The Heir — A Short Story by Ajit Hirekar
A great man died an anonymous death.
It was during a Hot summer day in an unknown hamlet in India. By the time his body was brought to the police station, the authorities knew that they had a celebrity among themselves. He was none other than the great Fodor Lostrovsky, famous Russian recluse. A Writer who had gone completely off the radar over the past few years. For the locals of the Hamlet, he was just Baba, a homeless drunk who they used give alms or leftover rotis. Little did they know that the Homeless drunk Baba was the best thing that would ever happen to them.
Soon the 24×7 news channels made their way where the old Artist was kept. Conspiracy theories and his immense love for India was conveniently fictionalized. The simple men and women of the village were made celebrities. Those who did not even care about the old drunkard became experts on the routine of the deceased man. Soon the news channels, both local an international, posed an important question. Who would be the heir to the Fodor Lostrovsky’s treasured Estate?
The once great artist had completely shunned the media who he famously termed ‘ the scum of the modern world’. He had even burned his recent writings eventually ceasing any contact with the outside world. His close aides and well-wishers were banned. All this did not go well with the benefactors who had paid for the old literary genius during tough times. Yet having had enough of the material world, Lostrovsky without telling anyone else had disappeared almost two years back. And now with his death, all the people associated with him began to rush to his unknown remote final resting place in India.
Though he belonged to an affluent family of doctors, Misery was never far behind. By the time he was in his twenties, he had swindled all his inheritance in gambling and alcohol. His parents wanted him to be a doctor just like them. But he was not interested any academic excellence despite his immense aptitude. Between bouts of depression and melancholy, he was an adventurer, who supported his vices by working as an office clerk. A time of life he would completely detest and criticize in his later works. Charming, attractive and Handsome as he was, the young Lostrovsky was a rising star in the social circles. He had begun to review and publish short stories and poems that found resonance with the youth. At 31, he traveled to America where he met his soulmate in one of the Music concerts. The girl who belonged to an affluent family was intrigued by his appearance and his intellectual talks. But within months of what as deemed as a blissful marriage, the couple knew that they were not perfect for each other. With immense rallying, experimental drugs and activism, he criticized the US government as well as his own. This was the pinnacle of cold war and he was a commie. As a result, Lostrovsky was deported from the US along with his wife. They spent the next decade professing peace by spending their time in Cuba, Russia and India. He was a man of many talents and it was during this time that he matured as an artist and Writer. Of course, the added responsibility to feed a family of four made him work hard to be an accomplished writer. He faced constant rejections from publishing houses, who were afraid to publish his work. Yet one of his friends agreed to publish his novel ‘The Rainbow Nation’. It was a bestseller that was critically acclaimed. But it was heavily criticized and even banned in the US.
Soon it was Lostrovsky’s time to make a mark on the literary world. His eccentric and obnoxious point of view made him all the more likable with the audience. For the next 20 years whatever he churned out with his pen was deemed to be a bestseller. A celebrity and a star, he was welcomed wherever he went. Movies, plays and TV adaptation on his work followed. But all of a sudden at the peak of his career, he declared that he would no longer publish any of his books. He hastily divorced his wife who he claimed was trying to poison him. And within a month of court proceedings, disappeared. The tabloids and the News found this fascinating. Rumors of him suffering from cancer and tuberculosis made rounds on the social media. Prompting the Russian government to launch a massive man hunt to find the famous Lostrovsky. His wife and even his children publicly disowned him. The moment was right for countless women to come forward to accuse him of dishonesty and affairs. What took years to accumulate was run down into the sewer within days. He was soon forgotten, like most philosophers conveniently are. But now that he was gone, He was much more interesting than ever. A mystical figure that seemed distant to even his close ones. The mystery of Lostrovsky Baba was trending more than anything else in the world.
At the village, the scene was quite vivid. People with no relation to the old man had gathered from villages far and wide. And the rural Indian folk prayed for the old man as they would for any peer or saint whom they did not know. His relatives who could not prove their claim on his vast riches were now somehow all teary eyed. Their interviews pardoned him of all his sins. His Bastards and Mistresses followed suit. The Russian government promptly sent their officials to claim their comrade but found themselves lost in the commotion. The Right wing Indian politicians said he was a ‘Son Of the Soil’, a term not easily awarded even to the ones who laid their lives fighting for the country. The Left Wing Politicians wore black bands to mourn the Writer who was critical of the Russian Communist establishment, all his life. Even the religious could not be held back as leaders all over the world mourned the death of a genius. The Hare Radha Hare Sita claimed that it was only after Lostrovsky’s association with their Sect, he gained the consciousness to produce his great works. The Imperfect man somehow seemed perfect from the distance.
A tall lanky figure moved swiftly through the crowds. He shouted and jeered at whoever the crowd detested. Yet he sifted close to where Lostrovsky rested. On any other day, people would have noticed the tramp. But today was no ordinary day. Men of all colors fought and cried to claim something that was on the verge of decay.
The tramp himself was an artist. And the stage was set perfectly set for him. He was educated but unemployed. He was intelligent but poor. While his lowly coworkers were busy pick pocketing the crowd, he had his eyes set on something else. In any other circumstances, he would not have thought of robbing a corpse. But he knew that its not everyday that a famous Russian Writer chooses to die in his village. All it required was some sleight of hand and some stroke of luck.
So when the chance came, the tramp was quick to grab what seemed like a crisp 100 Rupee note from Lostrovsky ‘s jacket. But soon he realized that all he had in his hands were some scribbled notes. In fit of rage, he was about to throw the bits of paper that he had risked his life for. But something made him stop. And amidst the commotion, he chose to read it:
‘Suffering is inevitable… Indeed Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think .’
A smile broke on the tramp’s face. He looked around the frantic crowd. And then again at the man whom he robbed. From the vibrant garlands, loud cries and vulturous greed. To the serene, stoic and relieving peace. The Corpse smiled back at him as if he were his long-lost friend. The tramp gave a slight nod. He left the piece of paper at Lostrovsky’s feet and disappeared in the crowd, never to be seen again.