A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER
A CONVERSATION WITH MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES (Truth is Stranger than Fiction)
All of us readers have fantasized interviews and meetings with our favourite literary characters, sooner or later, haven't we? Well, here's a thought. This is my piece with my character of all time. How would your meetings go?
“Hello, Mr. Holmes”. Holmes was lounging in his customary armchair. Now, he looked up with a mildly inquisitive gaze and swept me over quickly with his eyes.
“Good morning” he replied in his most formal tones. “Do I know you?” he asked. Now, there was a curious change in his manner. Mr. Holmes, I observed with pleasure, was interested in me. It was not often that a young Indian girl called upon him as early as seven of a morning. He indicated a chair. He was, I thought, a bit amused. I enjoyed his attention and took my time sitting down. I began to return his gaze and found that he was what I had always expected him to be. Self assured, condescending, interesting. An enigma.
“How may I help you?” he asked briskly, interrupting my thoughts.
“Oh, an interview would suffice”.
“And you assume it would be granted because?”
“Because I am your obsessive fan, sir. You could not have failed to know this; you must have seen me following you about town for the past few weeks”.
“I thought it was to consult me upon a case?”
“But there is none! My dear girl, as hard as it may be to understand, I am going to have to ask you to leave” he said, getting back to his occupation.
“My dear sir. You are forgetting something.”
“Yes?” he murmured absent-mindedly.
“You cannot order me to leave whereas I can. You are forgetting this is a dream. All art is born out of neurosis or so my psychology professor told me. Well, this is my art. My need to escape. My unvarying, violent need to meet you in person, if not in reality, then in dreams”.
“You sound too lucid for a dream, madam” he reasoned.
“That’s interesting, dear sir. You see, that’s where literature comes in. A minor point on which we disagree. You find reason to be stimulating; I find fiction to be stimulating instead”.
“And why should the two be separate?”
“My! You can be quite conversant when you understand that in dreams, interviews have to be granted”.
“Indeed” he remarked.
“You are quite handsome, aren’t you?”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. The novels describe a tall, thin, spare gentleman with pale, aquiline features. I would describe you differently”.
“And I have no choice but to listen?”
“To quote you, “none in the world”. To me, you are an enigma. A word I am fond of. A man of deep character with eyes of cold blue steel and eyebrows that starkly contrast. Rigid cheekbones and thin lips which may point to extreme coldness or extreme strength. And above all, a man of deep conscience and action”.
“Why, thank you!”
“You have to say that. I dream up your lines”.
“Is there anything else you wish to say to me? You know you have very little time, don’t you?” he said kindly.
“Mr. Holmes. I wish you’d been true like so many others do”.
“On the other hand, I wish people would forget you. Stop contorting your inimitable fame and character with absurd versions in movies and television shows”.
“So you have repeatedly told yourself”.
“You must have been true”.
“I am afraid I cannot help you there, my girl”.
“Why do I admire you so? Why do you take up so much of my waking hours? Is there an unseen bond between us, one that transcends time, reality, language, nationality even?” I asked him. Holmes watched me tackle my own question in silence, his cold eyes twinkled.
“I know why” I told him.
“Pray, enlighten me since I have no choice but to listen, again!”
“You are quasi-living. Partly true, partly fictitious. Characters like you wait for dreamers like me. Every turn in my life would inevitably lead to you and then, you take over. You find resurgence, life in readers”.
“You are making me sound rather villainous”.
“Truth is stranger than fiction” I murmured deliriously, remembering the words of my teacher. “You are truer than I am, aren’t you?” I asked him. Holmes looked at me and I knew, he knew, and I knew that he knew I knew the answer at last. He had said, “I can’t help you there”. He had not said that he wasn’t true.