An Indian Writer in Japan

There are times when destiny plays the boss in one’s life, bringing with it unwanted troubles. Very often it reverses situations, wreaks happy families. What follows is a story of this sort of bossism; the story of a writer who can safely be called the ground floor in a multitude of two-storey, three-storey and multi-storey people. He is a midget, an Indian, and a self-serving writer of the most inferior species. He is adept at passing off pornography as novels. He also has, to his credit, a book in English on Bengal’s folk art in collaboration with a scoundrel feminist. When his wife adjusts her make-up in front of the mirror on the almirah, the shortie enters into the same glass frame with a giant comb in hand and parts his hair, without, of course, disturbing her. In the past, nobody would have recognised such a rascal anywhere in the world, but nowadays these fuckers reign supreme. And for this very reason the dwarf managed to get into a delegation of Indian writers invited to visit. This happens quite often. We may guess the size of the writer to be the same as the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. This measurement is extremely vital. We shall call him ‘Atom Bomb’ for the rest of our story.

Coffin + Photograph

When the baby-sized coffin arrived in India a set of photographs also accompanied it. They are:

1) Atom Bomb on a Tokyo street. Smiling. A giant clock with a sketch of Mickey Mouse on a post behind him. ‘SEIKO’ written in bold letters.

2) The delegation of Indian writers standing in a row in front of the Ichigawa subway station. The shop with numerous pasted photographs just behind them is not a shop. It is a police outpost. The photographs are those of Japanese criminals. Some of them are members of the guerrilla Red Army. One face has a red cross marked on it – implying either caught or dead.

3) Atom Bomb on a pedestrian bridge. Having ice-cream. Numerous railway tracks criss-crossing under the bridge. A train approaching.

4) Atom Bomb in the compartment of a bullet train. A toothy Japanese girl standing next to him. Both are grinning.

5) Atom Bomb in a gorgeous bookshop. The toothy beside him.

6) Atom Bomb in a kimono-style dress. Obviously, the hotels also provide this kind of dress for children.

7) A hall. The Foreign Studies Department of Tokyo University. Atom Bomb on the dais. Blabbering with a cordless microphone.

8) Atom Bomb clapping at a Kabuki theatre.

9) Atom Bomb buying Coca Cola from a vending machine. Big tooth beside him.

Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

When the delegation of Indian writers was in Tokyo there was a gay and lesbian film festival taking place. An Indian film, The Morning Raga, was also being shown.

The toothy girl we have seen in the photographs is a poet. She has lost track of the number of marriages she has had. The theme of the poems she composed last year is indicative of an effort to transcend her gender through poetry. The theme is quite unintelligible. No one has even tried to comprehend it. But this year there has been a shift in her theme. At present, it is a detailed cataloguing of the various methods a mother can adopt to kill her baby. Smothering it with a pillow, pushing it before a running train in the subway, throwing it off the twenty-eighth floor, stuffing its mouth with detergent powder and putting it inside a washing machine, locking it up with a killer robot in a room, letting in engine-smoke in a locked car – the list goes on.

bhattacharyan01pic1.jpg We have seen the photographs of Atom Bomb with big-tooth in a swanky bookshop. The conversation they had there went like this:

Atom Bomb : What wonderful books! And the production!

Tooth : These are mostly comics. ‘Manga’ comics are very popular here.

Atom Bomb : But the authors of your country ….. Such difficult names …

Tooth : Kawabata, Mishima, Taniaki, Ogai

Atom Bomb : Yes, yes.

Tooth : Have you read them?

Atom Bomb : Yes, yes (a pure lie).

Tooth : I haven’t. Nobody does.

Atom Bomb : Ha, ha, ha.

On the right side of the shop entrance there are two cut-outs, twice the size of Atom Bomb, of David Beckham and Arnold Schwarzenagar, emitting a blue metallic flash from their eyes.

Tooth : Last night’s dinner was fantastic! What do you say?

Atom Bomb : Absolutely fabulous! Octopus with sake! (Japanese wine)

Tooth : Then you had me with santori (Japanese Whisky)!

Atom Bomb : Ha-ha. Hee-Hee. Are we very far from the hotel?

Tooth : No, only a few blocks. But why?

Atom Bomb : Toilet! New food items plus a heavy breakfast!

Tooth : What will I do when you people go back?

Atom Bomb : Why?

Tooth : You have been three months in Japan. That fogey is looking after my two mobile daughters in Los Angeles!

Atom Bomb : Who is this dotard?

Tooth : I must say my husband, as long as I don’t get a divorce.

A Random Chance to Talk Nonsense

A seminar on Japanese-Indian literature in Tokyo and Yamagata. Atom Bomb bags a chance to talk nonsense at random. At Yamagata he had even read out two pages from his trash novel on ‘traditional’ red-light houses. A very familiar sight in Japan is people in a mad rush, flocking in hordes to their workplaces early in the morning. Everyone carries a briefcase and a very expensive packed lunch purchased from an eatery. It thus remains an inexplicable mystery as to how so many people assembled to listen to the nonsense of Atom Bomb.

The plan had first struck Atom Bomb in Yamagata. He had thought about the masses at a spa hotel, whilst taking a steam bath in his birthday suit. Big tooth had heard the plan and joined him with great enthusiasm. We shall disclose it later.

The topic of discussion in Tokyo was ‘literature and water’. In Yamagata it was ‘Words Kwirl There’. A few Japanese writers have mastered a certain technique very successfully. They are experts at drawing on their own problems and talking nonsense about them. For example, an extremely overweight and loud Japanese woman novelist started with the subject of water. She said that her ninety-year old father had asked for water whilst blowing a trumpet – and this incident provided her with material novel after novel.

Indians are no less canny. Someone transformed water into the elemental spirit of Sanskrit literature and started prattling. Atom Bomb said nobody knows the possible consequences of the plan to join together all the rivers in India. The same thing was repeated at the seminar of the swirling words. Atom Bomb declared that he copied verbatim the conversation of so-called prostitutes for his novel on the red-light district. Instantly, a Japanese woman poet (not big tooth) cackled that it was highly unethical to usurp other people’s language. In reply, Atom Bomb blabbered further. Actually, literary seminars are like this.

Whilst the second seminar was in progress, big tooth told Atom Bomb that everything was progressing according to plan. Atom Bomb was so ecstatic that he pretended to hold a glass in his empty hand and shouted – ‘cheers!’ At that moment there was a mini earthquake. This occurs almost every week.

The Hope and Anxiety for the Earthquake.

The horrifying night now descended. That very evening a soft-spoken Japanese gentleman mistook Atom Bomb for a connoisseur and said these words – ‘You know, it has been calculated that a disastrous earthquake crushed Tokyo every hundred years. The last one occurred in 1920, 10,000 Japanese were killed.’

- But it happened just yesterday when the seminar was in progress.

- That was only a mild tremor.

- We should regard ourselves as lucky.

- Maybe. But I have been waiting forty years for a devastating earthquake.

Atom Bomb could not comprehend anything. Does anyone even wait so long for the highest literary award?

That night, after the party, Atom Bomb drowned in the bathtub of the hotel, whilst taking a bath.

The Coffin

A child or a man, whatever it was; a small coffin arrived in India. There was not much of a crowd. The wife was widowed. Nobody opened the coffin. It went straight into the electric furnace.

Adieu, Atom Bomb! Adieu!

What was the plan?

The plan hatched by Atom Bomb and big tooth was foolproof. An exact dummy had returned to India in a coffin.

Atom Bomb, in a garish tee shirt, is standing on the beach at Okinawa with Big tooth.

The vast Pacific Ocean lies before them. It has been decided that he would use plastic surgery to mould his face into a Japanese one.

There is a US Army base at Okinawa.

© Nabarun Bhattacharya 2007.

Translated by Ranabir Lahiri.