It was a scorching Tuesday afternoon in Patna. Or maybe it was a dark and stormy night. That’s the kind of freedom that writers love to misuse. You can just make stuff up. Like the need for a prologue.
Our hero, Manav Jha (whom we’d much rather call MaJah just so that 3 lakh Nepalis and 13 lakh Indians don’t buy this book thinking it has something to do with them), walked into the hotel room of India’s #1 Author knowing fully well that he could be walking into another insipid bestseller. In fact, it was MaJah’s idea. Having devoured all of D-Bag’s books, Majah was quite convinced that he, “himself”, was the perfect protagonist for his next book.
He was inherently sexist and a borderline stalker. He couldn’t speak English well enough but knew exactly how to use that to his advantage against “the English types.” And he possessed the unique ability to not only remember but painstakingly describe the colour and texture of women’s clothing – he was the quintessential D-Bag hero.
“Here, read these,” MaJah said, dropping what seemed like three folders of printouts on D-Bag’s table.
“What? What is this?” said D-Bag irritably. “I do not have the time or the energy for this.” He was understandably pooped after almost single-handedly bringing down the standard of Indian literature over the last decade.
“If that’s a manuscript, you should send it to a publisher,” and then proceeded to mumble, “I haven’t yet bought over a publishing house, you see… because suddenly, nobody wants to read love stories. They want stories about Shiva and Ram. Who’d have thought? Now publishers are falling over each other, selling their souls to have him on board! Not that I care, I’m not even competing with other authors – I’m competing with apps and games…” D-Bag suddenly snapped out of his little rant with the embarrassment of someone who had said too much to a stranger.
MaJah watched him in quiet amusement.
“Anyway,” D-Bag cleared his throat, “I’m quitting lad lit. I’m going to write something mythology-based. Krishna, maybe.”
“Oh no! Don’t do that!” said MaJah. “You are the prince of lad lit! No one writes better lad lit than you in this country…”
A suitably pleased D-Bag looked at MaJah as if to say “Keep going.”
Without missing the cue, MaJah went on. “Your writing makes a difference to the masses. The English you use is so simple, I sometimes think a six-year-old must have written it…”
“Alright, enough,” said D-Bag. “Now tell me what those folders are about.”
MaJah looked visibly excited. “These,” he said, “are three years of Facebook records of my relationship with Rhea (a girl who needs no introduction). It has everything – the first time we met, the first time we spoke, the first time we changed our relationship status because Facebook didn’t have Half Boyfriend/Girlfriend…”
“Half what?” And now it was D-Bag’s turn again to get excited.
MaJah clearly knew that would be the way to hook him. D-Bag had, after all, made a career out of all things distasteful. “Yes, I was in love with her and she didn’t like to admit she was in love with me, so she suggested a compromise – she said I could be her half boyfriend.”
This, of course, was only half true but his plan was working perfectly so far. If he could only get The King of the Less than Ordinary to write his version of the truth – that would be the mother of all revenge fantasies come true.
D-Bag meanwhile let out a well rehearsed fake empathetic sigh. “She was pretty, I’m guessing?”
“Very,” said MaJah. “And tall. She was unusually tall. And slim. She had such delicate, feminine wrists…” he said with a wistful, faraway look.
D-Bag leaned forward. “What about the eyebrows? Tell me about the eyebrows!”
It struck MaJah as mildly weird but eyebrows seemed harmless as fetishes went so he obliged. “Perfect. They were just the right length and thickness. Not bushy, not too light either.”
D-Bag looked positively horny by now. “Okay, okay,” he said for fear that he might be outed. “Tell me more. You guys broke up?”
“What!” said D-Bag with a start. “Are you telling me I’m flipping through a dead girl’s Facebook records?” This apparently was too creepy and morbid even for D-Bag.
“No,” smiled MaJah. “That was the plot twist,” he winked. “You see, she faked her own death because she knew I would not stop pursuing her if she had ended things with me in any run-of-the- mill easily misunderstandable manner. But I don’t give up easily. It’s been three years since she left the country after telling me she was dying of cancer! But I managed to get hold of her old journals and now I know exactly how to find her,” he said with a psychopathic gleam in his eyes.
D-Bag looked impressed. He loved the plot twist. And that gleam was so … himself. In fact, it was better than anything he had come up with. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll write it.”
“Yesss!” whispered MaJah, going for a fist bump. “Thank you, thank you, thank yo…”
“On one condition,” interrupted D-Bag.
“Sure! Anything! Just say it!”
“In the book, I will make it look like I was the one who pointed
this out to you,” said D-Bag.
MaJah was confused. “Pointed what out to me?”
“Well, if I’m going to write your story, I have to be an important character in the story,” said D-Bag with the callous ease of someone who had been thick-skinned for years.
“Ohh-kayy…,” said MaJah. “But it’s your book. How can you be a character in your own book?”
“My book, my rules,” said D-Bag. “If you want me to write it, I will make it look like you came to me a broken man and I was the one who pointed out that your girlfriend – err, half girlfriend – was still alive.”
“Uhh, alright, fair enough,” said MaJah. It was a small price to pay for the most epic revenge ever. This would really teach women everywhere for not reciprocating.
MMS scandals were so yesterday. He was about to tell the distorted version of this non-love-story and five lakh people were going to be reading it (in the first print run alone). Rhea may have outsmarted him a couple of times but she’d never see this coming.
And D-Bag’s eccentric request seemed like a harmless ego trip that did not really affect the grand scheme of things. “Just curious though,” he said.
“What?” asked D-Bag.
“How do you plan on featuring yourself in the book? Would you be my best friend or something?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” shrugged D-Bag like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “That’s why I always write a prologue. And wait for it … an epilogue.”
Excerpted with permission from Half Boyfriend, Judy Balan and Kishore Manohar, Bloomsbury.