Anon. (Book Excerpt) by Bhavani Iyer

Bhavani Iyer began writing at an early age. She has worked on the screenplays of the films Black, Guzaarish, Lootera, and the TV series 24, Everest, and Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai. Below you can read an excerpt from her book, Anon. Courtesy: Fingerprint.

An excerpt from the book Anon.

Deb lay on the grass outside his hostel building, flouting the ten p.m. deadline, unwilling to return to the cage of his room and the two other unknown faces occupying it, just yet. He looked up at the sky, as the voices of the young men singing their nightly Rabindra Sangeet travelled through the still night air towards him. He listened absently to the nightingales of habit and a feeling of absolute and utter alienation descended on him. He looked up at the night sky to save him. The song over, the young men moved into their respective rooms, and silence swooped down on the landscape like a powerful eagle on an unsuspecting prey. Deb felt overwhelmed by a need to get away, to escape the boundaries of what seemed like a beautiful vast cage, but a cage nonetheless.

He got to his feet and moved into the darkness farther and farther away from the others, from people and demands on his attention, his time, and his mind. He got to the gates of Shantiniketan, which were locked for the night. The lone watchman had packed up and left, not expecting any visitors. Or escapees.

Deb stood at the locked gate and hesitated for a moment. The romance and impetuosity of his action had suddenly met with a stumbling block which seemed to rouse him from his reckless state of mind, albeit fractionally. Deb stood there, wondering which would be easier to scale—the gate or the wall—when a voice broke in through the darkness.

‘Is there someone waiting?’

Startled, Deb whirled around to see who it was and a moment later, saw a tall, young man leaning against a tree, watching Deb.

‘What?’ Deb asked, annoyed and irked at the intrusion.

‘You’re running away in the middle of the night from a place that doesn’t bind you in any way. There must be something wonderful waiting for you outside.’

‘Who the hell are you?’ Deb asked.

‘My name is Urbish. We’re in the same class.’ Urbish moved out of the shadows and stood by Deb, looking at him with such unruffled and mature calmness that it highlighted Deb’s whimsical spontaneity, making it seem like an immature and childish act of rebellion.

Deb quelled the urge to snap at Urbish and looked at him closely, wondering how he had never noticed Urbish before. Even in the dark, with the moonlight playing a coy bride, draping and shedding her veil at will, Deb couldn’t miss Urbish’s remarkable movie-star looks and his composed, restful demeanour utterly contrasting with Deb’s own restive, agitated edginess.

‘Deb . . . Debottam,’ Deb finally offered.

‘I know. We call you The Rolls-Royce Kid.’ A beat and then, ‘Speaking of which, since you seem to be leaving her behind, can you tell me where your car keys are?’

The silent splendour of Shantiniketan was broken a moment later as the two young men burst into laughter. A sound so natural and so full of simple beautiful happiness that it hung in the air like invisible dewdrops long after they had stopped laughing. And for some strange reason, Deb once again felt at peace with the world. A cheery little surge of high-voltage energy coursed through his innards, so potent and real he could feel its movement. He looked around him, at the darkness, at the gate, at the wall, and knew he didn’t want to leave. Not just then, not just yet. He wondered if that made him abject and pathetic or just weak-willed and easilyinfluenced. Once again he thought of his father and wondered what he’d say.

Urbish fell into step alongside Deb as they both walked back towards their hostel.

‘There’s no one.’

Urbish looked at Deb, nonplussed.

‘No one waiting outside,’ Deb said.  ‘No one at all.’ The words were soaked in wry melancholy.

Urbish was silent.

‘Don’t you want to say “I told you so”? I know I would have.’

Urbish merely grinned in answer.

‘If you’re the kind who’s always right, I don’t think I’d particularly like to know you more,’ Deb said, a lopsided grin lending incredible softness to his face.

‘I’m not the kind who’s always right. But I don’t think you’d like me much anyway. I’m the kind that usually wins.’ Urbish’s smile took the sharpness off his words but retained the edge. He then added, ‘I was stuck for an end to my story for Ava-di, so I decided to take a walk. I’ve found what I wanted.’ He looked at Deb. ‘Have you finished your story?’

‘I haven’t started,’ Deb replied, smiling.

Urbish looked shocked, and yet seemed somehow pleased. ‘The class is at ten in the morning. It’s too late.’

‘I have all night,’ Deb shrugged.

‘You don’t really care, do you?’ Urbish asked, almost enviously. ‘I wish I had the luxury.’

‘I don’t know if I care about winning or being liked most by the professor,’ Deb replied, thoughtful, earnest, wanting to give an honest reply. ‘But I do know that the world seems a better place, more tolerable, brighter, more vivid, more dazzling after I have created something that wasn’t there before. For that story, that piece of writing, that poem, that essay, I am the Maker. And that I care about very, very much.’

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