Alex D’Costa was sitting on his bed, staring at the maroon and green carpet covering the floor. The alarm on his bedside table went off. It was seven in the morning. Alex shut it down. He was just recovering from the jarring impact of the alarm, especially in the background of silence, when Alexa chimed, “Happy Birthday Alex”. He mumbled ‘Thanks Alexa’, rubbed his eyes and proceeded towards the bathroom. Half an hour and shave and shower later, he stepped into the living room. He was greeted with a ‘Surprise’ as he entered the room. His seven-year-old daughter Kiara and his lovely (according to him) wife Marlene were standing next to the centre table. There was a chocolate cake on the table which had the words ‘Happy Fortieth Alex’. The letters were created using icing and were topped with a cherry. A few candles were randomly stuck into the cake. Alex broke into a smile and hugged the two. The cake cut and the usual ritual of feeding everyone a piece done, the birthday boy excused himself and went up to his study. He was working on a script for a film which was being financed by one of the largest production houses in the country. He checked his email before he started working on his script. While he deleted several useless emails, one caught his attention. It was from the panel of judges for a prestigious film award. A film he wrote a few months back had been nominated for the best original script.
Alex froze for a few seconds. He blinked and read the email several times until he was fully convinced that it was authentic and not spam. After he regained his equilibrium, he picked up his laptop and rushed outside. He saw Kiara fidgeting with cake. Marlene was not in the living room. He rushed to the bedroom.
“Ah, there you are.”
Alex seemed relieved.
“HUH? Where would I go?”
Marlene quipped, looking up from her laptop. She was working on a presentation for a pitch for her advertising agency. Alex shrugged.
“Yeah. Well. Anyway, I wanted to show you something.”
There was a hint of excitement shrouded by discomfort in his voice. She threw him a questioning glance. Alex wordlessly stationed the laptop in front of her to see the email. She almost jumped out of the bed in frenzy after reading the email. It concluded with a bear hug and planting a congratulatory kiss on Alex’s lips. She read the last line aloud –
‘The panel is honoured to nominate you for your outstanding work. We look forward to seeing you at the awards night next month.’
As Marlene finished the sentence, Alex’s expression turned glum, almost morose. He was looking out of the window. Marlene gently turned his face towards her. He wouldn’t look her in the eye.
“What happened? Aren’t you happy? I, for that matter, am over the moon! I need to get a nice dress made for the awards night to accompany my famous screenwriter husband, right?”
“Yes. Well, I am happy.”
“Your eyes and words don’t seem to be matching. Can you please tell me what is it?”
Marlene asked of him.
Alex got up from the bed, scratching his head.
“I don’t know if I deserve it. I mean I know I did a decent job with that script but…”
“But what Alex? Are you feeling insecure and not confident enough about your capability?”
Marlene was stumped at his response.
Alex looked at her, sat down on the bed and held her hands. Someone pushing his buttons was not really a favourable situation for him. While Marlene would face situations head-on. Still, he kept calm. He looked earnestly into her eyes.
“I am definitely not feeling insecure. But I don’t think I deserve it.”
Marlene thought she had not heard it right. She was completely baffled. She kept looking at Alex, not knowing what to say. And when she was finally about to say something, which might have proven inadequate, she thought, Alex got up and left the room. Marlene followed him to the kitchen.
“What do you mean?”
She almost scowled at him, trying to get her thoughts together. She could not think of any reason whatsoever as to why would he say and feel that.
Alex poured himself some coffee, took a sip and raised his brows.
“What do I mean? As in? I meant what I said Lene. I doubt if I deserve this nomination. I don’t know if I want to go.”
“Why? But why?? There has to be some reason, right? You can’t just randomly say that you don’t deserve it. Especially when some of the best people in the business tell you that you deserve it.”
“I am sorry. But it is what it is Lene. I really don’t think I have done something nomination-worthy.”
Alex disappeared into the study, leaving Marlene in a transfixed state again. Marlene threw her hands in the air in surrender. She had to go to work so she left it at that. Since Alex was home, she didn’t have to worry about Kiara. She left a note for Alex and stuck the post-it on the fridge and left.
Alex was struggling with his script. The news of nomination was distracting to say the least. He was fidgeting with the keys. He couldn’t afford to do that since he was on a deadline. There was silence around except for the faint ticking of the wall clock and the sound of his breathing. It was punctuated by occasional clacking of keys. It was taking a lot of effort for him to think of each word. His effort resembled that of someone trying to get water from a well where the water level has gone frighteningly low. It takes every ounce of your energy to get half a bucket of water. Alex was in shambles. He kept staring at the laptop. At one point instead of the screenwriting document, he imagined that email. In his imagination, that email turns into a ball of fire and consumes him. Alex got up from his desk, shaking his head like he wants to get rid of that feeling. He made his way to the kitchen. He peeped into Kiara’s room to see what she was doing.
To his shock, he could not see her in the room. He searched all around the house calling her name. There was no response. He skipped a beat and fear gripped him like a cobra grips its prey. The fact that he was a writer wasn’t helping, thanks to his fertile imagination. From kidnapping to injury, he had conjured up all kinds of things as to what might have happened to her. Amid those thoughts, he went to the kitchen and had a glass of water. Having water helped him calm down and think. He was already mulling over the nomination email and was questioning his worth. He didn’t know why he felt that he perhaps didn’t deserve it. And now he also didn’t know where his daughter was. He rushed into the garden to see if Kiara was there. The good thing, he thought, is that the main gate is closed and the bolt is out of Kiara’s reach, so she couldn’t have possibly ventured out. His habit of analyzing what is in his favour in a situation helped him get a grip, somewhat. Kiara however, was nowhere to be seen. Not knowing what to do, he stepped out of the house and stood there, looking around. A thought of asking the immediate neighbors crossed his mind. He was not very chatty with them, but their relations were cordial. Alex was going to act on his thoughts when Neel, his neighbour, walked past him. Noticing something is off, he asked Alex if everything was alright. He got into this tirade about how useless a father he was since he could not even take care of his daughter. Neel listened to his outburst and then requested him to follow him, despite his refusal. Ultimately, Alex relented. Upon entering Neel’s house, he was relieved and surprised to find that Kiara was playing a board game with Neel’s wife Sanjana. As soon as Kiara saw him, she ran and hugged him, trying to fit him in her small arms. Neel picked her up gently and gave her a dozen kisses. Sanjana and Neel looked on.
“Kiara was playing alone in the garden and she seemed to have cut herself a little. I was passing by so I range the bell to tell you but there was no answer. So, I got her here.”
Kiara promptly stuck her index finger out which had a tape on it.
“Oh damn, the bell might be off. Did you try calling?”
“I tried but there was no response.”
Sanjana explained her situation.
“Ugh. Yes. My phone was on silent. Thank you so much. Anyway.”
“Would you like anything? Coffee? Tea?”
Sanjana enquired of Alex.
“Tea sounds good.”
Alex smiled as he sat down with Kiara on his lap.
Neel sat down as he cleared his throat.
“So… what’s happening? Been a while we have met.”
“You mean apart from almost losing and then finding my daughter what is happening?”
Neel was unsure how to react. Alex made it easy for him as he laughed.
“Oh, come on, that was a joke.”
Neel smiled and waited for Alex to say what he wanted to.
“Well, nothing much. Apart from the fact that I have been nominated for this prestigious award under the best screenplay category.
Looking at Alex’s expression and his way of breaking the news, Neel, being perceptive, realized something was amiss.
Before Alex could answer, Sanjana came in with a tray of tea and biscuits.
“What did I miss?”
Neel filled her in about Alex’s nomination. She congratulated him and mentioned how amazing it is to be nominated for that award.
“Yes, but. I am..”
Alex left the sentence midway. He gulped the tea. He told his hosts that he had left his phone at home and he had to make an important call. He thanked the two, excused himself, and left with Kiara in a matter of seconds.
Back home, he took Kiara straight to his study so that he could keep an eye on her. He checked his phone. One of his peers and a good friend had called. He called back. But there was no response. He looked at Kiara. She was happily solving a jigsaw puzzle. ‘That jigsaw is easy to solve. I wish my puzzle was that simple’. Alex thought as his mind went back to telling him again that he was probably undeserving of the nomination. The thought was like a boomerang. You throw it and it comes back to you every time. He had barely managed to put black on white when the bell rang. It was one of his best friends and a known cinematographer, Sameer.
“You never told me but I came to know. Congratulations my man.”
“Thanks, but for what?”
“Uh, if I am right, hasn’t my best friend Alex D’ Costa been nominated for an award.”
Alex hesitated and then shook his head in approval.
“What is the problem?”
Alex exhaled as he beckoned him to sit.
“I told Lene as well. I am not sure if I deserve it.”
“You are a man of logic. Any reason why you think so?”
“I mean. Look around. There are so many others. They are perhaps better than me, why not them?”
“Yes, you are right, but you are the chosen one because the panel thinks you are good. Rather excellent. It is their decision. Could you just think about it from the perspective of the panel of judges? And moreover, let me remind you, it is just a nomination. Even if you want to put up a humble façade and say you don’t think you should have gotten it and there were other worthy nominations, etc., etc., at least wait to see if you get the award?”
Alex couldn’t help but smile at this statement of Sameer’s. He continued.
“If I was nominated, I would be happy. I would even think for a while that yes, I deserve it. But that’s that. Nothing more, nothing less. I would get back to working on my next film. So, I would say, just don’t think about it too much. Awards are not permanent. How you write and how committed and truthful you are to what you do matters, right? You know a wise man once said, Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Alex was thoughtful. Sameer patted him on his knee, winked at him, and left. His words, simple, yet profound and powerful, lingered in his mind. He went back to his study and saw that Kiara was staring curiously at the laptop and the letters she could see. She smiled as she saw Alex and asked what has he typed. Alex told her that he has typed a story. She demanded he narrate it to her as Alex picked her up and lay her down on the bed. Halfway through the narration, Alex’s bundle of joy fell asleep. But not before she had told him that she loves the story. He kissed her gently on the forehead and got back to his screenplay. He wrote a couple of scenes and then looked at his nomination email. He took a deep breath, as if he is letting something go. All the things Sameer said suddenly made complete sense to him. A while later, Marlene peeped in. Alex alerted her to the fact that Kiara was sleeping. They tiptoed out of the room silently. They poured themselves a cup of tea as they sat in the living room. Marlene broke the silence.
“So, how was your day? Did you get any writing done? Especially with Kiara around.”
“Well, yeah. A bit. You know how it is. I intend to get back at it after dinner.”
“Hmm, and do you still think you are quote-unquote perhaps not worthy of the nomination?”
Marlene posed a question tentatively. He had made it clear that she had pushed some buttons earlier in the day, so she didn’t want to prod too much. Alex kept his cup on the centre table and held her hand.
“I am still not sure if I deserve it or not. Although there is one thing, I am sure of. It doesn’t matter much. Yes, if I win, it will be nice. It will mean more visibility and quality work. But I don’t see any reason to read any more into it. It is a part of life. I would continue to do what I am in the best possible way. Because that is what makes me happy. Being with you and Kiara makes me happy. Oh, by the way, a small incident happened with Kiara. Will fill you in later. But, Mrs. D’ Costa, would you be my plus one for the awards function next month?”
Marlene was serious as she responded.
“Um. let me see, I don’t know if I am worthy…”
Marlene broke into laughter looking at Alex’s glum expression as Alex embraced her. Looking at her laugh, a content smile played on his lips.
I have been dabbling into creative writing for almost a decade now. Currently working as a Content creator and SEO analyst, I have written a couple of short stories and would like to publish a novel some day. I am a film buff and an avid traveller. I have a travel blog too.