Wordweavers India 

A Muse Out of Nowhere

Megha Nayar


I sit in a box-shaped chamber of slow death.

Located in the city’s largest concrete sprawl, my box is an excuse of an office, a sorry, unremarkable structure. It is not a crumbling piece of mass yet though. If I had to humanize it, I would pick the cash-strapped labourer over the bumbling beggar. My box-building is like the labourer who has to count every penny, and is yet not close enough to destitution to give up all cares and close his eyes.

This area was once the city’s muse. The affluent owned bungalows here, bungalows valued in several crores. The city’s glitziest street used to be five minutes away. The street still exists, except it is no more the glitziest. A railway line runs close by, manned by a crossing. Here, for many years, I would wait impatiently for the train to pass so that I could continue my commute to school. I hated reaching school late.

Today, I am in a hurry to reach home. I stare out of my window into nothingness, waiting for the clock to strike six. The wait is exasperating, because I walk into this building each day waiting to walk out of it.

Every day, despite my admonishments to myself, I succumb to melancholy. When it becomes unbearable, I try to be like the others. They all seem to have accomplished what they set out for in the morning. They look happy. I want to be happy too.

But, I oscillate between dreams and prosaic reality. I detest this building’s banal façade, the sour air in the corridors, the layers of grime on its walls. Most of all, I abhor the people that inhabit these cubicles – relentless, identical little ants. I can never be one of them.

I guess I’m here for a reason. I am a writer, and for writers, nothing, not even insipid emptiness, can ever go waste.
When I see a man dying on the streets, I stop to take a keen look at his attire. I may describe him as ‘destitute’ later. I check if he is thin enough for my favourite word ‘emaciated’. I try to find out his story, but mostly I just make up my own.
At the thought of writing, my chest tightens. No matter how inspired I may be, it will be some hours before I can put pen to paper. Despicably ‘average’ at earning my daily bread, I have to hold on to the muse while I go about my data entry pointlessness. I curse myself for taking birth into a middling working class home. One half of a silver spoon, and I could go conquer the world.

I realise my tea has gone cold. Outside my window, it has started to rain. There is a slum just across the street, where people are pointlessly scurrying to get their meagre belongings together. I watch them intently, partly out of empathy and partly because I know I will feature them in one or the other of my stories someday.
Suddenly, I see her – the girl who delivers ‘diet snacks’ to our office bourgeoisie. She is walking towards one of the hutments. Her heels are cracked but she is beaming away to kingdom come.


It strikes me, in that moment, that I’ve been cribbing for too long. My thoughts are starting to become a monochrome template. Each day is sour, with deliberation that borders on despair, a nagging inadequacy that leaves me feeling broken. I spend my days in a dull shade of grey. The grey has now become me.

I decide that I want a breather from this routine today. I walk up to my desk and switch the monitor on. I try not to look at the blank Excel sheet in front of me – perhaps this is not a day for numbers.

I open a Word document instead and resist the temptation to fix page borders. Shockingly, I don’t bother capitalizing first letters. I can’t seem to think of a good beginning, so I start from the end. The last couplet turns out beautiful, and I work upwards.