The Phantom Menace !!!
This story or rather I should say the - Phantom Menace started, many years ago, when I was in Engineering College and till date it has not ended. God only knows -How much I wish to end it, but I am not able to do so. And it keeps haunting me, time and again and it has bugged me again now.
It all started when I opened an library account in the State Library of Sector 17, Chandigarh,. They took 100 rupees for a year and you could take any book for a period of 15 days, after that if not returned, there was a penalty of 1 rupee a day. The books could not be reissued.
Once, I got a novel issued, and the saddest part is that now I do not remember the exact name of the novel or the author. The novel was pretty old, with the pages turned deep yellow, as if it were centuries old. On the backside, the condition was so bad that even after staining your eyes you would not be able to read the reviews. The name of the book was "Phantom" or "The Phantom of the Opera". I am not sure about the name, only just a slight memory at the back of my mind, something to do with Phantom, I guess. The story was good, but the more important thing was that, there were many paragraphs, sentences and lines in the novel that were so emotional and such beautifully written that it touched your heart at the deepest levels. After reading those heart touching and emotional paragraphs many times I stopped reading and just gazed in the emptiness for hours. If Hitler had read those lines, his heart would have also skipped several beats. Okay, that is an exaggeration, but I think you are getting the drift.
I completed the book in 20 days or so, but didn't want to return it. So, I read it again and copied all the sentimental and emotional paragraphs on sheets of paper. Those accounted to about 5-6 pages and that was my treasure. If you have read the previous sentence carefully then you will notice that there is a "was" in it, I lost my treasure. I paid 12-15 rupees fine for the late return of the book, but that fine was well worth it. At that time I did not have my computer and moreover computers were hardly used by us for anything other then writing programs in BASIC and C language, so that bunch of handwritten pages were the only copy I had.
I made a second copy of the pages and sent them to my friend in Shimla. After a few months, another friend from REC Warangal, came to Chandigarh for a few days and I took the original copy of the papers, just to show him. We were sitting at his place when he read them. We were chatting, laughing and cracking jokes on each other before that, but after reading them, he suddenly became very quiet. He did not speak anything for 10-15 minutes and after that just said, let us go out. We came downstairs to the market, hired a rikshaw and headed off to Sector 17. He did not speak a word. After reaching Sector 17, we roamed form a couple of minutes, after that he said, "That stuff is nuclear bomb, man, it is highly explosive, I exploded into thousand bits". After that the conversation drifted in other directions. While returning back home, I asked him to return the pages, but he said that he would return them later in a few days. I reminded him that it was the only copy I had and at no cost should he loose them or give it to anyone. He promised that he would return them in a few days.
After a few days, I again went to his home and asked him to return them. He searched, but could not find them. I felt like killing him on the spot, with my bare hands. How could he loose them? In spite of my repeatedly telling him that it was the only copy I had, he did the same thing, I had so feared about.
After that I tried to search the same book in the Sector 17 State library, but could not locate it. The state library is like a jungle. They have all the catalogues there, but all the books are scattered here and there on all the shelves. Even if you are able to locate a book in the catalogue, it would be nearly impossible to find it on shelve or block written on the catalogue. The shelves are open to everyone and while searching for books; everyone just dumps the books anywhere he/she feels like. In the catalogue, there were more then thirty books with the names matching Phantom, Phantom of the Opera etc. from various authors, but without the specific book name and author it was almost impossible to locate it. Then also I searched for several hours and several times, but of no use.
I had sent one copy of it to my friend in Shimla. That was the only chance I had left up with. He has a habit of saving every textbook and other reading material and has been collecting it since second standard. So, I thought that he might have preserved my letter. When I got a chance of going to Shimla, I asked him about it. He said that, he had put it somewhere in his collection and had not thrown it. We searched the whole of his awful lot of junk books and all other nonsense but could not find it.
I had forgotten all about it, but I had these Diwali holidays and had time, so was resetting the collection of my books and I just saw a thin pale novel "The Phantom of Manhattan" ?by Fredrick Forsyth, in my collection. Then I remembered that, over a year of so ago, that Phantom worm had again infested my mind and I was on the lookout of that lost novel. In that hope, I had bought this Fredrick novel, thinking that maybe if it is a sequel or continuation of the novel I was searching then I might be able to find my treasure. I had read the first two pages and had junked Manhattan..
I read the book again and thankfully I was able to read it completely."The Phantom of Manhattan" is a sequel of "The Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux. But neither are the books, which I was searching for. Fredrick novel is okay, but it is just that.
Now again - the search goes on and on and on....