Aequalis: A tale of tellers

“The real world is much smaller than the imaginary” 
― Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Chapter 1: Goya

“So, you are having nightmares?”

“Not really, no. I am just having dreams.”

“They are not bad in particular?”

“I mean, bad things happen. But they happen just as bad things happen in real life. That is the trouble, you see, my dreams are just like life. I cannot tell them apart.”

“So, you see color in your dreams?”

“I do. I see color, I smell, I feel, I hear. As I said, it is just like reality.”

“I see. And what happens in these dreams?”

“Someone tells me stories.”

“Someone tells you stories?”


“So, this someone. Who is it? Do you know them?”

“No…I don’t know. But I call him the great storyteller.

“And, umm…this storyteller, does he speak to you when you are awake?”

“Doctor Perkins, are you asking if I am hearing voices?” Dr. Samara Rahman smirks. 

“I am not. I am not schizophrenic. I am bipolar, but I am on medication and it is under control. However, I am not schizophrenic.”

Dr. Jay Perkins, MD, stops tapping on his notepad with his pen. He gets extremely annoyed when patients do this. They try to diagnose themselves. Why come to a professional if you have all the answers already?

But his disgust doesn’t show. His slight frown hides beneath the jungle of his beard and mustache. He quietly sighs.

He knows that this situation is delicate. This patient is unlike any other. He knows Dr. Rahman. She is an author. Jay has read her books long before she became his patient. She has been on the New York Times bestseller list five times. 

However, she stopped writing three years back. When Rehan Sadiq had left her. But she has started again recently. She is not writing novels like she did before. She is writing short stories instead. And Jay must admit, they are marvelous.

There is an incongruity however. The stories do not seem to be written by Samara. They seem to be written by someone else. Moreover, each different story seems to be written by a different author. Jay had thought that this was him being overly analytic. But it seems that there may be some solid ground beneath his musing. 

As Samara says, the stories are told to her by the great storyteller. No wonder they feel different.

Jay starts speaking after a slight break, “Care for a smoke?”

Samara sits straight. She did not expect his brand-new therapist to know that she smokes when she feels stressed. 

“Sure,” she says. 

Jay Perkins extends a pack of Marlboro Menthol. Samara takes one out.

“How did you know?”


“How did you know I smoked? And how do you know that I smoke methol cigarettes?”

“You have been motioning with your left hand fingers in the air as if you are lighting an invisible lighter for a while and your right hands are positioned as if they are holding a cigarette. You have been doing this ever since you started talking about your dreams. Do you always smoke when you think about this?”

“Yes. But you didn’t answer my question. How did you know I smoke menthol cigarettes?”

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? All the protagonists in your books consume methol products. You do not want to promote smoking so you make them something other than a cigarette. Sometimes it is a mojito, sometimes it is a mint lemonade. Ergo, you have an obsession with mint and products alike.”

“That’s amazing,” Samara mutter.

Jay smiles. “It is not amazing, Samara. Most of it is just educated guesses.”

Dr. Rahman smirks. The therapist has just called her by her first name. A surefire attempt at establishing dominance.

“You have made your point, Jay. I will not overstep anymore. Continue.”

Dr. Jay Perkins smiles, “Alright. So, let’s summarize your situation. You go to sleep. You have these dreams where a person..”

“An entity”

“Alright, an entity tells you stories, and you write them when you wake up. Right?”


“Okay. So, I fail to see the problem in this. How is this affecting you mentally? You should be happy for this right? You don’t have your writer’s block anymore and someone is supplying you with stories free of charge. What else can you ask for?”

Samara picks up the glass of water from the table in front of her. Takes a gulp, then puts the glass down.

“The thing is,” Samara pauses and adjusts her glasses. “I am trapped in this dream onion.”

“A dream onion?” Dr. Perkins said, with a smirk in the corner of his mouth.

“Yes. It is like. wake up from a dream and land into another dream and then comes another and they keep on coming.”

“So, when do you wake up finally?”

“When I crack the final dream. The last layer of the dream onion.”

“Hold on a second. What do you mean, crack a dream?”

“You see,” Samara sighs, “There are two ways of wake up from  a dream. The first is, to die. It could be a regular death from old age, or an accident, or a suicide. The second method is what I call cracking a dream.”

“Wow. This is elaborate.” Jay mutters.

“However,” Samara continues after a brief sigh, “Cracking a dream can be difficult. You have to, somehow, realizing that it is a dream.”

“How do you do that? Do you spin a top and see if it falls?”

Samara smiles. “I am no teenager doctor. I am not stuck in my favorite movie. My dream onion is no Inception. And no one is trying to extract information from me. I have tried the top thing. It falls.”

“Well, Ms. Rahman, pardon my intrusion, but…I fail to see what the problem is in all this. So, you sleep, you experience a dream, a storyteller supplies you with stories and you write them. That would be the hope of any writer. Your sales are soaring, your stories are great and you are becoming a household name. What is the problem? Why are you so shaken by this?”

“Because, doctor,” Samara leans over. “As I said, I am caged in my dreams.”

“Caged? You didn’t say that. Not in that way.”

“I assume that you are not familiar with the Urdu word goya. It is one of those beautiful untranslatable words us writers love to obsess over. It refers to a story so well-told that it becomes a reality for the listener. What my condition is, Dr. Perkins, is goya.

“Can you not snap out of this goya?”

“I cannot get out even if I want to. Not without completing the ordeal. I have to die or I have to realize its a dream. Do you know how tough that can be? To live a complete life? To have a family? To have a sets of aspirations and goals and to suddenly realize that it was all a night’s dream? How stressful that must be?”

“Yes. But Samara…”Jay said, pointing at his patients hands. “Stress does not render thin red lines on your wrist.”

Samara pulls on the cuff of her full sleeved blouse. She did not notice when her wrist got exposed. The silver watch she had worn for the purpose of hiding the markings was of no use. She has been caught.

“Let me make a guess, and do correct me if I am wrong.” Jay breaks the silence. “You have started to question your own reality. You think that this may be a dream too. And in order to wake up, you want to kill yourself.”

Just like the wife of the protagonist in Inception, Jay thinks but does not utter. Samara may be denying that the film is influencing her thoughts, but Jay is sure that it is.

“Listen, Samara.” Jay continues in a jovial (and even triumphant) tone, “You are passing a hard period in your life. Your husband has left you. You live alone. Your parents have passed away. It is natural to feel stranded during this time. Self-doubt, self-loathing is very natural at this time. It is very natural to…”

“Imagine someone who is not there,” Samara snatches the words away from Jay’s mouth.

“Precisely. It is because you doubt your abilities that you are thinking that it must be someone else that must be giving you story ideas, whereas the inspiration has always been within you. You are stuck within this dream onion of yours because you want to be stuck in it. You have sever depression and you never want to wake up. So, you make yourself trapped in your dreams so that you have more excuse to stay passive and feed your depression.”

“Perhaps you are right,” Samara mutters.

“I think you are at a high risk of relapse and your medication regimen should be adjusted accordingly. I am faxing a new prescription to your pharmacy and I would strongly suggest that you regularly take these medications. And, you have to come in for talk-therapy once a week. And never miss a date.”

Samara rolls her tongue within her mouth. She has been doing this since when was a child to stop herself from saying something that she really shouldn’t say. She is trying her best not to say it. 

But she fails.

“And what if you are wrong, Jay?” Dr. Perkins stops writing and looks at his patients’ deep, dark eyes.

“What if I truly am stuck in a dream prison and it is out of my control? What if I am still living in a dream? And most importantly…”

“What?” asks Jay.

“What if I get lost in one of my dreams, forever?”

Chapter 2: Maya

When Aulindo got off the red bus that showed Route-70 on top of it, it was already half past eleven. The class, oddly enough, starts in fifteen minutes. What class starts at 11:45? Aulindo often asks himself. 

Because the professor says so, he contends.

Today has been another hectic ordeal. Aulindo had to wake up at 8 am so that he could get to the bathroom ahead of his six roommates with whom he shares his slum of an apartment. He then had to run out to catch the bus, without getting a chance to cook or eat his breakfast and he forgot his headphones at home. 

On the first bus, he overslept and missed his spot. He had to catch a bus to the opposite direction to get to the bus stop for the second bus. On the second bus, the same thing happened.

This happens. Aulindo keeps falling asleep whenever he is hungry.

The body just shuts down.

He is feeling better now. He ate a loaf of bread with some sugar sprinkled on it on his fourth, and last, bus. He always carries a pack of breads in his backpack now. And, whenever he gets the chance, he steals packs of sugars from the McDonalds. He is so poor that he cannot even afford a dollar sandwich at the shop, but he sure can pretend to be a buying customer and steal some of the sugar.

The janitors and the cooks often notice, but they do not say anything.

They are no stranger to desperation.

Aulindo was not always this desperate. To be honest, he had never seen a day of insolvency in his formative years. He was born in a pretty well-off family in Bangladesh. The father was a government official, a job that came with perks and power. The mother was a homemaker. A pretty stable family.

But Aulindo was never a fit in there. He was a rebel. He had to do the exact opposite of what he was told to. For example, if his mom told him to not drink Coca-cola on a day, the first thing he would do after mom was out of sight would be to buy a drink of cola, even if he was not entirely partial to consuming the drink in the first place. Such was his insolence. 

That is why when his father implored him to follow his footsteps and study engineering after his graduation from high school, Aulindo chose the opposite of studying and applying for foreign universities. He even got in with a full tuition scholarship. However, room and board was on him, a fact that he hid from his parents.

He had to get out of this hellhole in any way possible. A little deceit goes a long way when making your parents agree to sending you away to a foreign land when you are seventeen years of age.

So he voyaged to a different continent on the other side of the planet where the time was different and the holidays were all kooky.

The only thing that he actually likes in his new life is his philosophy class. This class taught by Dr. Charles Verharen called Representative Thinkers really tickles is gray matter. He never thought that thinking would be so much fun. 

“Philosophy is the best thing you would do in your life, including sex,” the professor said. And Aulindo wanted to agree, but he hadn’t experienced the latter yet. But he is pretty sure that philosophy would still triumph.

He has thought a lot about switching majors from Economics to Philosophy, which would grandly annoy his parents (another reason to undertake the venture), but later decided to take more time before fixating on what could determine the course of the rest of his life.

But how could he concentrate in the class when merely three seats away from him sat the embodiment of heaven itself? 

Aulindo doesn’t know her name.

He doesn’t know how she smells.

He doesn’t know how she shivers in a winter morning.

He doesn’t know if her eyes water when the moon shines over a lake.

He doesn’t know if she knows he existed.

Well, there are a lot of things in the world that is beyond Aulindo’s limited knowledge. But whatever he doesn’t know has a sort of beauty to it. Is death not the most beautiful thing in the human experience? Does it not derive that beauty from its enigma?

So Aulindo stared at her. The woman of his dreams he named Hoor. When the professor speaks of eternal recurrence, he gets recurrently lost in the eternal waves of the locks of her hair. When the allegory of the cave is brought up, Aulindo is sunken into the illusion that is Hoor, and he never wants to get out.

He loves Hoor.

Aulindo loves Hoor.

“Listen, boy. What you think is love, is not love. You do not love me, understand?” Hoor walks up to Aulindo one day and pronounces. 

Aulindo was dumbstruck. He was so preoccupied with watching Hoor’s hair flow as she walked that he never realized when she came up to him and stood right in front.

“I….umm… do you know?”

“You keep drawing my portrait in your notebook next to your dumb face and write I love you on the bottom of it, idiot. I can see it when I walk out of class. I do seat right next to you.”

“THREE SEATS AWAY,” Aulindo mutters his scream, as if the distance were vaster than the Pacific.

The girl doesn’t pay attention to what Aulindo had just said, albeit imperceptibly. She continues, “You don’t know me. You don’t even know my name. You don’t know my blue. You don’t my pink. And most importantly, you don’t know my black. How can you love someone if you don’t know their black and blue?”

“Like this,” Aulindo stands up and kisses Samara square on the lips.

Not really, no. In reality, his knees were so weak that he could not even stand up.

“I never asked for anything in return. What I feel, I feel for me. I don’t ask you to feel it back. What I feel for you, I feel without the expectation of result. It is all Nishkama,” Aulindo weakly says, harkening back to their Hindu philosophy lecture.

The girl’s beautiful lips perse. Was it a smile? Was it an insult? Was it….maybe….a permission?

“Listen, boy. What you are embroiled in is an obsession. An addiction. An illusion. It is no love. At best, it is just Maya. Shobi maya, bujhla?.” She said in clear Bangla that dripped from her lips like freshly opened honey, leaving Aulindo dumbfounded. 

So the girl in Bengali. Sheesh…that would explain a lot.

“And….the name is Samara by the way. Samara Rahman.”

She said while walking away from the stupified boy.

“And I am Aulindo Devraj.” the boy whispers as the girl of his dreams walked away.

“I know, dumbass.” Samara muttered.

The next day was the last day of class. Aulindo so wished that he could prolong it for another day, another week, another month and if he was really lucky…another life. 

No, even that would not be enough to stare at the back of Samara’s head filled with a dark flowing Niagra. It would need an eternity. 

Aulindo so wishes that he could die and be reborn as a little sparrow so that he could see Samara from afar without her noticing. Without her knowing that what she thinks is Maya has consumed Aulindo’s entirety.

But all wishes….nay…most wishes do not come true. The day ends. The clock ticks five and the students must leave. Aulindo lingers on his desk for a few seconds to watch Samara leave. And right before leaving, when she touched the knob of the door, Samara looks back at him and smiles with a meaningful glance.

“Goodbye, dumbass.” her eyes said.

Aulindo just wished that it would say a bit more.

But it did not.

Submersed in all these feelings, Aulindo never realized when Dr. John Verharen came up to his seat and sat on the chair next to him.

“Mr. Devraj. How are you doing?”

Aulindo suddenly realizes his presence and sits up straight.

“Good sir. And you?”

“Same….same. Can you spare a moment for some philosophical musings?”

“Yes, of course sir.”

“You gotta stop calling me sir, buddy. I ain’t your master and this ain’t a colony.”

Aulindo smiled weakly.

They used to do this a lot, Aulindo and John. They used to walk through the yard talking about the meaning of life and Aulindo used to be thirsty to find it. But now that he has found it in the locks of Samara’s hairs, he barely speaks to his professor alone anymore.

“Let me tell you something, Devraj.” Dr. Verharen says with a smiling face.

“Well, actually, let me ask you a few questions.” he says, further building the suspence. And then he jumps into a soliloquy.

“Does an outside world exist? Do others exist? Rene Descartes ably argued that they might not. It might all be an illusion. However, he does contend that he, himself, does exist. How does he know that? Our senses often deceive us. We experience optical, auditory, visual and other illusions all the time. How do we know our mind is not deceiving us at the present moment and making us think as though we exist when we truly don’t? He refutes this idea, however, and comes up with his famous dictum: cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. However, I don’t believe in that. Saying I think therefore I am is the same as saying I am milk therefore I am white. Being milk and being white are concurrent. One cannot be the cause of the other because one is the property of the other. Thinking requires existence and by definition cannot be the proof of existence. 

I do believe that we exist, however. To modify Rene, I would say: I love, therefore I am. We exist because we can extrapolate meaning out of this meaningless chaos. That is not only thinking, that is feeling. Existence automatically establishes thinking, but you need something more to feel. You need something resembling a soul.

And you, Aulindo, have a soul.

 I am telling you all this because you are badly failing in my class. But that is okay. You do not have to study philosophy, for you are doing philosophy in real life. You have proof that you exist. You are in love. How many among us can claim to be so enlightened? So if you flunk because you love, you would not fail. You would have succeded in the quest for the meaning of human life.”

Dr. Verharen was packing as he spoke. After finishing the last sentence, he started walking towards the door. 

Aulindo, meanwhile, was silently staring at the floor. 

“Professor,” he finally speaks, before the old man walks out of the door.

“Hmm?” he answers.

“What am I supposed to do with this? With this lump in my throat? With this pain in my veins? With this hole in my heart?”

Dr. Verharen smiled. Then uttered just two words while walking out.

“You write.”

So Aulindo writes.

He thought of writing a romantic story, but it was too close to his heart. He could not bear it.

Instead, he started writing about writing. Where do stories come from? Aulindo suddenly had an idea that stories may come from dreams.

So he writes about an author who finds her stories in her dreams. But also, she is trapped in them and cannot find a way out. This seems like a good plot. So this is what he pursues.

But what should he name the great author? What should she be called?

She needs a strong, bold name that  emits intelligence, brilliance and beauty.

What to name her? What to name her?

Aulindo kept thinking. Then, finally, he finds the answer in a dream, ironically.

Of course. Of course. Of course!

It’s Samara. Samara Rahman.

Chapter 3: Author’s note

I can tell that you are very confused right now.

Let me tell you that you are not alone. I am as perplexed as you are, and I am the goddamn writer of this story.

Don’t worry, I am not just another character of this story speaking in the first person. This is really me. The real author of the real reality that you and I share. 

This is Anupam Debashis Roy.

So as I have intervened the flow of the story, let me tell you why I did that. I need to do two things in this note, for the sake of this story. The first is, elucidate the structure, and the second is to entice you reading it until the end.

Okay, as I spent this many words on it, let me start by the second duty. You should read the story until the end because, at the end, you get to meet the great storyteller. And, no, it is not me.

Now to the first duty. The structure of this story is, as you have guessed by know, that of a story within a story within a story.

Aulindo Devraj of the second chapter is writing the story of Samara Rahman of the first chapter. And Jeff Green of the fourth chapter, the last writer of this story who you will shortly meet, would be writing the story of Aulindo Devraj from the second chapter.

So all these three authors are writing stories and some are writing stories about each other. Some of them reside in the universe created by the other and some may even share a universe, who knows! I don’t know yet to be honest.

Anyway, so my work is done, for now. I may return later if I further complicate the storyline, which I have a feeling that I may do. 

But until then, happy reading.

(To be continued)

If you like what you have read so far, please leave a comment here or on Facebook. If you have any comments or suggestions, reach me at

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