When 'write' was wrong

Reasonably good at English, he intended to make up for his lack of creative imagination by relying heavily on existing material. The fact that the teacher stressed that compositions had to be original did not deter him. As soon as the students were given the topic, Tarun rushed to the library to borrow (steal, he felt, was too harsh a word!) readymade matter involving ‘Adventure’.

Much to Tarun’s delight, he chanced upon a collection of exciting escapades, each featuring the same group of children. The one he felt would be ideal for his purpose dealt with their discovering a chest of valuable coins dating back to the early 16th century, when Alphonso d’ Albuquerque established a Portuguese mint in Goa. A gang of crooks pursued the foursome for the treasure, but the youngsters outwitted them. They hid the hoard in one ingenious spot after another, eventually handing it over to the police.

As he absorbed details of the plot, Tarun thought it might be wise to change the names of the characters. He could not alter much else, since omitting Francis Ferreira’s use of local colour would dilute the tale. Old churches and forts had to be retained, for crypts and tunnels played dramatic roles in the narrative. Tarun reasoned that even if he did memorise the entire text he was safe. He had never heard of Francis Ferreira, and was certain that no one else had either. “Hardly JK Rowling!” muttered Tarun scornfully.

There was, of course, the danger of someone reading Tarun’s story (after it had been adjudged the best!) and recognising it as something he or she had come across before. In response to Tarun’s seemingly casual query, the librarian told him that ‘The Fearless Four’ was a recent addition and had never gone out. Satisfied on that score, Tarun tucked the volume out of sight behind some philosophical works that rarely left their shelves. There was now no chance, Tarun told himself, of anyone finding Ferreira’s book after enjoying his own masterpiece which he would call ‘The Fantastic Four’.

The following day, Tarun’s pen raced across sheet after sheet of paper. “He kept writing as if inspired,” Mrs Jairaj told her colleagues, after collecting the scripts. “I shouldn’t be surprised if Tarun has beaten Vijaya, whose essays are excellent.” Since no more than twenty children had taken part in the contest, the visiting judge did not take long to pick the winner. Even before he left the school, Mrs Jairaj declared that Vijaya’s entry had been awarded first place. Tarun’s was not even second or third.

Excusing himself, Tarun ran out of class and dashed after the elderly gentleman who was just leaving the Principal’s office. “Are you the judge?” Tarun demanded breathlessly.
“That’s right,” was the polite reply. “Is anything wrong?”

“Everything!” said Tarun, fighting tears. “You seem to have missed my wonderful story. It’s about four children eluding thieves who are after....”

 “It was fascinating,” interrupted the judge, “or do I mean ‘fantastic’? Strangely enough, Parimala, Malini, Vineet and Manish were once Pamela, Melanie, Vincent and Manuel.” As Tarun turned red, he went on kindly, “My boy, that story is my story. As you’ve probably guessed, I am Francis Ferreira!”

 

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