January 27, 2014
I had developed an interest in literature at an early age. That perhaps prompted me to take up writing. While in high school, I penned my first short story. Once the articles began appearing in print, immaturely I believed that 'I arrived'. I wrongly assumed that my individuality is distinctively special. Often unjustifiably, I felt bigheaded and took undue pride in my hobby.
My passion of writing passed through several phases of development. In the beginning, inspired from other literature, I interpreted my thoughts. At times, I depicted my imagination and ended up creating larger than life characters and plots. In the recent past, I have stuck to basics and shaped my stories from real life events. They reflected life in different situations based on interactions with people from my surrounding. Incidents narrated by friends have been sketched out in words. Experiences during travel within the country and abroad too have been put across.
There have been times when positive criticism fostered my creative side. Some negative reactions have cut me down to size and put me in my place. ‘It’s a mixed bag’ - I have accepted this situation without discontent. ‘One has to learn to deal by accepting factual observations and discarding unwanted opinions.’ I have experienced vicissitudes. Nonetheless, this tormenter popped up from nowhere. It was unexpected and I failed to understand the reason behind his cryptic hostility. He surprised me with a tinge of hatred in his emails.
To be very frank, our interactions did not begin with animosity. Somehow, he managed to find my email id. He introduced himself as a progressive thinker, resident of Cat Hill and showed no interest in telling his name. His initial reaction was positive as he appreciated my work. He expressed his desire to be a storywriter and wished to learn the art of story writing. His emails appeared unremittingly. I replied some and ignored the rest. Perhaps he did not like my slackness. Unexpectedly, I found him furious and enraged.
‘Assessing creative work has its own respectful place. Yet, criticism could turn ugly if it ends up as root puller.’ His resentment was irrational. I was stumped by his querulous attitude. I had written a short story on infatuation of a teenager. It was published in a weekly. His reaction was instant. We exchanged emails and the exercise lasted for a week.
“This is plagiarism. You have copied the story,” the fella from Cat Hill accused.
“Why do you say so?” I questioned.
“You have reproduced a sentence that happens to be the punch liner of your story. This is borrowed from other literature.”
“Is there any rule that states a sentence written by one writer cannot be used by other? Moreover, you are talking about one line. How can you say that entire story is copied?” I argued.
“The copied one line gave apt fillip to your climax. You plagiarists are blued eyed boys of editors. I won’t spare you,” he threatened.
“What will you do?” I challenged him.
“You better watch out. I will expose you.” This man from Cat Hill expressed his intention.
Penalty served by him sounded weird for allegedly lifting someone else’s sentence. Though startled, I tried to forget him.
Nevertheless, his caution stayed ‘ticking’ behind my mind. Thereafter he remained silent for a while. My next short story appeared in a magazine after a couple of months. Apparently, he broke his silence. The exercise of shooting emails restarted all over again.
“Old habits die hard. You are shameless.” Man from Cat Hill charged.
“What happened now?” I questioned.
“I read your story. You can’t escape from me.”
“Why should I be bothered about you?”
“Writers like you are pampered by illiterate editors. You better be careful. I am watching you,” he warned.
“Could you be a little more specific?” I requested.
“You have lifted words from the work of other writers.”
“Last time you accused me for lifting a line and now the blame shifts on stealing words! Give me a break… I was not born with language and words of my own. They are learnt and borrowed over a period of time.” I tried to be rational.
“You are a copycat. Your creativity is lackluster and unoriginal. I know your past. Time is up to expose demons within you.” He reiterated his threat.
His threat affected my nerves to some extent. What did he mean by exposing demons within me? ‘Do I carry a shameful history? Do I have skeletons in my closet?’ Why did he say that he knows my past? Who is he?’
His threat dwelled in my mind and captured some space. Lack of confidence powered over. Briefly, my writing interest came to a grinding halt. Shaken by his madness, I put myself on trial and weighed up my bygone days. I backtracked my past and I searched for black spots. Did I ditch anyone before marriage? Did I earn from fraudulent activity? Any illicit relationship in wedded life? Was I ever charged in question-paper leak fraud? Did I defame someone? Any involvement in robbery, abuse and death? How about manipulation, corruption and exploitation?
I had no clue of his identity. He remained enigmatic and disguised. My attempt to trace the source of his email turned futile. He was operating under a masked IP address. The information on internet suggested Cat Hill is located in more than one place in the globe. One such Cat Hill was in Africa and the other in the US. A public park somewhere in Canada too was known as Cat Hill. Perhaps he used Cat Hill as a deliberate deception. He could be somewhere around me, residing in this small Indian city.
His threat had affected my psyche. Large dark shadow of an unknown image loomed in my mind. My creative interest had gone downhill. My wife enquired the cause of my disheartened condition. I disclosed the threats of this man from Cat Hill. “I knew your writing addiction someday would lead you into problems. You must have unknowingly hurt him. Who knows he could be a terrorist!” She deepened my apprehension.
The Editor called me for my prolonged delay in submitting the next story. I revealed the series of nasty emails that I received from anonymous from Cat Hill.
“You sound silly.” Editor ticked off. “I can’t believe this. You are chickened out due to nonsensical threats from an anonymous. A self-proclaimed progressive thinker from Cat Hill used to send some rubbish articles. I did not publish them. He waged a war with abusive emails and even warned by stating he would dissuade popular writers from contributing to my magazine. This must be the same bloke. The person is inherently crazy. You better ignore him.”
Someone had rightly said, ‘When anxiety lingers, it can cloud even the simplest experiences.’ Editor’s pep talk cleared my brain fog to some extent. I was stirred up to write my next story. The nucleus was formed on following plot: “Once upon a time, there lived a wildcat. One night, the wildcat loses its way while moving around for prey and lands up in a public park. Wildcat finds the place very beautiful with exotic rocks, rolling hills and greenery sprouting all around. Packs of abandoned cats live in same park and enjoy perching on rocks. They happily survive on food provided by visitors. The feral cat turns green with envy and decides to grab hold of the park by chasing out domestic cats. Staying united, existing inhabitants refuse being bullied by pariah. Now the invader plans to kill every cat that challenges him. All native cats join and hold their own against the wildcat. Rest of the narration highlights on battle royal and triumph of good over wicked. Finally, feral cat suffers defeat and disappears back into the forest. Subsequently the park visitors, who had witnessed the cat war, name the place as Cat Hill Park.”
On completion, I forwarded the story to Editor. “This isn’t great stuff.” The Editor assessed after reading. In spite of his negative remarks, he sent it for reproduction. Soon after it appeared in print, Anonymous from Cat Hill composed an email.
“I thought you must have taken voluntary retirement from literature. You have been out of sight for quite some time.” He wrote. “I have no hopes in you. You will never improve. Stealing must have been your family business.”
“I did not steal.” I quickly replied.
“You are good in both, stealing and lying. Readers may not have understood your story. However I did. I knew every word of your narration. You have symbolically referred Public Park to the world of literature. Your central character is an ambitious writer. He is dominant, enjoys authority over others and plans to rule in order to bring a change in prevailing quality of literature. While not having achieved desired success, naturally he is agitated. He designs a secret ploy to eliminate roots of evil. The orthodox writers show strong resistance and gang up against their savior… Do you call it original?”
“The plot of my story is genuinely original.” I maintained.
“I know your history. You have neither skill nor any talent. How dare you call it original? It is blatantly copied from my life. The end is unfair. I will finish you.” That was his last email.
“You have misinterpreted my story.” I clarified. “The central character of my story is not a savior. He is an invader. He epitomizes evil.”
Thereafter I did not receive any email from his end.