Papu's Declaration of Love
excerpted from the novella
The Third Eye of the Needle
Dean Borok

(for a later installment
visit Vol IV Issue 3/4)

When the location shooting was finally wrapped, Eponine felt saddened by her departure from Tamil Nadu. She had had the use of a beach-front villa outside Madras for the weekends and had taken her meals on a verandah facing out over the warm blue waters of the Bay of Bengal. She had found the native population to be warm and welcoming, and the local fish delicacies savory and spicy.

Arriving back in Bombay, she found her apartment filled with flowers, with a card from Bhopal Productions. On her bed was a gift box containing an elegant sari of red silk embroidered with gold thread and a handwritten dinner invitation from Papu.

They met at a famous seafood restaurant on the Bombay waterfront called Kama, where a private terrace overlooking the harbor lights had been reserved for them. Eponine had worn the red sari. Papu said, "You look lovely tonight, my dear."

"I feel like part of the decor," which was also red and gold.

Papu said, "This restaurant is named for the Hindu god Kama who went about with a red flag emblazoned with a gigantic fish."

"So he was the god of the sea?"

"Actually, he was the god of love."

"So what was the fish?"

"That's a long story."

"It always is."

"Kama actually rode a parrot. Like your cupid, he had a bow and arrow.
But his bow was made from sugar cane and the bowstring was made from honeybees, and he shot arrows tipped from flowers."

"What lovely imagery."

"But you know, my dear, our gods are fraught with human frailties. When Kama was a baby, he shot one of his arrows at his father, Dharma, which caused Dharma to commit incest with one of his daughters."

"Oh dear!"

"It so enraged Shiva that Shiva cut off one of Dharma's heads."

"I so love your Indian mythology. But it's all so convoluted! How do you remember it all!" Eponine laughed.

"The story about Kama is that he does not always use his powers with great discretion. He goes about shooting people at random, making them fall in love and creating great discord."

"Somebody should lock him up."

"Once he shot Shiva and made him fall in love with the goddess Parvati. But Shiva was meditating at the time and (this should interest you) Shiva reduced Kama to cinders with flames shooting from his third eye. But even though Kama was dead, he had already done his damage and Shiva could not rest until he had married Parvati."

"So when Kama died, that was the end of love?"

"For a time. The earth became an arid desert. Finally the gods prevailed upon Shiva to resurrect Kama, so Shiva permitted him to be reincarnated as the god Pradyuma. Since Pradyuma was born out of wedlock, he became the god of passionate desire, but, he was killed at an orgy, and when he was again reincarnated he came back as Kama."

"You should make a movie about it."

"Believe me, it's crossed my mind. But like you said, who could follow the story line? Also, there is the problem of all those multiple heads and arms. Not that we couldn't find a way to do it, but we decided that it would not be aesthetically pleasing." Papu paused and Eponine had a premonition of what was to come next. For the first time he seemed to not be possessed of his great self-assurance.

She remembered the lyrics on an old pop song:

Nobody is above
The rules of love

But he digressed. "You know, Eponine, Raj and I are not really Indian."

"What are you?"

"Our parents came from Afghanistan, where our ancestor had lived for many centuries. We were expelled by Muslim fanatics when Raj and I were just small children. So we were immigrants."

"It must have been hard."

"Raj and I started off as manufacturers of handbags and belts for ladies. Then we met Dipankar Ghosh, who was a film student at Delhi University.

"Dipankar showed us an old Italian movie called La Strada, which was about an Italian circus performer who travels about on a motorcycle and does shows in all the small villages, working for tips. You know, in India we have many itinerant performers like that. So we decided to take a chance and finance a remake of that film.

"We called it 'Highway to Heartbreak', and it did very well. People wept openly at the end.

"And so that was our start." Papu chuckled. "Now Dipankar is so rich, if he started now he could not count all his money until the end of his life."

"And you and Raj are even richer."

"Eponine, when you get past a certain point it's not about money anymore. Once you are confident that your material needs are taken care of, then you find that you are left to fulfill your fundamental motivations — the ones you were born with, that were assigned to you by destiny. For most people, whose needs are simple to fulfill. They usually involve leaving children and the material means to sustain them. For others it may be a great business enterprise. But for the artist, I think the drive is to create great works of art that will enrich the world for all eternity."

"And you fall into that category?"

"Of course. But one does not just set out to create classical art. That inevitably fails. I know a songwriter, a very successful man with hundreds of popular hits. He told me, 'Papu, one cannot write a classic. I have written thousands of songs. Out of those thousands, maybe a couple of hundred are any good. And out of those hundreds, maybe twenty will endure.'

"So you see, my dear, that is what we are up against."