Monday, June 11, 2007

A Rare Pleasure

I have read and loved books for as long as I can consciously recall. It has been an obsession with me, the written word. When I was a wee babe (almost), I even used to read the newspaper-made paper bags that the shopping used to come in. My mother was always slightly worried about that. So, its been a while since then, and I have moved on from shopping bags to books and blogs. A lot of blogs have surprised me, for a lot of reasons. Some are so astonishingly powerful and well written that they make me stare at the screen for about ten minutes after I've finished reading. Others are like this one; incredibly self-indulgent, but I figure there's no better place to indulge one's own poor self than on one's blog. Some are hilarious by intent, others by accident. I prefer the latter variety, the first kind always manages to intimidate me. One particular blog sorely reminds me of myself when I was seventeen, so I check it regularly to feel better about myself. There was even this one guy who put up sixty posts in a day, I kid you not, to get into the record books. 'Twas a sad day when I came across that particular one. Also, there's nothing quite like the high you get on seeing your words, your thoughts out there, open to the whole world, on your own terms.

About books, the affair grows stronger with age, although my 'type' has changed. At one particular job interview, I was asked about the kind of books I read, so I rattled off my usual list: Wodehouse, Pratchett, Tagore, Marquez, Tolstoy and so on. The gentleman then asked if wry humour was my preferred kind, to which I retorted that seeing someone slip on a banana peel was enough to make me laugh. He looked slightly disappointed at my lack of taste and finesse.

Lately, though, one particular author has been growing on me. No one writes about ennui quite like Rohinton Mistry. I have rarely seen a pen that evokes so easily the dust and dirt of everday life. The empathy is real, as is the pain at the inexorability of decay. I have been unable to finish reading A Fine Balance for two months now, because I'm too afraid to go on. I'm giving it another shot, though. It amazes me, the way he just weaves such seamless narratives about ordinary people and ordinary situations that somehow manage to transcend the ordinary and become something almost poetic in his narrative. I know its quite a weird thing to say, but I've always wanted to be able to write in a way that can make people cry, although I inadvertently and inevitably produce the opposite effect on those who read what occupies this space. He manages, though, and quite well. I remember the very surprised tears I shed reading about the reality of caste violence in India, thinking about the immediacy of it and the absolute tragedy of it in ways that I'd never imagined before. We mostly know what to believe in. Caste is unnecessary, religious hatred is evil; truisms that we keep holding on to in a bid to make sense of the chaos around us. But very few of us actually manage to understand exactly why it is necessary to believe in such things, and why the survival of the civil society that we take for granted depends on it. Also, the depth of compassion that I feel in this gentleman's writing never ceases to move me. I haven't yet come across a character that was rudely or singularly etched; every person had texture, history, some sort of humanity.

Like I said, 'twas a rare pleasure.

P.S.: - Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try
To fix you.
- Coldplay

Don't ask why, I don't know either.

19 comments:

another brick in the wall said...

seeing someone slip on a banana peel was enough to make me laugh.

haha.. yea.. wats wrong wid ur sense of humour? u almost laugh at my ever pj and then rate it a crappy statement :P

rest of the part.. shall comment in a while :)

another brick in the wall said...

continued...

as far as books are concerned i alwyz wanted 2 read books.. i really enjoyed reading as a kid.. but sometime along the way i got distracted by the television monster and movies and everything else that just took me miles from these books.. in fact there were some 2-3yrs in between whn i didn't even touch a single book.. and now the laziness has crept in n i just feel it boring 2 open a book.. but i really hate 2 be disturbed whn i am reading a book n ppl tell me stop doing the same.. i've actually screamed at ppl for doing so cz tht activity happens once in a decade. :S.. but i luv readin blogs.. i luv writing posts.. u've rightly said in ur first para.. there's nothing quite like the high you get on seeing your words, your thoughts out there, open to the whole world, on your own terms... true true.. therez some kinda satisfaction.. i think its the joy of experiencing the freedom of expression esp for a coward like me whoz normally all quiet n inactive in the offline life.. so well.. herez where i get to shout n scream :).. besides.. whn there are so many blogs around 2 read.. books may well take a backseat sometimes as u tend 2 get 2 meet the real ppl here n the real time experiences.. its also better for a lazy ass like me 2 just read some 50 lines than an entire novel.. alrt.. i've spoken enuff... i dont even know where i'm going now :S.. acha.. enjoy :)

new age scheherazade said...

'twas, 'twas.
Wodehouse and Tolstoy. So what else did he want?

heh? ok said...

@ brick
no, that's no excuse. blogs are no substitutes for books. i shall get you reading when i move to bombay.

@ new age scheherazade
i'm not sure...

another brick in the wall said...

thank u thank u.. i need someone 2 push me for it :)

probe said...

don't see much gloom in the gloomy cassandra yet!

heh? ok said...

@ probe
ah, the fearlessness of the ignorant.. stick around :)

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

am a wanderer.
came by - just chance.
Much as I wasnt to post a related comment, I dont want to sound stupid either.
So for now, Nice blog!
:)

heh? ok said...

@ tooothless wonder
well, here we insist that you sound stupid or the rest of us feel like we're leaving you out. so do consider. and thank you :)

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

but I dont read at all.
apart from all the blogs, that is. I've tried writing everything - started with humor, then thought I'll write a novel, and finally the muse completely gave up on me, and that's when I started this photoblog thing.
I'm sure this too will pass.

heh? ok said...

@ wonder
so reading isn't always an intellectual statement, you know. could also be an indication of the fact that one has no life outside the pages that someone else has written.

Sparsh said...

This is interesting. I was going through SwB's blogroll and landed here. Was surprised to find your (many) comments here until I realized it is indeed your blog!

If I am not wrong, you blog somewhere else too? I linked to you before but it is not the same.

Sparsh said...

Reading may make one look curious or 'eager to learn' about their surroundings( more active than passive in the world's affairs) and hence, may sound 'intellectual':).

it's the greatest of pleasures anyday.

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

i'm blogrolling you.

heh? ok said...

@ sparsh
astute. :P this is indeed my blog, and i only write here. and you're right about the reading.

@ wonder
heehee. thankee very much, i'm most honoured.

Virus© said...

I like blogs where people "write" and not just post pictures to beautify or to artistically elaborate the post or whatever heck the reason be. It's always been an obsession with me, too-- the written words.

Nice place. :)

heh? ok said...

@ virus
pictures would have a place on this blog if i just had the patience to upload them. words are so much easier. and thanks :)

Divya said...

Oh i can so relate.. been reading for as long as i canremember and before.. theres a baby pic of me surrounded by all sorts of tiys and i'm ignoring all of them and am stuck to a book (it was a kiddie encyclopedia that gave the definition of chocolate and the like :p along with pictures :) and im a bibliophiole till now..

And same.. when i read a blog whioh is marvellously written i just sit and stare and re read it.. and wonder how they write so well and just wish i could write like that..

heh? ok said...

@ divya
and so it is, and so it shall remain, hopefully :)