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‘Swayamvar’ in a library

By Shivangi Singh | Last Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 12:23
Shivangi Singh
The Mistress of Spice

I ran from the pages of a half-written manuscript because my author, a bespectacled cantankerous man, was getting me married to a buffoon.

My plight was very much similar to Elizabeth of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, when she was being pressurized to marry the oddball, Mr Collins. However, Jane Austen thankfully thought better and gave a sweet twist in Elizabeth’s life by introducing Mr Darcy. I was not so fortunate because my author was bent upon giving a tragic ending to my life, so I had to run.

My character is very similar to Maggie Tulliver of ‘Mill of the Floss’ as I am very rebellious and hate conventions (my creator in his creative frenzy has made me obnoxiously headstrong, but perhaps he never realized that I could be so bold as to defy him and escape).

As I jumped out of the manuscript, which was lying on the study table in the author’s library, I saw many literary characters around. They were coming in and out of the books, piled up in racks and scattered all over the messy place. I felt a certain pride after observing them do predictable things, because they were confined within their character; I was free because my story was not yet written.

My purpose of running away from the pages was to write the story myself (haven’t you heard of characters going out of hand and enabling a twist in the novel previously unplanned by the writer?) and I was on the lookout for that suitable someone.

I was delighted to see the famous knight Don Quixote on his horse, dreaming about an ideal world and the famed beauty Helen of Troy (I tried catching that something special in her face that ‘launched a thousand ships’, but couldn’t!) being wooed by her suitors. Then, I saw the devil Mephistophilis trying to lure Dr Faustus to submit his soul to Lucifer. I smiled when Chaucer’s ‘wife of Bath’, who considered herself an authority on marriage (having married five times herself), beckoned me. I ignored her because she belonged to the Middle Ages, and I was of the new world.

On one hand, I saw the melancholic Jacques from the pages of Shakespearean ‘As You Like It’ pondering over seven stages in a man’s life and on the other hand, the ambitious Lady Macbeth encouraging Macbeth to kill king Duncan. It was a happy relief to get away from the stifling pages and breathe in the world of such unforgettable characters. I wanted to be immortal too and for that I needed a suitable match for myself, otherwise my story was destined to end up in a dustbin.

My spirit lifted at the sight of ‘Emma’, Austen’s society girl, surrounded by ladies dressed in magnificent eighteenth century gowns and I sat down to observe the hypocritical mannerism of the age, which seemed somewhat akin to twenty first century India.

However, indulging in such idle luxuries was not written in my destiny because I heard the writer frantically begging me to return to him. It was time to run from him again. I had to do things quickly. I needed a bridegroom, and the easiest way was to organize a ‘Swayamvar’ (practice of choosing a husband from a bunch of suitors) on the lines of that weird celebrity called Rakhi Sawant (I know her because my equally weird writer watched ‘Rakhi Ka Swayamvar’ without fail).

The question was how to go about it. I thought of running an ad in the privately circulated newsletters, run by immortal characters and currently presided by Albus Dumbledore of ‘Harry Potter’ fame. Well, I approached him and got my ad published. My ad said:

<i>“Hey, hunks of the literary world, aren’t you bored by being trapped in the same novel? If you want your stories to be rewritten then jump into my unfinished novel and woo me. I am organizing a ‘Swayamvar’ and will interact with you guys before finalizing on my husband. Be near the round table at the library at midnight to get your destiny rewritten. See you all.”</i>

At midnight, I dressed up like a princess to meet the most dashing and memorable heroes in the world of literature. They were all there. I chose few of them for a private chit-chat and politely asked the rest to leave. I first met Hamlet.

<b>Hamlet (Hamlet):</b> I was ecstatic to see Prince of Denmark, Hamlet in all his glory. He came near me, looked deep into my eyes. Before I could swoon with delight, his words burst the magic bubble, for he said, ‘To marry or not to marry that is the question’. I told him, I liked him and we could marry at once. But he started pacing the library, and gave varied mind-boggling philosophies on marriage. Time was running out, and his philosophies were not ending so I left him to his fate.

<b>Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights):</b> The dark, brooding character scowled at me when we first met. He appeared to have come straight out of the moors. In spite of his immaculate dress sense, he appeared like an animal underneath his dashing exterior. When he tried to grin displaying his wolf-like white teeth, I was scared all the more. He was perfect for wild Catherine and so I bid good-bye to him too.

<b>Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind):</b> My heart sang at the sight of Rhett Butler, whose elegant red coat and perfectly trimmed moustache did wonders to my spirit. He kissed my hand and we sat down for a talk. But I was taken aback, when I heard his views. The man was undeniably roguish and dominating. He would not let me speak and had an opinion on everything. When I argued about a lady’s rights in the new world, he said, “You are no lady, my dear, because you talk too much.” I immediately asked him to clear off.

<b>Howard Roark (The Fountainhead):</b> He was not good looking, but appeared to be a man of integrity. I introduced myself and he nodded absent-mindedly. To my surprise, he was looking past me. I turned to see what was holding his attention, however there was nothing but a void. Perhaps, he was thinking of erecting some architectural masterpiece there. I was dead bored and almost dozed off.

<b>James Bond (James Bond series):</b> He introduced himself, “My name is Bond, James Bond,” and I almost fell off my chair as he had appeared out of nowhere. When we sat down to talk, he kept fidgeting in his chair as if there were millions of ants in his pant. He would take out his gun every now and then, anticipating danger. At one point of time, he pointed his gun at me thinking I was a spy. I screamed and he fled.

<b>Devdas (Devdas):</b> There is something about a loser, which makes him very attractive to a woman. She wants to take care of him, pamper him and help him change for the better. I thought Devdas’ life would change if he marries to me. I helped him on his chair, when he entered with a bottle in his hand, uttering ‘Paro, Paro’ occasionally. I went out of my way to make him comfortable, but the visible cloud of gloom surrounding his face refused to go away. When I smiled, he panicked. When I tried to laugh, he would cry all the more. With him around, even I started losing reasons to live. So, I got rid of him as soon as possible.

I was miserable by this time; I met Bluntschli, Gulliver, Tarzan and even Count Dracula, but liked none. I was deeply distressed and almost willing to go back to my fate – the unwritten book, when something caught my eyes.

There was a peacock feather peeping out of a grand book. I stealthily opened it and from there emerged a character who was unlike any other. Not only was he good looking, but a master in all arts and sciences of the world. He was adorable, talented, brave, and wise - all at the same time. Knowing him meant knowing all. He was ‘Krishna’ from the book Bhagvad Gita.

I held His hand and blissfully walked towards my unfinished book to write my own destiny. The best thing was, my writer relented and agreed to my choice!

First Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 12:23

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