Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book of Names

Angelo Desilva, thirty-nine years of age, from the modest little town of Palajoy, lived a very mediocre life. Not a single thing about him or his life was unique; he was one of the crowd. As a preteen, he always wanted to become a musician. Listening to all the great legends, he fuelled fantasies about becoming a great musician himself. Simple middle-aged Angelo worked fruitlessly as a music director. He was not popular as he wanted to be; he created cheesy jingles for TV ads. There was nothing outwardly characteristic about him; he was ordinary in the highest degree. Angelo was a voracious reader. Like in every creative oriented job, he found himself many a times being idle for lack of ideas. And so Angelo absorbed most of that time in reading. Reading transported him to a different world, a world of make-believe, where he could forget for a while his purposeless, insignificant and drab existence, and pretend to be part of a happier world.

It so happened that one time, he had to leave town on some work commitment. He'd never been to Gringers before. It was a quaint village in the outskirts of Palajoy. He returned to the motel, crestfallen due to the happenings of the day. Having nothing to do, and feeling low, he went out to the reception desk and enquired about a bookshop. It was a very old motel. The furnishings and the walls looked like something out of history. The receptionist, a sallow old man, told him tonelessly about a library at the back. Angelo entered keenly, marvelling at the size of the library. It was small. There were eight rows in all, all crammed together and Angelo crept in gingerly onto to the first row, hoping to find an interesting book. He was particularly interested in fiction and history. The library fascinated him. The books looked old and tattered, not, you would think, from overuse, but from sheer neglect on the part of the motel caretakers. There were cobwebs all over. Angelo felt bad that a library should be kept so negligently and moving on he stumbled over some books he overlooked on the floor. He picked them all up and arranged them neatly on the empty shelf above. He wanted to find a book that would distract him from his present self-pitying mood. And so, it was out of luck and a twist of fate that he spotted the "Book of Names." It was a relatively odd-shaped book, ancient looking and sodden. It was an object unlike anything he'd ever seen. It had a quality about it which suggested that it was something out of the ordinary. Eagerly he flipped it open. It was definitely queer. All it contained were names. Columns everywhere written in an old worldly font, full of names. The first page had the words "1910-2010" scrawled in a neat hand. What was stranger was the fact that most of the names he read were of people who had made it big in the musical industry. He was born in 1946. He flipped the pages, growing more and more curious as to its meaning. As he advanced to the further pages he wondered whether the book was a compilation of all those people who did and would become musically renowned all over the world. And then it struck him. He knew instinctively at once the purpose for which he had been presented with this book. HE would use the Book of Names to find the people in the book and make them the big stars that destined them to become so. He had been chosen. He now had purpose. And so he set off on a journey to locate all those undiscovered talents and make them the stars they were destined to be.

Angelo read the first name. It was that of one Alexia Matthews. He searched the name, and after a surprisingly short amount of time, he found her. As though guided by some invisible force, he took the train to Alexia's home in Dimlash feeling sure about what he was about to do, or make rather. She didn't seem alarmed when she opened the door of her quaint flat. Alexia was a middle aged single parent who worked at hotels playing her piano to pay her bills. There was a point of time in her life when she felt special as playing the piano came almost naturally to her when she was a young girl. But that was before she got pregnant at nineteen, before she fell for Ben, her estranged husband. Since then, she just got through life mechanically, looking after Betty her 11 year old daughter. She was a plain Jane; nothing outstandingly striking about her appearance. Except for her talent, Angelo thought, that he was certain about. They got around to talking in her study, and eventually Alexia even obliged to play for him. Angelo asked her impromptu whether she would like to become a professional player. Soon, Alexia started to be known as the modern Mozart.

After that, there was nothing stopping Angelo. He became one of the most trusted and famous music directors in the world. He was known to have a magical eye to spot talent. All his stars came from mediocre backgrounds; from stay-at-home moms, to college kids to office workers, Angelo had discovered them all, made them realize their true calling and transformed them into the musical stars they were meant to be. No one knew about the book of names. It was his secret to his and all his discoveries' success. Angelo wondered often about the book. About its origin, about its writer. Such true predictions but no such luck as to find how it was to come into being. He attributed this sudden change of his life to this book. It was a God-given purpose to which he would remain ever grateful. He felt responsible about his protégé’s. He felt inclined to protect them and nurture them.

And now after 9 years of unprecedented career achievements and the emotional gratification of successfully recognising and popularising eighteen people's musical talents, he felt like retiring. So he decided to go on a cruise across the Ranisi Ocean. The year was 1994; the beginning years of pop culture. He was forty-eight, single, successful and rich as they come. Perfect catch, you would think. But Angelo didn't feel like most eligible bachelor around. He felt like his days of love were long past him. He'd been divorced years ago; Edna left him for another man, a more responsible one, in her words. He was reduced to caring father figure/mentoring kind of man. Angelo had no family of his own. He lost his parents when he was young, and his only other relative Aunt Beatrice was long dead. Angelo was blissfully alone excepting his protégés which he loved dearly. And so when he did meet Rosalie on the ship it didn't occur to him that she may become very important to him soon. Rosalie was a shy and petite Russian lady of 26, on her honeymoon with her arrange married husband. Rosalie was from a poor family; it was a miracle when someone as rich as Bakhu proposed to marry her. Her parents were only too eager to get her married off. The newlyweds didn't communicate much and soon Rosalie resignedly accepted her destiny. Little did she know that Angelo intended something else for her. The day they first met, Angelo sensed that there was something unique about her. Curiously he checked the Book of Names and it did not surprise him that her name was there in that neat scrawled font.

Angelo resolved that Rosalie would be his last after which for some reason he felt he could retire permanently without feeling the need to set off on more talent searching journeys. Theirs was an amiable relationship. But was it only friendship? Weren't they a little too comfortable in each other's presence? Didn't he feel just a little extra glad to be alive when they laughed together on the deck? He knew what he was feeling. But did she feel the same too? Wasn't there that flicker of something else in her eye when she glanced at him? This was a feeling unlike any other. Angelo felt the need to protect her so. So vulnerable and dainty and small she looked to him. She too felt safe and happy with him. Angelo brought it up one day. Not the love thing, but her talent. He asked her if she enjoyed music during dinner in the banquet hall. Alexia's symphony was playing soothingly in the background. Angelo felt like it was a good sign. She looked at him, that same shy look, and smiled a smile Angelo had seen several times before to not notice. She nodded and told him in her sweet quiet way, that she loved singing, and back home she would spend considerable time etching notes together and singing to her little siblings. Angelo was pleased. He coaxed her into performing in front of all the passengers. Bakhu sat transfixed, unbelieving and marvelling at the beauty of his wife's hidden masterpiece of a voice. He'd been brooding the past few days. He loved Rosalie from day one but soon after they married he realised that he could never truly have her. And now that Angelo the great came into the picture, he knew he was fighting a lost battle. It was very willingly then that Bakhu let go of his wife. Angelo and Rosalie wedded happily, finally realising their love for each other. Rosalie went on to become Angelo’s biggest star. She was worldly renowned and looked up to.

They now in a great mansion of 59 bedrooms in Pollywood and Angelo have an enormous library there too. They have two teenage girls, and Rosalie, now forty-two years old lives a contented life with Angelo and the girls. The year is 2010, the last year of names in the book of names, and sure enough both Rose and Emily Desilva's name is scrawled in the list of names. Angelo is looking at the Book of Names this morning. He's old and wrinkled now at sixty-four, sitting at the large luxuriant armchair smiling reminiscently and flipping the pages back to 1994, he lingers his finger on his wife's name and twirling it down name by name he sees "Angelo Desilva" written there in that familiar neat hand. There are tears in his eyes. Tears of regret? Tears of joy? He doesn't know. But there are tears now. And then he says a silent prayer in his heart for his daughters. And for Rosalie, his sweet love Rosalie.

5 comments:

  1. its really nice..the language is different to ur other stories i think..what is that potege?/ wt was it? nice story..loved it!

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  2. yeah, protege is like, your man, like "i made him who he is" types. Uh... struggling actors who have a mentor, are proteges for that mentor guy.
    :) love the story too, my longest yet!!

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  3. yo that was great! i was expecting some sort of massive tragedy when the list ended, but then was pleasantly surprised at the end.

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  4. ah, maybe i should have made a massive tragedy!!! lol it's okay, the deed is done. :)

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