Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Column No 1 in City Buzz, Bangalore!

I don't think the link below to the column is working. So here is the text:

Some tea, some mocha on a Sunday afternoon

While ambitions for life and goals in the immediate future have changed constantly, I hold one fantasy very dear. That of an afternoon where it is raining heavy drops on a tiled roof, the weather grey and cold enough to lay a thick brown blanket across my lap and a window sill across which I see leaves of tall trees hold on to the falling water for a brief second before they wet the fragrant earth. My mother would discourage the endless cups of strong coffee, but yet, the fantasy would include the aforementioned coffee along with a great book, ideally one set in the English moors or in the parlours of Victorian manors.
I spent such an afternoon on Sunday, though it neither rained nor was it cold. These preconditions could scarcely exist in our dear old Bangalore. I wasn’t drinking coffee either. The book was about dark English moors though. Back in college, such days of languid reading was much common place; there wasn’t much else you could do during winters and monsoons in the hills. But after putting myself in the city these past few years, such indulgences are nearly my own decadent delights. There always seem to be something else I should be doing, even if just trawling the wicked web for trivia, videos, articles. Apologetic, am I, about spending such a while? I suppose not.
Where I come to after meandering along like so is that we seem to have lost the fine art of indulging in sitting down in an armchair and reading. Or just sitting down even. Like the turntable and the leisurely activity of sitting around listening to records, which is thankfully making a return, I wonder when it would be fashionable again to spend a free evening in a deep chair with a book. Not with the ends of an iPod stuck in your ear, mind you.
I suppose it is not the done thing now to take things slow. I am old enough to remember a time when there was still some slo-mo in life. Saying this, I feel old. But then, when you stop relating to the latest music sensation, the kid Justin Beiber or the ghastly Lady Gaga, I suppose there is no other way to feel.
I am going to indulge myself a little further and tell you of a time, not too long ago, let me hasten to assure you, when it was ok to have just read a fine book through an entire day. It was also ok to sit on a terrace for what seemed like several hours and look up at the dark blue sky to draw patterns across the million stars. It was also ok to do these things every other day. This summer I spent in the hills at home and I tried doing so. But in many ways the city corrupts you, in thinking that you ought to be productive every minute of every day. I couldn’t sit still for long, though the window in my room opens to a tantalizing vista of lush green trees and a winding mud path. There are fireflies between the leaves of the mango tree. After half a decade running about in the city, I couldn’t sit down long. This, though I come from the hills where dreaming along the twinkle of stars with the cicadas in the background is deemed a perfectly acceptable (and productive) way to spend some time.
While we are on the subject, do you remember late afternoon scenes from Victorian and Elizabethan era novels? Those which had the family cat purring by the fireplace, the mother reading passages from the Bible while the father nursed a long pipe. The girls would knit, or if younger, sit by the feet of a parent, reading or sketching. Would the room be complete without a baby piano and a rocking oak chair? Or one of them reading aloud a long delicious letter from an aunt? The setting reeks of a simpler, less hurried time now, doesn’t it? But then, I indulge too much in anachronisms.
The diatribe on modern times, it’s time I confess, is the result of the Sunday afternoon spent reading Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s classic. That is why you read above of English moors and slower times and around the fireplace scenes. I have this habit of reading 2-3 books at once. No, don’t ask me why I do that. So with the Lit, I was also furiously flipping through the now-cult Immortals of Meluha, Amish’s re-work on mythology.
I remain wary of popular culture and usually stir away from movies and books that everyone writes and talks about. Amish’s book came out when I was still recovering from an overdose of media and I had safely looked the other way. Then it so happened that my library had a copy and gingerly, I clicked on it to have the book delivered. Though the style of writing leaves a lot to be desired, I was rather impressed with the way he humanized the legend of Shiva. His Shiva is one who delightfully swears, doesn’t pass up on a chillum and has a past he isn’t too proud of. The book is the first of a trilogy and between jibes and wise cracks, presents familiar stories and names in a new context. There is even a little pop philosophy, quite in Coelho’s style, just below the surface.
Chetan Bhagat, the poster boy of popular Indian fiction once said that he wrote for people who read while silently mouthing the words to themselves. Amish’s book hovers around the same plane. Not that I complain; I finished the book in one sitting with a break for lunch. Amidst the feverous perfection that Gods are expected to maintain in our mythologies, it is refreshing to read a story where one such of the trinity remains what I can only call a cool dude.
There are books that fall into the middle path between pop fiction and heavy duty Lit. I am going to tell you about it next week…..
(to be continued)

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