The terrace above the state mortuary seemed like a nice picnic garden; Daniel devasaghayam inhaled the cigarette with much ease.
It was the day’s first cigarette, Maran stood in silence thinking about the girl below.
“who was she? From where did she come from?” those two questions looped his mind along with the image of the thin girl lying there calmly. There might have even been a hint of a smile, he imagined between those thinly pink lips.
‘That girl should have been in school, she ended up in a dump, hungry and dead’ he said to himself.
Unlike others writers who thought that smoking accentuated their string of words, E.L.Somu sat in his wooden chair cursing himself and that burning thing in his hands.
“The one reason my story this Wednesday will not be as good as the one last Wednesday is because of this” he used his other hand to point to the cheap cigarette in his left. He was saying this to a young reporter who had been asked to profile him in the ‘men yet to receive proper credit’ column. He hated such things, so did the reporter.
E.L.Somu was a rare breed, someone who taught himself to write and someone who did that with elan so much so that his weekly serial appearing in the “BEST CRIME Weekly” was a rage, it had become too bigger a number so much so that the usually not so forthcoming English press thought him worthy of print.
E.L.Somu wrote his first story in 1981, it was an 11000 words rant called ‘Give me your heart and I’ll get you his Brain’. It was nothing like anybody or anything had written. Now when serious university wallahs write pages and pages about the works of E.L.Somu they mention the audacity in ‘Give me your heart and I’ll get you his Brain’.
E.L.Somu still wrote in Best Crime, he was one of the partners and had helped found the longest running crime fiction magazine in south asia. Every Friday the paperbacks would find their way to the newspaper vendors and continued to sell like what they used to before internet came into existence.
“In spite of this entire newfound appreciation sir, there is still a section of the critics who think that your books are nothing but sex interrupted by gun shots.”
That was Imran, the features reporter for the Madras Mail. He was trying hard to be neutral in the interview and not for a moment confess with a shaking of a hand or a sheepish request for an autograph saying “Big time fan, I am”
Big time fan he was, most of his family read these paperbacks before the rest of the world. His father owned Dawn Newspaper & Magazine mart on the corner that turned to the Royapettah Clock Tower.
E.L.Somu knew this question was coming, he never had to face much of interviews in the past but whenever people came up to talk to him, sex was somewhere between the third or fourth question. The first and second would be about personal well being and the Madras Heat.
He offered Imran one more cup of coffee and smiled while he thought of an answer.
The Girl now had a name, Kuyil. A police station south of Chingleput had received the distress call and the inspector there had grudgingly sifted through the missing files and found the match.
It would be the most important day of his life, dutifully the inspector along with his two constables informed the sole living relative of the girl.
It was no new story; the father had no recollection of his daughter. Drenched in locally made spirit, it took some time for Lorry Driver Kannayiram to realize that his daughter had indeed been missing. He had two other sons, both working under him. Stealing sands from the dry river bed, the daughter did not matter to him anymore. If Kannayiram had chosen to speak the truth he would have confessed selling off the girl after a deal made at the wine shop.
“Which book does not have sex, you tell me?” E.LSomu questioned back. It was the only response he culd come up with, the writer was proud of his sales but always had that nagging feeling in his head that the books were sold only because of the fact that lewd descriptions and people in compromising positions were well liked by the public.
“Take a look at the epics, if you want. If Ravana had not looked elsewhere, there would have been no Ramayana. Similarly the curiousness of the immature Kunti proved to be an important factor in the course of Vyasa’s epic. Life is such; it is after all a quite basic requirement for human beings”
Imran wrote them down like a fifth standard student writing down important questions for a weekly test, not that he didn’t agree with what E.L.Somu had said, but these were questions on his pad and he had to ask them.