May 23, 2010

All I did

A few weeks ago, the Hindustan Times announced a "One Amazing Story" contest. It was part of Penguin's promotion of Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni's new book, One Amazing Thing. I submitted the entry that's appended below, "All I did". It didn't win anything, but never mind. (Though excuse me while I go cry in the bushes. There, I feel better now).

The three winning entries are here.

Thoughts welcome.


All I did

At a tribal gathering in Santrampur, Gujarat, Deepakbhai Vaghari watched me taking notes. Then he introduced himself and whispered: "Why not see how we really live?"

Made sense. A brisk walk through Santrampur chaos, and: "Look," said Deepakbhai, pointing past black ooze and casually flung garbage to several shacks amid thorny bushes. "Our homes."

We negotiated the miasma. At Deepakbhai's hut, I bent low to look in, then blurted: "So much tidier than my home!" Because it was. Said namaste to his shy wife and their daughter, playing in the dust.

And this was all I did, no more than I would with anyone. But how altogether foreign even this much was to Deepakbhai, I would soon learn.

Walking back, he stopped unexpectedly. "The feeling for the poor I see in your heart", he said, he paused, "don't ever lose it."

In my eyes, sudden tears.


Girish Shahane said...

Winning stories number two and three appear fictions to me.
Who requires two kidneys to survive? And what are the chances of someone fighting a legal battle for 'mercy death' and winning?
As for Aunt Boolti, that name gives it away right at the start.

Anonymous said...


Baby V

Anonymous said...

In your story it is not clear which is more amazing -- the feeling in your heart or Deepakbhai's observation. The tearing does show a bond.

About some of the winning stories... sounded made-up. The competition must have been hard up for entries.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Girish and the anonymous above, any criticism I make about the prize-winners will seem like sour grapes, so I'll pass on that chance! I liked the first prize story.

Anon above, for me the truly amazing thing was what I realized was "altogether foreign" to Deepakbhai. Maybe I should have found a way to underline that better.

Baby V, thanks.

Jo said...

No winning entry can beat the language that your story has, but I think what makes the other pieces different than yours is that they focus on the kindness of others where as you end up focusing on yourself. :-) And yours is more surprising than being amazing.

Jo said...

And the 2 and 3 winning entries sound fictitious of course.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Jo, you're on the button. Yet that was the dilemma I faced. I first faced it while writing this story up for another purpose right after it happened, some years ago. Whichever way I wrote it, the focus stayed on me.

Until eventually I discussed it with someone whose judgement I respect greatly. He said, why are you bothered? Just write it as it happened and leave it there. If you agonize over how to avoid the halo, you'll only dilute its impact.

So this entry is (with some minor edits) essentially the way it got written then.

Anonymous said...

Yes I see what you mean. Goes back to the question. Do human beings have any intrinsic value, or are they like minerals, nay worse, to be consumed and discarded, with the touch of contempt reserved only for the humans? In today's societies, accelerated by population pressure the latter view is becoming more common.

Anon 10-4

AMIT said...

Dont lose heart better luck next time.

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R. said...

Not even an early bird prize...tsk tsk!

Winning entries 2 & 3 are a lil pathetic.

Why even compare your entry with these..

dipali said...

What a delightful story!

Anonymous said...

Once I saved a child from a burning building. I would have won easily had I known of this competition in time. Another time, I saved a girl from a gang of goons. She was very beautiful, but I would have saved her even if she had been ugly.

Ketan said...

It was heartening to see Deepakbhai connect with you.

Apart from that, I'm glad you persisted with the story that seemed to show you in good light. This, because true objectivity demands that if we're expected to own up our errors & deficiencies, why such a strong peer pressure should act to be modest about good things we do?

Though I say this, I still don't have sufficient courage to speak good about myself as I would've in talking negatively.

In increasingly politically correct society of educated Indians, it's unfortunate we need greater courage to speak good about ourselves than bad. I think, in all our accounts (including first person ones) we should lay out what we think the truth to be, & leave the value-judgement to the audience. For showing that courage alone, congratulations!

Haven't yet read other stories.