Monday, April 25, 2011

The Infidel

The silence is choking me. The coffee has gone cold. I sit on the edge of my seat facing him. I have nothing to say. As for him there is an air of sadness about him. How long has it been? How many months? Three or is it four.
“Stephen, it has been four months right?” I say, breaking the cold silence, haltingly,” I just cannot remember, you know how things have been.”
Silence. (Off course, what else could someone like me expect?)
Now it is my turn to think. It was before Valentines day, may be long before that. Holy Christ! It was six months ago. I cannot look at him. Sitting quiet, with the imploring face of a child, he wrenches out my heart. Bleed witch, bleed!
But then this cannot go long. Somewhere, sometime I will have to apologize to him for leaving him. He will have to let go of my excursions with the others. We will have to pick up from where I left him.Together, till the end.
“I’m sorry Stephen; it wasn’t because you were dull. But then the others were so exciting. And I felt it will be long before I will be able to get in touch with reality if I stuck to you. I wanted to make up for everything I lost after moving from India. You knew I would come back to you. Didn’t you?” I plead my case.
He sits sullen, hurt by my indifference. He flutters, words in him aching to reach me. I could hear him say,” Just because I’m big, fat and dull, you cannot ignore me. You know how exciting I am. You said so. You loved my humor, dark and sarcastic it might be.Still.You left me. Just to be the others. The mediocre ones; with interests as mundane as love affairs, espionage and fantasies! I don’t know what you were even thinking. Beats me”
I let out a sigh,” Let the bygones be. I’m sorry. I’ve never loved anyone as I have loved you. You are the best. I bow to thee.” I smile as I walk to the bedroom, holding him, with all the shades drawn and rain beating against the windows.
The spine tingling contents of “Under The Dome” by Stephen King awaits me. A book I had gifted myself for Christmas, the book of which I had read 80 pages and walked away to coquette with other books by lesser mortals. Now it is just me and him, till the end of time err pages…

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Talking about books in Singapore


Singapore, flatters you in all ways. Spartan road, classy malls, state of art electronic gadgets, pubs with good music and an almost perfect transport system, you name it Singapore has it. As a woman I enjoy a freedom I have never dreamt in India. I’ve traveled back alone at almost every hour of the day. Seeing thighs and bra straps in public doesn’t embarrass you anymore.

Utopia? Well if you read books. Welcome to my paradise. They have a chain of government run libraries, well stocked with books of all genres. Even better is the fact that they have library within 15 minutes of any place. All I had to do was get a membership and I was on my way to the sea-of-stories.

I’m not a book reviewer. I simply read them. Some are interesting and some are not. Yet I love them all. I buy books, borrow them and even don’t mind reading English text books of school goers. Now, it wasn’t all that fun to realize that buying books here is a luxury. It is expensive and it is not always that you will get a book you want. I cribbed about it for a year to anybody who cared to listen and packed more books than pickles on the journey from India much to Amma’s vocal chagrin. (My mom-in-law, sweet as she is, never commented. Probably mentally wondered about my priorities and her “poor” son’s comfort issues).Nevertheless, I spent more time shopping books than cottons when I went to India.

Bras Basah Complex,Singapore
So last Friday, I had dashed through a meeting at City Hall and was free by four in the evening. After I snubbed my boss by not going back to office, I stood there scratching my head,” What now? Why not Bras Basah Complex?”

Now Bras Basah Complex is not a glitzy mall. It is something like the old Esplanade in Convent junction Kochi.Just that it has more open shops.Old, but well maintained building with book shops and a food court. They have books shops which sell used books. This was my attraction.

So I dashed in to “Book Point”. It was a small nondescript book shop. I knew what I wanted. I was searching for Daniel Silva’s “The Kill Artist”. Apparently National Library Singapore had only couple of copies of the above with them. This book is the first one of Gabriel Allon series. I was itching to start with this book, so that I can read the books in the order it was released. (I prefer reading books in the order they are released. Even if they might seem independent of each other, there are always fine threads picked from earlier books which you will enjoy only if you read them in the order.)

Book Point

Within three minutes I got what I wanted. So I went on to browse the books and picked up a couple of others. As I approached the payment counter, I checked “Do you have a copy of The Tenant of Windfell Hall by Anne Bronte?”*

She said,” We have a bigger shop on 3rd floor. Check there. Here is your bill and I’ve put an additional 10% discount.” I had purchased 3 books in extremely good condition for under 20 SGD.

I moved to 3rd floor only to be stumped. There I was in the middle of books. Rows of wooden cupboards stood wall to wall, floor to ceiling, overflowing with books. I stood in the midst of books filling my self with the smell of books. The musty odor of old paper was intoxicating. I had to try hard to hide my overwhelming enthusiasm. The books were well arranged. I picked up the Anne Bronte in two minutes flat. My hands trembled. This was the book that had gone out of print for a long time. Written by a girl who died by the time she was my age, this book was explosive in its narration. It had an era in awe. Much less celebrated than her sisters Emily and Charlotte, this Bronte sister holds a very special place in my heart. She was the most prolific and most talented of the three.

The friendly guy at counter looked at me and smiled. He acknowledged my taste in books. I was not just another flirt to books or one having flings with books; I was the “Juliet” to books. This is a quiet message that passes only from a passionate reader to a passionate book seller. We both appreciate each others presence in the world. They had a collection of National Geographic from 1900’s as well and plethora of genres to choose from. I was in love with the place. Not because the books where cheaper. But there was passion and real love for books. They were there not because they had no choice, but because they wanted to. And most importantly they had books which are forgotten by the mass retailers of books but have quiet admirers like me.

*The Tenant Of Windfell Hall: You may check the wiki. Still, I have to say a few words. It is the story of young woman who escapes from her husband with her child and lives as a tenant when English law forbid a woman from walking out on her husband, having legal rights, file for a divorce or have custody of children. The book, was as expected, not well received by the Victorian English. They complained about the rebellious nature of the protagonist and the general tone of the book being disagreeable.
“In response, Anne wrote her now famous preface to the second edition in which she defended her object in writing the novel, saying that she did not write with the intent of amusing the reader or gratifying her own taste, but because she "wished to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it”. She added that she was "at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man".

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!!

This Monday I celebrate my birthday. Don’t ask me which one. I won’t tell you because I myself have not come in terms with the number and it being on the really wrong side of 20’s is not helping either. It is on new year’s time and birthdays that one actually ponders over the big question.” What is the purpose of all this?” I mean, why do I exist even? The world might not become a better place without me; it definitely is not a great one with me as well. Then since it is your birthday you decide to be magnanimous, with a pat on the back conclude,” Off course to the world I might be one among them, but to some people I am the world”.
With my epic proportions I am capable of looking “the world” within five feet of anyone but then just how much does my life revolve around someone or someone’s life revolves around me? There has been a time when every single movement of mine was decided by someone. I had ditched books and music. I could actually wake up early to go for a walk. This is the nice part. But now I realize some women (me included) has this annoying habit of forgetting themselves in love. Giving up who you are is not exactly my perceived idea of love. Even when I was vocal about temporary-identity-loss-when-cupid-strikes, I myself was lost for a long time. For around a decade I have been in and out of love and all the while I have been a puppet.
After burning me in love I learnt the biggest lesson a girl should’ve known all the while,’ never, ever forget that you always need to find time for yourself and to live for yourself.”
Love is one thing; commitment is a totally different.Committing oneself to relation does not mean you need forfeit your passions or loves. If you have to redefine who you are for someone, think about it, is it worth all that? Someone might just love you for what you are.

So in the last “X” number of years I will summarize what I have learnt
  • Life is not at all fun. But then you got to live it
  • Nobody is completely euphoric. All of the smiling people you meet on road have problems, most probably bigger ones much more complicated than yours
  • Being in love is wonderful. Please put your feet firmly on the ground and make sure your head is available over your shoulder. Otherwise you will have to risk a lot of heart aches.
  • Your parents were and are always right. You got to give to their age. The only time they were wrong was when they said “Looks like 83 world cup is the only one India would ever!”
  • Pink, Purple, Red. I love them. But there are more colors to this world. (If you had met me in the first decade of my life you would’ve been convinced that I was blind to all colors except Red.)
  • Life is a full circle. What goes from you comes back to you. So keep away evil thought, words and actions.
  • Keep your Girlfriends close. Real close. No one rushes to you like them and no one can bitch like they can about your ex. That ring of friendship is your personal amulet against all the evil in the world.Guys; I don’t have any advices for you. For once I accept gritting, men handle bad relationships better than most women.

Of late, I despise the crooning girls in buses and the really loud giggles for attention. I glare at boys with jeans hanging on their bums. I shake my head when I see school girls with eyeliners and gloss. I wrinkle my nose at teenagers holding Valentines Day cards; shouldn’t they be enjoying life than worrying about tough things like love?

Then I giggled, not very loud though. I’ve been them. The girl of thirteen, trying out eyeliner and the pudgy teenager who giggled loudly in buses at the sight of cute boys. I had lived through that and survived. May be that is the way it should be. Experience , after all is not available on discount sale. You just got to pay for the damn thing.

P: S: I have asked him not to celebrate my birthday; I think with all the candles I won’t be able to see the cake. Worse I might get a panic attack. Whatever happened to graceful ageing and idolizing Nafisa Ali (I had said that when I was fifteen to my aunt. Cheriamma, please forgive my ignorance. Ageing is not easy for women. I understand and appreciate your efforts)
P: S: I am not personally shy of receiving gift/s. Please let me know, I’m ready to share the postal address.