No one told Samson that writing poetry was hard.
And certainly no one told him that it was no fun at all.
The way Samson used to see it, poetry was as close as words got to music, and words and music being his two most favorite things in the world, what could possibly be more fun than reading poetry?
Unfortunately, though he was all for broadening one’s mind by reading as widely as possible, he just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that other people may not share the same passion for poetry as he did- that just wasn’t a concept he could contained in his broad mind. In fact, he was of the opinion that if you couldn’t enjoy a good poem, you were sub-human, worse than the diseased dogs that you sometimes came across on the side of the streets.
Being no sissy, Samson Kumar didn’t have any issues expressing this sentiment to someone who had the temerity to say that they haven’t read a poem in their life since they have left school(And these people have only grudgingly read poetry at school since they were obliged to do so for exams, Joseph has found).
Needless to say, this sort of behavior has alienated Joseph from a whole lot of people, including his closest friends. In fact, the only people who still talked with Joseph were his mother and younger brother.
His mother called him on the phone every Sunday after church- their conversations were never lengthy since Joseph found that words were hard in coming from his mind whenever he talked with someone who didn’t like poetry- and he knew that his mother didn’t like poetry.
As for his younger brother, he too was not into poems. His forte was films.
But he was so fixated on films that Samson found something undeniably poetic about it.
For instance, when Joseph- his brother- broke up with his last girlfriend, he went through a phase when he watched only movies the titles of which began with the letter ‘D’ until he got over it. (The girl’s name started with the same letter).
Though Samson wasn’t clear on the connection of movies like ‘Dances with wolves’ and ‘Die hard’ with the human mind’s capacity to mend itself after a break-up, he nonetheless found the relationship that Joseph had with movies to be rather poetic.
This meant that conversations with his brother on the phone sometimes lasted hours.
But Samson had a feeling that if his father were still around, they could have had great lengthy discussions about poetry.
There was no particular reason for thinking in this way.
Samson’s father was never really a poetry-fiend when he was alive. In fact, the man who has only ever gone till 10th standard in school disliked reading in its entirety(though he did use to skim through the newspapers every morning when he was alive).
The only reason Samson had built a romantic notion about his father as a widely read man who would tout poetry at the drop of a hat was because Samson was just 3(and Joseph,2) when his father passed away.
Growing up, he didn’t have many memories about his father- in fact, the only thing he could remember clearly about his old man was the feel of his bristly beard on his skin and the rugged voice which sounded like a garbled version of a song from a high-voltage speaker system(at least, that’s how Samson remembered it).
So, once he discovered a love for reading- and this happened early on since shy that he was, he spent an awful amount of time inside the house reading books and not out playing with friends like his brother – he began building his own memory palace inside his mind: a palace in which his father was the king who recited poems at the moon from his balcony.
Samson was thinking about his father when his immediate boss- the Creative Director of the ad agency where he worked tapped him on the shoulder.
Handing him a sheet of printed paper, the 40ysh man with a goatee so thick that it looked artificial(but it’s not- an employee did pull on it once to check when the CD was passed out drunk at an office party) smiled at him.
“This is a new brief. It’s urgent. Please finish it before you leave,” the CD said in his sonorous tone.
As the only graphic designer of the 20 member company, it was Samson’s responsibility to create logos and other motifs that would be required for a client’s ad communication. Smiling at the CD(and cursing him in his mind) he accepted the brief.
A cursory glance through the paper made it clear that he was going to have to stay late if he were to finish this particular assignment.
Staying in late was not unusual in the agency.
On the contrary, most days of the week, he did stay back later than was his call of duty.
But today was one of those rare days when Samson didn’t have any work at all to do during the entire morning session.
He was hoping that the luck of not having to do any work would run through the latter half of the day as well and for once, he would be able to go home without having his head swimming with the swirls and lines of the design work that he has been performing during the day.
But the bloody CD had to come and ruin it for him!
When he looked up, he saw the reteareting figure of the CD- his overfat backside wiggling as he climbed the stairs that led to the upper floor of the two storied apartment which was the office of the agency.
The upper floor was where the BIG ONES were at – the CD, the AD(Art director), the lone AM(Accounts Manager) of the firm and of course, the MD of the company.
It amused Samson no end thinking how such a small company could have BIG ONES at all!
“Bastard,” he muttered under his breath at the retreating figure of the CD.
Turning towards his computer, he clicked on the Coral Draw icon on his desktop, ready to get to work(albeit grudgingly).
As he waited for the software to open(it wasn’t exactly the fastest computer in the world that the company has provided him with), thoughts of his father – about whom he was thinking before the CD broke his peace- resurfaced in his mind.
There was a reason why Samson was thinking about his father on this rather hot Thursday afternoon in Bangalore. This Saturday would mark the 21st anniversary of his father’s death.
Samson has already booked the bus ticket to go home to Kerala for the next evening. There would be no special ceremony or anything to commemorate the day. He was simply going home to be with his mother and brother.
They probably wouldn’t even talk about his father- that’s how it was last year: even though thoughts about his father were in the back of their minds, they didn’t bring it up.
The dead stay dead and the living persist until they die- there was nothing more to it.
And there was nothing more to talk about either- at least this seemed to be the unspoken agreement that the three surviving members of the Kumar family had come to during the last death anniversary of Samson’s father.
This year may see just a repetition of that- the three surviving members talking about everything else but Samson’s father.
But Samson didn’t mind.
It’s been a long time since he has been home- more than three months and he was looking forward to spending some time with Joseph- his favorite person in the entire world.
“Naah, I think the logo is a little too reddish!” the CD said, peering at Samson’s computer screen. “Can you lighten it up a bit?”
It was past 8 in the night and most of the others in the room which Samson shared with a lead designer and a couple of Operations Managers among others have long left.
The sound of crickets chirping outside came loud and clear through the open windows- Samson has opened the windows and turned the AC off once the others had left because he found the room stuffy.
“But, sir, I just raised the couloirs gradient upon your suggestion!” It was all Samson could do to keep the anger out of his voice.
For the past hour, they have been doing nothing but tinkering with this one logo for a new client- an upcoming high dining restaurant that specialized in Uttar Karnataka cuisine.
But the CD, over-eager to please the client was finding faults with the option that Samson has come up with where there were no major faults- at least, not according to Samson.
Rubbing his goatee, the CD, tilting his head and observing the logo like a painter might his latest creation shook his head slowly.
“Just one more time, Samson..”
Sighing softly, with drooping eyes, Samson proceeded to do more tinkering with the colour of the logo.
It was another half an hour before all the tinkering and the polishing were done.
And by the time he reached home, Samson was so tired that he didn’t even have the necessary energy to heat up the pre-cooked chappathis that he has brought on the way from work. Neither could he bring himself to do the simple task of boiling a couple of eggs- his favorite food.
He knew that his fatigue was more mental than physical and that if he were to read some good poetry, he would feel refreshed in no time- poetry was like a cool blast of wind to his heated up brain.
Going online, he checked out some poems by his favorite poet- Pablo Neruda. But for some reason, Neruda’s words didn’t work their usual magic on him this night.
Maybe because thoughts about my father are still swirling in my mind- thoughts about death and morbidity, and Neruda- or at least his poems that I am reading are too light, he thought.
Being in the habit of reading for a long time, Samson knew that when it came to reading, if you were approaching it for solace, the best thing to do was read about the thing that was bothering you at the moment.
Thoughts about his father’s death didn’t bother him exactly- after all, he liked to reminisce a lot, being a poem lover. But the idea of morbidity, for some reason did bother him this night.
Maybe it was the fact that a sudden chill has settled in during the night that brought to him the possibility of a cold grave as the only eternal abode that awaited you. Or maybe, it was that his father’s death anniversary was so near.
Or then again, the thought might have been just the result of his wishing that his CD- the imbecile who didn’t know a pleasant shade of red when he saw one and still somehow became his boss- would die. (To be more precise, Samson wished that his CD be killed by the serial murderer at large in Bangalore whom the media has dubbed “Night chopper”- because he killed and chopped up his victims to pieces in the night).
Whatever be the reason, Samson Kumar found himself googling “Poems on death” next.
He waded through the links to the usual suspects- poems by heavyweights like William Blake and Lord Byron in which death was not so much an event as a spectacle and which Samson has read a bazillion times.
Lying in his cozy single bed with a hand under the head, he felt like reading some new poet, ideally someone whom he has never heard of before- there was a peculiar thrill in discovering a new poet which couldn’t be replicated any other way(If you were Samson, that is).
So, Samson did what’s unthinkable for most people in the 21st century- he went to the second page of Google results.
And when he found that that page was filled with links to academic papers on poetry (“The syntactic deliberations in the poems of Keats” being a case in point), he did what would surely sent the majority of smartphone users in the world into a stupor: he went to the third page of the Google results.
Scrolling down the page, he saw that it also contained links to famous works of famous poets. He was about to scroll back up and search for “Poems about death by upcoming poets” when his eyes caught a name above a link.
The link was the very last one on the page.
The words that appeared above the link was “ Death Macabre” by Kumar Johnson.
That was his father’s name. Of course, that didn’t mean the poem was written by his father- someone who passed away years before the internet exploded into the forefront of the world’s cultural and technological landscape.
But still, Samson couldn’t resist the temptation to click on the link- if for nothing else, only to see the picture of the poet(assuming there was a picture).
A poet who shared the same peculiar name as Samson’s father’s.
For Kumar Johnson was indeed a strange name.
While Kumar was a Hindu name, Johnson was a Christian name. And though it wasn’t unheard of for a Hindu to marry a Christian, the idea of a ‘combination name’ was not too popular.
Samson’s father’s mother was Hindu and her husband a Christian. And though they brought up their only child a Christian, the mother insisted that the child’s first name be Kumar- in memory of her father who also had the same name.
Clicking on the link, Samson thought how rare it would be for someone else to have the same name.
The link led him to a page that remained blank- black, actually- for a few seconds before it was loaded with the poem in white letters. The use of gothic font to accentuate the dreaded topic felt a little cheesy to Samson.
But when he began reading the poem, he found that the font was the least of it- the poem was worse.
In fact, it was one of the worst poems that he has ever read in his life. It was so bad that he felt it shouldn’t be catalogued under the word “poem” at all.
If there was a literary genre called “asswipe” that’s where this poem should be, he thought.
But notwithstanding the pathetic quality of the poem, he found himself continuing to read.
It took him a few moments to realize the reason why instead of writing a letter to whoever maintained the page to delete the poem in the name of general decency, he continued reading the damn thing.
But when the reason hit him(with the blunt force of a hammer hitting a nail-head) he sat up in bed and gasped.
The poem, he found, was filled with details about his life only someone who knew him well would know.
For instance, there was a mention of how his father- a rational man most of the times- once took a 2 year old Samson out of desperation to see an esoteric medicine man who was known to cure diseases that no one else could. At that point, Samson was down with a pneumonia which simply wouldn’t leave him, not even after consulting the best practitioners of modern medicine in town.
Later, when the child’s fever came down and his health improved(thanks to modern medicine), Kumar would laugh at his own folly- of running to the fake medicine man like that.
That episode was something which only his mother and Joseph knew about.
After a few moments of reflection, Samson felt convinced that it must be his brother who has put the page up- as a (weird) prank. He knew that Samson frequently read poems online.
But when he called Joseph and asked him about it, he said it was the funniest thing he has ever heard.
As for Samson, when he heard himself speak the accusation out loud, he realized how stupid it sounded. Apologizing to Joseph, Samson once again turned to the web page in front of him.
Only to find that something was happening.
Even as he was looking at the page, new lines were being added into the poem!
As far as he knew, such a trick was not possible with programming. For the first time, he wondered if the spirit of his father might be trying to communicate with him.
The medium of internet would make sense for his father to talk to him, and especially in the form of a poem, because he spent a lot of time(in fact, the bulk of his free time) reading poems online. Samson wasn’t active on any social media platforms and when a message alert appeared on his phone, it would be days before he got around to reading it(not least because he rarely got personal messages).
So, if there was something that his father wanted to talk to him about, something which couldn’t wait, an online poem made sense- and certainly the use of language suggested someone whose education didn’t extend beyond 10th standard in school and who used to dislike reading when he was alive.
So, what could be so urgent that his father’s spirit sought this unusual method to communicate?
Reading the ever expanding lines towards the bottom of the poem, it seemed that his father was talking about the “curious beauty of death which makes you see future!”
He assumed that that meant his father could now see the future.
He then went ahead to write about the yellow mattress of the bed where Samson was sitting and the killer- the one they call the Night Chopper- who was about to come breaking down his front door and chop him to pieces. “Get out, now!” his father typed with no pretension of poetry.
Even as he was reading the words, Samson heard the front door being kicked open. He hurriedly went to the door of his bed room to look at the door beyond the drawing room.
His eyes widened as he saw the killer, holding a machete in hand walking towards him.
He saw the grin widen on the killer’s face. He saw the bald head glisten under the light from the tubelight. He saw the goatee so thick that it could have been artificial.
Samson didn’t find it surprising that the Night Chopper was the creative director at his agency.
But he was surprised by the ease with which the blade went through his body.