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