Skip to main content

The strange life of a bibliophile

Anton Chekov’s classic short story ‘The Bet’, speaks of a man who found life’s answers in books. An enterprising youth, he places a bet with a millionaire. The bet being the capability of one to survive solitary confinement for 15 years, with only books and music to keep him company. As the 15 years dwindle down, the millionaire who offered the money has fallen on bad times and is finding it hard to scrape the money. Finally, the man forsakes the 2 million dollars he was supposed to receive by escaping before the stipulated time. In a letter, he writes that he has experienced all he wanted to through the numerous books he has read.

It is a strange world that bibliophiles inhabit. They buy more books than they can read. You know why? Because they are afraid they will finish them all. So every book read follows a mini buying spree to make up for the book read. If environmentalists have their way and there is a stay on publishing books, where do we run for cover? Through books, you can live out your sexual fantasies, serial killer instincts and playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. You can relive childhood and defy authority through the eyes of Calvin and take comfort from Dilbert on the deadbeat white collar life. I’ve seen the England countryside through the eyes of the famous five and tasted every dish Enid Blyton had on offer. Stephen King has made me wary of pets with Pet Cemetery and Frank McCourt made my childhood a happy one with Angela’s ashes.

It takes a bibliophile to be mesmerized by the smell of a bookstore. Most people don’t understand the mind of a bibliophile. If you are going to watch a movie, it would be reason enough to skip an office party or an outing you would rather not be a part of. But try saying “I have a book to finish” and see the strange reaction. You can always finish a book they say. No sir, you cannot. You need as much concentration and time to finish a book as you do to watch a movie. A bibliophile can never leave the house without a book, knowing fully well the chances of opening a page are remote. But it is like a security blanket, one which will keep you eternally warm. I discovered books in a musty bookstore on Church Street – Premier bookstore. The joy has never left me.

Some mushy souls hold on to the fantasy of prince charming by virtue of taking Mills and Boons a tad too seriously. If only they knew where their counterparts are getting their inspiration from. A debate is raging today on whom serious readers are and who are not or whether some authors can be called authors at all. It is a senseless debate. How does it matter which author keeps you up late, and makes time tick on the drive to office? Books prevent you from labouring through an evening of lacklustre conversation, untoward gossip and bad food. But from time to time, you have to step into the real world. For the inevitable day will arrive when you want to try your hand at penmanship and for that, you will need all the fodder you can gather.

People may look at you strangely, talk behind your back and try to lure you away from your books. Pay no heed. For the uninitiated, open a book on a rainy afternoon and give reading a try. Your world will be the better for it.

I’ll hinge my bets on that any day.


Popular posts from this blog

When an Iyer met an Iyengar

If you see my parents, they look like the quintessential arranged marriage couple. After nearly 35 years together, they still take care not to touch each other while posing for a photograph and my mother’s smile dangles precariously between a smile and a grimace. But this image discolours the truth a tad.
Some 40 years back, they met at work, fell in love and got married. The talking point of the union being mom’s status as an iyengar and dad’s as an iyer. Simply put, the iyers and the iyengars are two castes of the Brahmin community, each, when given the chance, profess superiority to each other on all counts. If you listen closely, an Iyengar talking about an Iyer will say ‘Iyer a?’ in a condescending tone. And vice versa.
Mom tells me that when she told her dad about the marriage, he vowed to stand by her at any cost. Dad never told me what happened, but allow me to hazard a guess. His mother (my grandmother), threatened to go on a fast unto death. My dad threatened to go on a parall…

Unfair and unlovely

If time is money, the demonetization drive has ensured that many Indians are already very rich because they have suddenly been taught the virtue of patience.
A crossing near my house got to be very busy and a new signal was installed to help regulate the flow. Every single day, I see people break the signal from all sides without paying heed to their safety or anyone else’s. The people who break the signals glare at you for following the rules. You feel guilty for being patient.
The signal is red and people behind you are honking as if there was a reward for it. People shout the choicest of epithets at you for not moving and standing your ground. Either that or I need to go for an eye check up and see if I am colour blind. In another part of the world, orange maybe the new black but as far as I know, red is not the new green.
Stand in a queue at the railway station, in the petrol bunk, airport check-in counter ,or to pay a bill, and there will always be that one asshole who tries to…

Rasam rice

On some days, Bangalore weather becomes nostalgic. And for some time, everyone is permitted to live in the past. On one such June day, the sun wistfully playing hide and seek and the clouds emitting just enough raindrops for an instagram photo, the weather flirting with winter, the craving for rasam becomes telling.
Rasam. Rasam rice. Whichever, doesn’t matter.
First, use your fingers to make space in the middle of a heap of rice. Don’t protest when the dollop of ghee gleefully sinks into the rice. The rasam should scald, otherwise the ride isn’t worth it. The flesh on your fingers crawl when you dip them into the rasam, but trust me, keep with it. No good thing has been known to ever come easy. The impatient wait for a few seconds and an insignificant morsel is savoured. Gooseflesh ensues.
Slowly but steadily, bigger portions are savoured. to enhance the experience and attain nirvana, combine it with crisp papad and sandige.  Personal favourites include molagu rasam, thakkali rasam, jee…