Warning: Long post.
<*Nanga Fakir stands on the podium looking very pensive. Lifts a glass of water and drinks up. Eyes his audience with a heavy heart*>
Nanga Fakir: In the last part, I had reached the point when the Russian Fever had arrested the then thirteen year old Nanga Fakir. Indeed, good sense demands that I continue with the story of his addiction and describe the events that followed after the The Idiot fell into the hands of our little hero. However, a recent development has made me change my mind.
<*Confused murmers from the audience*>
Nanga Fakir: I have received word that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday. So instead, I will talk about him today.
It was the vacations after high school. Nanga Fakir was in Gorakhpur with his brother who went by the name of Shashikar Bhaiya (who was every bit an addict as NF was, and perhaps more). The talk veered off to the books that the cousins were reading those days and very casually a new Russian name was slipped in by the older brother.
Little Nanga Fakir: Sol...zhe..ni...what???
Not so little Shashikar Bhaiya: Solzhenitsyn. The book is called The First Circle. You know, he's a pretty marvellous writer. Even though he is alive, his books are already considered classics.
Little Nanga Fakir: What's this book about?
Not so little Shashikar Bhaiya: Oh there is hardly any story. Its just political prisoners sitting together and talking. You know, very thought refining.
Been thus introduced to His Magisterial Awesomeness, Nanga Fakir put this book on the playlist isntantly.
Some years passed by. In the meantime, Nanga Fakir had decided to break out of his addiction and had awarded himself a voluntary exile from the Addiction Kingdom.
But then he had also befriended Somnath Pal, who (like the true Bong that he was) had access to the secret archival library of the Ramakrishna Math and who one arbit day announced that he had indeed located the Book.
<*A wry smile spreads across Nanga Fakir's face. He takes off his glasses (when the fuck did he start wearing them? Ah, the phony bastard!) and rubs his eyes unhurriedly, perhaps for dramatic effect*>
Nanga Fakir: You know a junkie never quits. He takes a break. And very soon, he had in his hands the tattered old copy of The First Circle. Within two days, he gorged this six hundred page tome and ecstatically went to his friends and sang songs about how awe-fucking-some the book was. Obviously, the friends didn't care shit about either the book or the author. They listened him out semi-patiently though and soon left baffled, the dismayed asshole who couldn't understand the tepid, don't-give-a-fuck attitude of fellow humans.
As revenge, he wished their private parts would melt away the night before the JEE exam.
Soon, the exams got over and NF decided to go book hunting with Somnath Pal and entered the famous portals of Ram Advani book depot in Hazratganj, Lucknow. Their talk about books and which one to read/buy was overheard by the old man who was in charge. Very soon, Mr Naseer was sufficiently impressed by the phony, third rate glib litgiri NF is so known for spewing out. They came out of the store with an overpriced Sons and Lovers and some books from Naseer's personal collection which included 1984, Animal Farm, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and some more.
One Day... was different from The First Circle in that it was more descriptive of the life led by zeks in Gulags.The First Circle was almost Science Fiction. Heavily philosophical, unwaveringly bleak and unapologetically dystopic, The First Circle was Russian literature at its gloomy best. And so was One Day... but the scope of the gloom was limited, for it covered only one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.
With the aid of Somnath, soon Nanga Fakir acquired Cancer Ward and devoured it like a hungry dog. Still unsatisfied, he managed to locate the first volume of the author's most celebrated work -- The Gulag Archipelago in Blossoms, Bangalore during his third year in Surathkal.
Of all of Solzhenitsyn's books, this was the one that shook him most deeply. Heavily suffused with gallows humour, it is the most rigorous, intelligent, brilliantly researched and meticulous indictment of any historical regime ever in human history -- a task that seems impossibly great given the fact that innumerable roadblocks were cast in the path of the mathematician-turned-writer and that many a time, he was banned from using the archives (most of which were classified anyway). And this was just Volume 1! Despite his best efforts, Nanga Fakir has yet not been able to locate/read Volumes 2 and 3 of Gulag Archipelago.
Indeed he had blogged about The Gulag Archipelago (Volume 1) previously too. Those who really want to pay their tributes to the great man are advised to read the above link.
<*Overwhelmed, Nanga Fakir takes his phony glasses off. A tear (perhaps glycerine?) floats down his cheek*>
Nanga Fakir: Let's remain silent for two minutes in the memory of The God that Died yesterday.
<*Half a minute of an uncomfortable, enforced silence is broken by farts and the voices of children crying. NF becomes furious*>
Nanga Fakir: You all deserve to die assholes!
(Weak Voice): "It's you who is the asshole. You said you were going to talk about Solzhenitsyn. But you talked about yourself all the time. How YOU discovered him, how YOU liked him, how YOU became a fan, how YOU blogged about him some days ago. You miserable piece of shit, you deserve this."
<*Flings a leather boot towards the podium. Nanga Fakir sees it coming but is too lazy to move aside. The boot hits his nose and he is knocked out. Security men run to his aid and there is pandemonium in the auditorium*>
End of Part 2
Link: Solzhenitsyn dies on 3rd August 2008 (NY Times Obituary).