Ajeet.
He flipped through the files one by one. There was one file which did have the potential. It was of a local politician who had an affair with a girl half his age.
Ajeet asked the investigator” what is the story here..”
“This one? He is Pradhan Kishan Sharma. MLA from neighbor’s district. He is very vocal about women’s right and all. And she..” He pointed to an innocent looking girl “..she is I guess a high school student. We caught them accidentally one day and then followed for some time. Pro-bono work you see…” The investigator smiled “ And we found out that she had one miscarriage for which she went to the maternity ward. All the photographs are here. “
He handed Ajeet the bundle. Pics of them coupled in tight embrace looked scandalous. But what was more delicious was the irony that a politician who is outspoken about women’s right is having an affair with an underage girl. This had lot of potential.
“I’ll take this..” Ajeet said and paid off the money to the investigator. He got home and spread the pictures side by side his manuscript. Story fitted nicely to the plot…. he would just have to drive it to its climax. The more dramatic it is, the better for his novel. He started to search for an opportunity and found one in newspapers a few days later.
‘Local politician to attend fundraiser auction for the children orphanage’. It had the photo of the politician and the same girl in the promo. Looked like she was the event manager for that event. No wonder she was able to pull off a high society event being a simple high school girl. It made him wonder who was using who.
Ajeet smiled. It would be a perfect place to bring out the truth. A high profile auction where all the dignitaries of the society would gather to pretend they care for poor. Press would definitely be there. This had all the set up for his climax. He would have to work fast to thread the story together. He contacted his media friend with the lucrative officer.
“ I have all the proof.. you would just have to get me a pass for the event.” He told his media friend who was too eager to be the first person to report this scandal. News channels would go frenzy for a while with this information. This would be good for his book publicity.
Finally, it was the day. Ajeet stood in front of the polished banquet hall wearing his media pass. A big welcome banner hung outside the brightly lit banquet hall. The name of the politician along with his humble photograph glittered under guest of honor name place. Ajeet took a deep breath to bring down his nerves. His story is so near to its climax. All the charters from the story will soon emerge into this scene.
“Remember, these photographs need to be revealed at the right time and exactly the way I said..” Ajeet said giving the photographs to the reporter. Ajeet is standing outside the hall taking in the full view of inside. Slowly it fills up with people as he stood invisible there.
He is looking for a girl, who does not know he exists, or the story that has brought him here. He has no reasons to be discreet but still he has to be careful. He is standing near the doorway and surveying the golden banquet hall, which is filled with refined bodies in saris and jackets, and beautiful young women with straight hair who never make facial expressions. But they will, soon. Any moment now.
The lights in the hall dimmed down and that’s when he saw the girl, Innocent as dew. Dressed in simple sari she stood apart from that glimmering crowd. Ajeet gave it a thought, was he doing something wrong? NO, he was basically doing all the other girls a favor by bringing the acts of this politician out. He waited with an eagle eye on the crowd. Every expression needs to be noted.
The girl got up on the podium, her eyes discreetly smiling at her lover. True love? Ajeet tried to Gauge. Deadly infatuation. Ajeet mentally noted his analysis for writing in the novel. The auction began.
“And the first item on the exhibit is the award-winning photographs of rural India by David Mickwain” The girl pressed the clip as the screen in the hall lit with a full-length photo, in which she was embracing the politician. She froze, but politician was quick on his feet. He was gone before the gasps escaped the mouths of robotic faces of the crowd and turned to look at him. And since he was gone they turned their sly smile on the Girl. She just stood their looking at her full-length photo.
What is she thinking? Ajeet filled her faces with a description of her emotions. Something which he could pen down later. It was perfect, just the way Ajeet had imagined. Was there any part of his consciousness that objected to this? Ruining lives for his own profit. No, that conscious was long trampled under the frustration of a struggling writer.
The pictures flipped through one after other in a slideshow as the murmurs and chaos increased in the hall. The girl ran backstage sobbing. The event was abandoned and other organizer struggled to make sense of what was happening.
Next day newspapers and TV had a field day weaving all sorts of theories around the scandal. The reporter to whom Ajeet had given all the pictures published the actual story but it was less delicious in front of all the other spiced up ones.
Ajeet was happy, but he could not help thinking about the girl. What will happen to her family? All that disgrace and media attention at such a young age. What if she commits suicide?
If he marries her, would it be good for his book? Perhaps not, he thought and set out to the work of polishing his novel. He spent few months linking the events in order and it was ready now. It had all the ingredients for the bestselling novel. He packed up his manuscript and went out to meet the publisher. It’s best to release the book while the topic was still hot or the craze would die out. As he passed the newspaper stand, an image stuck him. He went and picked up the newspaper and read the front page news.
‘Damini: The fight against injustice. Read the story of exploitation of an innocent girl by the hands of a politician. A story straight from the mouth of the Victim. Coming soon to your nearest bookstore’
He stared at it with wide eyes. The girl was going to publish her own story to gain publicity from it. Her innocent and scared face printed on the full page of the newspaper. And right below the book tagline was written.
Based on true events.