The auction of literary collectibles organized by Indicart was going well till the time the journal went under the hammer. Then, the auctioneer, a diminutive man in a three-piece suit, cleared his throat apologetically.
“Up next ladies and gentlemen,” he squeaked into the mike, “we have a very special item. The hitherto unknown, unpublished and untouched life journal of one of the greatest Indian fiction writers of all times, the late Shri. Debashish Mukherjee. One that he had been writing since the age of 18.”
The place exploded with spontaneous applause. People turned to their neighbours telling them how much they loved the writings of ‘Debo’ as he was fondly called. It seemed there was not one person in the hall who wasn’t a fan of Debo’s literature. Nobody took notice of the lean, bespectacled young man in a jeans-kurta who had been moving around taking pictures of winning bidders with a digital camera. But wherever the youngster went, the most stylish expressions froze on people’s faces. His name was Rajiv and he was a press reporter.
The auctioneer continued: “Debo, as you know, passed away due to cancer last year at the age of 52. In his will he had directed Indicart to auction his journal and spend the proceeds as per his wishes.” He paused. “But that’s not all.”
A murmur washed through the crowd now. Designer shoes shuffled, glossy lips pursed, shrewd eyes narrowed.
“Debo had also expressed the wish that his journal not be read or scrutinized in any way by anyone but its buyer. Accordingly, we’ve kept it sealed and you have our word that our eyes haven’t seen its contents to date. However, as you’ll understand, Indicart cannot vouch for the authenticity of this item, the reserve price for which, ladies and gentlemen, has been fixed at Rs. 50000. Bidding starts now.”
A collective groan went up in the air. Soon stray comments were heard, some ridiculing the writer, some casting aspersions on his integrity. What if it’s gibberish? Doodles? Blank pages? Debo was a man of fiction after all, wasn’t he?
The auctioneer dabbed his brow. “Are there no takers for the great storyteller’s own life story?” he asked after several minutes had elapsed.
Finally, at the very back of the hall, an arm went up unsteadily. Men and women turned in their seats, amusement on every face. Nobody upped the bid, no pictures were taken and the auctioneer brought down the gavel with a mix of relief and disappointment.
Two weeks later, a large parcel arrived at Rajiv’s modest one-bedroom apartment. Inside he found 34 diaries, each one bursting with Debo’s jottings: anecdotes and reflections from a remarkable life. Accompanying them was an envelope with a note scribbled in the same hand as the diaries. It said:
“On second thoughts, the one reader who truly BUYS MY FICTION deserves to have it for free. Regards, Debo”
Rajiv smiled when he saw what had come stapled with it.