Great literature often transports you into the realm of memory – both personal and textual. The other day I found myself in a South Delhi café, reading Nirmal Verma’s short story Lovers. It suddenly occurred to me that the corner of the café I was seated in was not dissimilar to the one Verma’s protagonist chose in a Connaught Place café. The young man yearned for the fiction he had not yet written, perhaps would never be able to write. This was a typical Verma story, where every inanimate object, however mundane, registered some presence, with a tinge of Verma’s own personality echoing in the narrator. As the story unfolded, the narrator faced rejection from his lover. It, however, brings no change to his life. Nothing. I wait for this “nothing” every time I read this story.
It also reminded me of Vineet Gill’s recent book, Here and Hereafter: Nirmal Verma’s Life in Literature, which emphatically suggests: “Verma was a writer of nothingness.”