A Suitable Profession

The Book Fair put the idea into Mona’s head. India’s Suitable Boy fuelled the flames.

Which is how Mona became a state-of-the-art writer. She acquired a permanent ink smudge on her retrousse nose and tucked a gold-embossed pen behind one shell-shaped ear.

The day I went to see her, she was sitting a rosewood desk cooing at a dictaphone.

Ever one for the banal q, I asked her what she was doing. ``Trying to write a book, darling, that is, if you will let me,`` she replied with careless charm.

 “Oh,” I said blankly, “What is it about?”

``That I have not decided yet,`` she told me loftily. ``When inspiration comes, it comes. You don’t look for plot, theme, or substance,`` she informed me sweetly. 

``But Mona,`` I protested, ``you must have some idea.``

``Of course I do, sweetie,`` she trilled. ``It is set in Saidapet, moves to Somwarpet, and from there to Surat. It’s about a maami in search of a suitable…``

``A suitable boy?`` I gasped. Nothing about Mona usually surprises me but this blatant plagiarism was too much, even for her.

``No, silly, Vikram Seth has already done that,`` she told me kindly. ``This is all about the search for a suitable suite. It’s kind of a thriller,`` she said vaguely.

``What kind of thriller,`` I asked with a straight face. ``Well,`` she lilted, ``there will be a maami, a swami, a film star with an AK-420 and a politician who breeds rabbits.``

I was dazzled by the ingenuity of such a story-line. ``They love my book, darling,`` she gurgled. 

``Who,`` I asked, startled.

``Oh, the publishers, the talk-show hosts, everyone. Do you know, Salman called it a masala mix!``

It was clear she took that as a compliment. But I was impressed, despite myself. ``Salman Rushdie?`` I asked in awed tones.

``Salman Khan,`` she chided me, in reply. 

A thought struck me. ``How can everyone love your book, Mona, it’s not out yet, is it,`` I asked naively.

She gave me a pitying look. ``Where have you been, honey? Reams and reams have been written about me, my literary influences and the colour of my doggie’s leash. I’m appearing soon on a TV panel discussion on writer’s block. And a deal for film rights is in the offing. God, it’s a hectic life, that of an author.``

The phone rang just then. Mona fixed an appointment for a photo shoot by the poolside of a local luxury hotel.

``So when is your book due for release Mona,`` I queried eagerly.

``Darling, I haven’t started writing it yet. Before I set down the words, I’ve got to decide whether it will be a long poem in prose or prose in rhyme. Or maybe proesy… poetry in prose. Or…``

Proesy? I crept away, leaving the celebrated author wresting with these monumental problems.

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