I lay on the cot and pretended to be nonexistent. Everything was back to where I had started. There is no greater debacle in life than a shelved project. I watched my two comrades whine and dig out options. Bank loans, crowdfunding and impending suicide!
I needed a break and in the current scenario, the only option was Shantiniketan. All I could do was dish out a few thousands. Life had been cruel for taking me away from my only love – cinema. Very cruel indeed. And I was broke too; bankrupt is a heavy word so broke it is!
As the train chugged into Bolpur, I wondered where I could stay. The cheapest of the hotels and maach-bhaat by the roadside would do the trick. The cycle rickshaw took me to Amantran, a small hotel near the Vishwa-Bharati campus. The manager was happy to host me. Not too many broke writers walked this road I suppose.
On my way to my room, I met a group strumming on their guitar and iktaras. It sounded like a brilliant rendition. I might have looked wretched, as they were quick to invite me to their dormitory. I refused but readily accepted when they offered ganja. Marijuana! I could save the stock I was carrying. Anyway, I was running low on cash.
The room had a unique smell; it smelled like rajnigandha. It always dismayed me that when you want to run away from one thing, you are chased by a host of other memories. A smell, a song, even a dish could take you back to unhappy times. But I wouldn’t despair and I wouldn’t spoil my holiday. I quickly fished out my quota of marijuana and took a fulfilling puff. It calmed my senses, like always. Even cinema did, but now cinema was like an estranged lover. Marijuana was more faithful; it wouldn’t choose to leave me for the world!
Switching my phone off, I took a few more puffs.
I scanned my temporary accommodation. The room wasn’t bad. The mattress was a little old, actually very old but that was okay. Creativity and adverse conditions often went hand in hand for that is what famous people said. Selling flowers, sleeping on the park bench, they had done it all. My room was much better.
What bothered me were the stories. The room was full of stories. It was like multiple people were living here. The cracked mirror in the bathroom had a couple of red bindis stuck on it. Had someone come here in happier times? A new bride, perhaps? Or maybe someone was here to buy cheap garments for business? Or someone who had an affair with a best friend’s husband!
As I stripped, the bindis seemed to turn into a pair of eyes, looking at me in wonder, with questions in them. I quickly turned around and reached for the plastic mug. The shower smiled at me from above, but it was barren. Some nerve this thing had. It was useless but that didn’t stop it from grinning. There was something hanging from the feeble towel holder – perhaps, remnants of an old gamcha. There was no privacy. People had left back too many stories in this room. There was a little bit of these guests left in each and every corner of the room. I was beginning to feel violated for there were just too many eyes staring at me.
The water calmed my senses. I wished I could soak myself in a tub of cool water and go to sleep before waking up and hogging some cheap biryani. Perhaps, even join the musicians for some ganja. A few more mugs of water down my spine and I spotted something interesting. A phone number! Someone had not only scribbled a phone number but also written a few lines. No, these lines were not like those lewd messages in the Sleeper class toilets of Indian railways. This was of pain, of pain, of an incomplete story that she had left behind, of pain, of a writer’s block. I quickly grabbed the towel and stormed out of the bathroom.
When I woke up much later, my head felt lighter. I sat on the bed and looked around. There was something in this room…something I couldn’t figure out. As I looked around, it almost bit me. Armed with my chappal, I wrestled with the mattress and moved it to one side. I was ready to beat the insect to death, but there wasn’t any insect around. There was something else, though. A small diary, with neat flower patterns, printed on it. Was this the story that this room wanted me to read? With a little tremor, I reached out for it.
Diary in hand, I settled on the lone plastic chair in the room, and doubly checked the diary before opening it. In bold letters, it read ‘Marijuana Diary’. Was there someone who had died here from an overdose? I wondered. Perhaps, they had taken away the lifeless body and left the diary behind, or someone had intentionally left this here for the world to read.
The first couple of pages contained few unfinished lines of poems, and they spoke of various things…sometimes longing, sometimes pain, and sometimes love, but mostly of pain. I quickly took another drag off my chillum and turned a few more pages until I found the first entry.
“As I walked out of the house, the sun glared at me. He was angry. Since the time my affair with Marijuana had started, I had stopped meeting him. His rays had stopped caressing my skin; they had stopped making me feel secure. Agreed I would be asleep through most of the day, but that was because someone was keeping me busy. Almost burned by his gaze, I ducked indoors. What did he expect? I would wake up every morning and greet him with a namaskar? Okay, you do a lot for us, but you also burn us with that penetrating gaze. I will stay away from you sun, until you decide to compromise. If I spend my mornings with you, you will have to caress me, not burn me.
…last night as I reached for my Marijuana, Neel gave me his verdict. If I chose Marijuana, I would have to leave him. Neel, the same man who had taken the much ‘celebrated’ saath pheras with me! When we were together at the University, it was he who had introduced me to Marijuana delights. We would hide in some corner of a corridor, puff, get high and kiss. What had changed now? He says I was addicted to Marijuana. Aren’t we all addicted to something or the other? Aren’t money, career, and the quest for a better life an addiction? Neel fails to look beyond the superficial layers. I am reaching a breaking point with Neel.
…was my love for the herb taking me away from everything I thought was my own? The warmth of the sun, my Neel, and now my poetry! My publisher says I write only about type casted issues, that I glorify addiction. Were my poems leaving a bad example? He said people would react, but you read to react and not because you want to slip into a vegetative state. I don’t know what they mean by politically correct subjects!
…today I have decided to quit writing. I just can’t pen what this world calls ‘realism’; my parallel world is a perfect world where I get to do what I want. And I can’t think of a life without Marijuana. I can never write just to please people nor write to sell. My Marijuana doesn’t make these unjust demands, so I choose it!
I read through these entries for the entire evening. Did this lady really quit writing? I had no way to find out. Would I end up like this as well? I wondered. There would be no creativity left, only shelved projects, empty pages, and out-of-print books.
The diary sat like a weight on my lap, getting heavier by the second. I cringed and threw it away. With shaky and desperate hands, I reached for my chillum. The pain was becoming unbearable.
‘Wake up, wake up, it's a brand new day,’ my phone called. Groggily, I reached for it.
As I said hello, I realized I was sprawled on my bed. I wasn’t in any hotel room of Shantiniketan, nor was there any diary.
‘Hey, you have to name this project. We have to get it running.’ I heard my teammate speak urgently.
‘Marijuana Diaries! Let’s name it Marijuana Diaries. I cannot think of anything better than penning down stories on addiction. Someone somewhere would read it and maybe find a way to tackle it.’
‘We are on,’ she said, and as I hung the call, I wondered if this was just a marijuana-induced dream or did it have a greater meaning to it. Who was this lady who wrote those words in the diary? Her thoughts, her words – were they my deepest fears? I wasn’t sure. I reached out for a pen and paper and started writing.