Sikha sat on the roof of her father’s house. From here, she saw the whole neighborhood. She saw the roof of the house of her friend, Aditi. She saw her brother’s house and the houses of people she had known since she was a baby.
It was here she told herself stories. Stories she was beginning to write down. She had even sold one of the stories to a city magazine. It was a story about a Westerner with a hat. When she first wrote it down, it made her laugh. The more she wrote the more she laughed.
She told the story to her family and Aditi. They laughed too. They told her she should submit it to a magazine. At first, she said no. She knew they would hate the story but her family and friends kept insisting.
“It’s your way out,” her father reassured her. Her father was the one she trusted the most.
So she typed it up on her grandfather’s old Remington typewriter, put it in an envelope and sent it out into the world. Then she forgot it.
Two months later, she received an answer from the magazine. They were going to publish it. And there was two rupees’ payment with a letter written in neat English script that said, “Send more please.”
That evening, like usual, she went up to the roof. She began to think she was going to create another story. She thought and she thought and nothing. For the first time, she did not find a new story in her.
The only story that came to her was the story of the man with the hat. Only a new episode with him came to her. Night after night she threw it away like trash. Instead of flying off, the story kept returning. This was not good. Finally, she became curious and gave in to the story.
The man with the hat went to the bank. His name was Marvin. He went to the bank building and inside. The sign said, “No hats allowed. Please take your hat off your head.”
Marvin critiqued the sign. Didn’t the bank management know they had too many words?
The guard walked up to Marvin. “Take your hat off.”
“Say please,” Marvin said.
The bank guard blew his whistle. It was a loud whistle. Three other guards appeared. Now there were four men in uniform standing before him, demanding he remove his hat.
Marvin was a reasonable man. Since it didn’t seem reasonable to him, he did not remove it. It kept his bald head warm.
One of the guards knocked Marvin’s hat off his head. He should not have done that. A bright light shined from Marvin’s head. The guard backed away, holding his eyes.
“Put that thing back on,” a second guard shouted. “Put that thing back on.”
Marvin reached down for his hat. As he did, the light hit another guard’s eyes.
A third guard grabbed the hat. Keeping his eyes closed, he placed the hat on Marvin’s head. The light was gone.
The two guards, who could see, turned Marvin around and sent him back into the street.
“Now what?” Sikha on the roof asked herself. She laughed and said, “Isn’t that always the way of stories.” She looked up at the stars and whispered, “Okay, Marvin, I will return tomorrow night. Then you can finish this story.” She went to the stairs and looked one last time. “Or not.”