WHILE I AM NOT O. HENRY...
Pic.: Azriel D'Souza
After our Lonavala Tai Chi camp, we were meeting at our Tai Chi class, today… yes, exactly after one week.
When Kannan saw me, he came and charged me with his exuberance… “What a beautiful book, Gerry,” he complimented me for the new book I had released during our camp, “Frankly, I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful!”
Well, I was flattered; but, I tried my level best to keep me planted firmly on earth… “Thank you so much, Kannan sir,” I said clothing me in my shyness, “It will help me to keep writing.”
“Your writings remind me of O. Henry’s,” Kannan continued. “Have you read any of O. Henry’s short stories?”
“Yes sir,” I said, “We had ‘Gift of the Magi’ in our English text book when we were in eleventh standard… It is one of my favorites… Beautiful!”
“You know what Gerry,” Kannan went on, “O. Henry’s stories were JRD’s favorites, too. JRD had declared, that education was incomplete if one did not delve into to O. Henry’s treasure!”
I couldn’t agree more. O. Henry wasn’t a scholar; and, like JRD, he did not possess an academic qualification worth talking about. His stories came from the earth; they were raw, rustic… real… Life oozed out of his stories… The characters and the plot – like O. Henry’s real life – seemed too, too familiar…
I felt too shy when Kannan compared me with O. Henry!
But then, I thought of my life… It is a lot straighter compared to O. Henry’s… I have not been jailed for looting as he had been… I am not a drunkard like he was… My marriage is very stable unlike his… I haven’t fled the county and so on. So, when I thought of all this, I really felt, that O. Henry was an ordinary mortal, even more mortal than me… with feet of clay, but a heart of gold…
That was enough to make feel: ‘Hey, I am O. Gerry’!
It was already very hot when I got into the auto after the Tai Chi class. As I had to buy some things from the market, I offered my half-full bottle of mineral water to the autowala. “Please keep it, it is very hot,” I said innocently as I paid him the fare.
“What will I do with it?” the autowala said cold-bloodedly and drove off!
I stood there for a while, completely puzzled… yes, shocked… till I could regain my composure!
After my work in the market, I boarded another auto. On my way, I picked a two-litre Seven Up and twenty plastic glasses… Stopped the auto near our society gate and handed them over to our security…“Please, give everyone,” I instructed…
I could sense the joy!
A minute later, I had to leave the auto. I handed the half-full water bottle to the young autowala…
“Thank you sir,” the autowala said gratefully, “It is really very hot.”
I remembered JRD’s words, that our education was incomplete if we did not delve into to O. Henry’s short stories!
I really don’t think I would be arrogant if I call myself, today, ‘O. Gerry’!