Saturday, June 24, 2006

Run, kid, run

Why stop now, kid?
Run along
For the day will become night.
And running makes
A day out of night.

You gotta get there
Which is not here.
You get to do something
More than simply
Hanging around.
Run along, kid.

What do you think
You will get from life?
Run and you'll know.
You gotta know
What you want.
And more importantly,
How to recognise it.

Run along, kid.
Life is not for those who sit
Life is not for me
For I have run years
And fallen flat on my face.
But, run along, kid.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Do read this article:

Things can't get funnier. What did the head abbot expect them to do while watching a match? Count rosaries? And is it evil to watch a match? Just thinking... Would love to hear your opinion on the evil quotient of watching matches... :-)


Don't let me go.
Don't let me go.
I press my hands to the walls, these soft walls covered with her blood. I don't want to go. It might be the right thing to do. It might be the most virtuous thing to do, but I don't want to let go off this. Here is where I learnt love, here is where I was drowned in the affection and completeness of her. Why should I let go of all this for the sake of this world? What will the world give me? Will the world understand such love? Such passion? Won't it call me names when I pronounce my affair while I go betrothed to the world and its people one after another? What joy shall I get beyond the bliss that I have?
I press myself and cling to the walls as fate and she push me away. She is crying, I know, but why? I want to be with her, forever. Is that unacceptable?
I drown in a concoction of my ideals and passion, only to find it draining on me. Alas! what irony that the drowned lose their life because they were brought to dry land. Have you ever known how it is to have your breath leave you, visibly, noisely? Ask a dead man, but how would you ever know how to talk to the dead? Ask the man who feels his tongue sinking into his mouth as he watches life and his breath leave him, like a blanket pulled off a naked man in the Arctic. A ghastly revelation that the life breath that you breathed, that you thought was yours, that you thought made you and connected you to the Eternal, is not that. Lie down and watch life and love leave you, slipping from over your torso, leaving a crumbling rib cage behind, like the aftermath that trails the path of a gnawing tornado... life sliding over you and down between your legs. You raise your head ever so slightly, with the vain hope that it might see the love in your eyes and return, but it spirals down and out of your vision.
I am losing my grip and the hand of Providence is of iron as it pushes me further and further away from what I hold true, what I love.
She screams.
So do I.
She wants me no longer with her, in her, of her.
I shall yield.
I let go.

"Congratulations Mrs. Bhatnagar. It's a boy."

I look at her ruddy face as she gazes at my blood smeared visage.
You let Him slice the cord that held us!?
Why do you cry now?
You are happy?
Don't lie to me... don't.
For old times sake.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Straight spines tingle me...

I am married to the ideal of being promiscuous. I fail to see the reason in being singularly dedicated to a single book. I find little reason to hold one book superior or more arousing than another. The delicacy of a book is never lessened by the sensation coursing my ocular tongue as it gapes through the pages of another book. I cannot but help find myself helpless in the midst of such intoxicating entities such as books. Books, dear, are my undoing, that is, apart from Italy (and things Italian) and women (and fine feminine wonders)! But unlike the latter pair, I feel safer to confess to my infidelity in the company of books, for patriotism and societal morals paint me a lesser man in the wake of other innocent confessions.

A bookstore is nothing short of an orgy. Consider the sheer delight of books beckoning with the slight twist of a finger and a lascivious glance as they colour the shelves arranged in a pitiably military manner. Why, books aren't meant to line indifferent wooden cabinets but should be tastefully placed bringing strong men to their knees. Care and cosseting is never enough or in excess when the target of such affection is an array of splendid books (sorry, chick-lit is excluded). Bookstores (at least in India) seem to spend very little time considering design and seduction. A reader must be invited into the midst of stylish books and never coaxed into wishing to possess one or rather being possessed. Of course, I find it bad taste when someone picks but one book and heads straight to the payment counter. Oh dear! Is that all you wanted? You should have read the newspaper instead! I, for one, can't stop with one. One as a number suits many occasions and rituals, but books surely aren't one of them.

I have a fetish for hardbound books. I pick an interesting book and then whistle away as I look around ensuring that people are busy in their personal affairs and in a flash open it somewhere near the middle and dive between to smell the gum and aging paper. Aaaah! Who needs a Chanel No. 5? The holy trinity of books, food and women can out-do the other, but I still feel that books hold a greater power over me (for I have skipped my dinners and women-friends while in the company of a book). A friend of mine once divulged that the best way to lose me is to lead me into a bookstore and leave immediately. I understood the former part of the demarche but failed to understand why she had added the latter. She later told me, "E, its like why I come to you when I have to get on a diet. The way you describe food to me, I feel like I am having a feast of carrots and juices/ambrosia. I can't let that happen to me in a bookstore."

Paperbacks, of late, are brilliant too. Have you run your finger over the cover of books published by Signet or Vintage (not all)? Close your eyes and shut off all the unnecessary things of this world (which is everything but the wonderful maiden you hold in your hands). Run a finger delicately from the lower left corner of the book to the top left corner. Do you feel the bevel of the title and maybe the author? Oh! Please try it again. Slowly dear, for a woman can never be rushed. I would do it differently. Have you ever held a long satin sash in your hands and lightly flicked it in the air like what makes a whip crack? Preferably choose a red sash if you stand on a meadow against a clear sky. If the sky is clouded and the earth is devoid of the green blush, you might prefer a golden sash, perhaps? The elongated "S" shape is the divine inspiration behind the pattern that the fleshy side of my index finger traces along the cover. Delicious! Penguin, with their orange slaps along the spine, need a change. It is unfortunate if the story is packed in jarring colours and textures which better suit a monitor lizard.

As I mentioned earlier, designing places for books is essential and cannot be
treated as a matter to be disposed of to the hands of a kafir. When I say places, I do not stop with the introduction of appropriate racks and shelves. Why, a reader is vital, isn't she? Where will you host her? Atop that oak shelf? Bear with me while I retch (of course, outside the bookstore). Soft cushion chairs to relax and maybe bean bags. Tables on which heavier books can be placed and reading lamps would be so welcome. Alcoves where a book is being read and a coffee shop with old books would complete the picture so wonderfully. Food and books don't always go together, hence people shouldn't be allowed to take books into the coffee shop or coffee into the bookshop. Simple and thoughtful gestures like cushions which a reader can pick up and drop down near a nook to get the feel of a book or those wooden book rests (which so many people think are only good for holding the Gita or some religious text) would be perfect.

A book should be housed in a manner that befits her mettle and should be attractive to the audience that she would draw. I love designing bookshelves, and of course, filling them with companions for a lifetime. Amongst the ones I designed I only have the sheets for about 2-3 of them. One of them is shaped like a pyramid (in 2-D) with glass and lighting and another is designed like stairs along the wall in a manner quite different. The CCD of my camera has some trouble, else I would have uploaded the pictures of the sketches and design dimensions. The most essential elements of a well designed bookshelf are sufficient lighting, shade and supporting material. Placing books on iron racks without protection or against the window, exposing them to sunlight is genocide. Wooden (paper's grandpa) shelves are the best suited. Be sure to line them with dehumidifiers (e.g. silica gel). Direct light of any sort should be avoided. I would recommend posting a sentry to ensure that the crass do not fold paperbacks over their back, or lick their finger tips while paginating. Urgh! Be sure to clean the shelves often enough.

There is something about a purchase that calls for a lot of dreaming and cooing. Dainty baskets in which one piles books for future careful consideration are a delightful sight. Please spare time at large bookstores to watch fellow lovers or pseuds walk up and down with their baskets. Each container speaks tomes about the person. It is such a pleasure to amble along trying to understand the inner working of the handsome man as he smiles at a copy of The Magic Mountain and adjust his spectacles before he lovingly places it in his basket. Or that cute girl who is busy popping gum out of her curvaceous mouth and books by in authors into her basket. Well, the books in my basket reveal a lot about me too and I hold it close to my self. The satisfaction that I feel when I pick half a dozen books and convince my good-goody side that I will cut down next month, is immeasurable. The sheer sense of power I feel when I unload my cart (softly and carefully) and offer a card (depending on the time of the month) to swipe, as the finishing stroke of a winning day... Nirvana.

Bookstores also offer interesting incidents. One such incident was captured here.
My friend once asked me where I planned to take my wife on a honeymoon. I promptly replied that I would take her to a good bookstore. She smacked her forehead and said, "E, you have to take her to some new place."
"Ok... a new bookstore?"

Once, a lady walked up to me and spoke thus, "Excuse me, will you help me?" I wasn't one to refuse help on a lazy day.
"My daughter is interested in buying books. Could you suggest some good books?"
I was expecting a little girl in pigtails with a toothy smile to steal my heart and attention and I was disappointed to find a young girl, a few years younger than I, walk around a bookshelf towards me. I wanted to drop my jaw and books and shriek, "Buying books NOW!? What have you been doing for all your life?" but I let it pass and asked the embarrassed girl:
"So what do you like to do on a weekend? What in a story enthralls you? Which colour do you like on a Mercedes Benz SL65? Is ethics an issue that interests you? Do you..."
"I am sorry my mother troubled you. I was just looking around and I'll find a book. Thanks."
"Sure", I smiled and returned to my world of books.

How did her mother (who looked very impressed by the questions I shot out) expect me to suggest a book for a daughter without knowing anything about her? I hoped she realised that though the answers would have given me an insight into the working of the squishy mass in her daughter's cranial cavity, it was intended more to frighten than anything else. These "oh you must read it. Its so gooooooood" kind of statements are revolting, if not shallow. I need to know you, understand you before I can recommend anything for you, including books. Try ordering food for someone you love and for another person you have just met. Notice the difference.

At the end of the day What I always love to return to is a warm home with my room defined by many cabinets as the one below. I tried it many times, but most of the times I returned to find books lying sensuously and spread open on my bed. Did you know, that I sleep on the floor because I do not wish to disturb them? My mom thinks it is laziness. Oh god! When will she learn?

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I served him a deep laugh when he expected awe and respect, but isn't delirium the reward of deep wisdom? I put my hands on his shoulders and found that my thumbs touched each other, forming a tapering fleshy necklace of love around his tenuous throat. I went down on my haunches and found a littler me looking at myself from those black pearls gazing out of slippery white.Little Boy Hero

"I am sorry. I think you are right, and I was laughing at my stupidity for not seeing it."
He turned his head slightly looking at me askance with some suspicion, which is the unbecoming of human life. I nodded my head slowly, and cheer returned to his firm and throbbing cheeks.

"So, we should do that, right?"
"I think we should."
"But don't tell mommy. She doesn't like it."
"Doesn't like what?"

He looked down at his toes as he dug them deeper into the river silt. I started swaying him slowly, back and forth with my arms still on his shoulders and he smiled. The increasing pace tickled a broader smile and then a laugh out of him. The truth about his mother's discontent could wait.

"So, when do you think we should do it?"
"Of course, when they come to bathe!" He smacked his head and stood arms akimbo.
"Of course, silly me." I stood up and watched the silt dance like toothpaste from between my toes. He was watching it too.
"Chee chee, dirty."
I gave him a wicked smile and asked him, "Do you want to touch it?"
He didn't answer and bent down. He held a stiff index finger out and threatened the icing of silt around my feet.
"It's like on a cake", I said, which coaxed him into moving it faster toward the fresh, moist brown. He poked it a little and withdrew his hands in a shock.
"It's soft", he whispered and casually poked tiny craters into it with his finger. He attacked each bubble that broke out of the mud and soon started ferociously scrapping it all over my feet.

I picked him up around his waist and took him to the water. I washed my feet and dipped him parallel to the water surface. He was screeching and slapped the water while his soft hair flew wildly.
When we finally sat down under the tree, he hugged one thigh of mine and I could feel his excited chest beat softly against my inner thigh. I smiled to the back of his head and my joy burst through him and onto his lips.
"There! There they come."

LifeI snapped in the direction he was pointing and watched them stroll with a maddening ease for their noon bath. I thought they were all alone, but spotted the half naked boy between them. They walked over to the bank and looked around to see if they were the only ones there. We were hiding behind the trunk and they didn't spot us. They slowly sank into the water and splashed around a bit. When the water buoyed them, they sighed in unison.
The boy stripped to his loin cloth and hurled himself into the water. He landed in their midst, flat on his back and slapped their bellies. They didn't even cringe.

"You sure?"I hissed into his ear. He started and shuddered around his neck. I mouthed a quick "sorry"
"I am not sure. Do you think it would work?" he asked while returning to watch them.
"I don't know. We could plant milk in the river and wait. How long did you say it would take to grow?"
"How do I know? The idea is mine, but these things I don't know."

He sat with his back to the tree and to the bathers. He was hesitating and he picked a twig and started scratching between the grass.
"What happened?"
"I don't know. What if mommy finds out?"
"What if the milk seeds do grow and we have a river of milk and all those cows and buffaloes are freed?"
"Yeah, but maybe someone else should do it."
"As in, I am still studying in the 1st standard."
"Maybe, you should go and do it as I planned and I will make sure no one comes and catches you."
"That is mighty kind of you, but I am not as brave as you are."
"I am not."

Intellectual commaI sat down beside him and we looked straight ahead along the road which pierced the horizon into several corrugated roofed factories and mills. A distant windmill rolled and humoured a few crows.
"Maybe I will tell everyone in school tomorrow and everyone will know that it is my idea."
"But who will do it?"
He was silent and lazily scratched the grass. He tore some of the green blades and clutched them in his fist.
"I have to go now. Mommy will be waiting for me."
He got up and dusted the seat of his pants. He tugged his underwear out from between his buttocks and started walking away.
"Bye", he said and walked on. When he climbed over the road he turned around and saw me sitting there as he had left me.
"Mommy doesn't like me talking to you. She thinks you will spoil me. I have to go to school and become a big doctor."
He walked on towards where an otherwise infinite road stopped and festered with the intellectual commas of the human mind.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

An Interesting Blog

I wanted to share this blog with avid readers. I find it interesting that Patrick captures his feel about each story that he reads. Coincidentally, we are reading the same book (O.Henry Prize 2006) and history reveals that there have been instances when we read the same stories (from VQR, AGNI, New Yorker, etc.). My interest in this website, I assure you, is only slightly influenced by this adventitious commonness... :-)

Check it out.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speed Living

How many books have you read in May? 1? 5?
Have you rushed to read "A New Earth"?
Have you read all of Agatha Christie? Harry Potter?

I hear such questions often and stop to wonder. Each question represents a family of questions intending to reveal how voracious a reader you are, or how up-to-date you are or how much of a fan you are. But hardly does one ask questions to discuss how earnest a reader you are. Earnest is reading with all your heart and mind and body (oh! the body goes beyond the eyes and the hands holding the book!).

Have you read a book with all your heart and mind and body?
Have you tasted the words in a story?
Have you heard the tinkle and rustle of words like "tinkle" and "rustle"?
Have you heard the gruffness and whisper of characters in the stories you read, or were they quickly spat out in the hurry to know how the story ended and the next book picked off the rack?

In the omnipresent hurry of living, I realise that books and reading have also fallen victim to the crazily whirring hands on the clock. Books are meant to be relished and loved. Don't read a book you don't like if all it would give you is an entry into the literati! I love Woody Allen's quote in this regard:

I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

And to what benefit? Wouldn't it be better to have read but 5 books in a life time, but each one relished like your own child? To no avail is the grand title of a well-read man when all he might recall is the title, author and little else. If you could relish books and read many of them, I would like to meet you and learn how. A book is a relationship and I wonder how one can live it quickly. I shant go into the state of relationships as each one of us wears a different lens, but I beg you to read a book in order to make it a mate. Read deeply, imagine the character saying it, wonder what you would have said in reply to that character, be childlike in having clear emotions of love and hate for the characters who dance their lives across the page over the bumps of "m"s and deep valleys of "y"s.

But this involves spending time and a lot of it. Don't treat a book like an I-charge-by-the-hour shrink does his patients. Read the first few pages, and close your eyes. The scene should form and the birds should fly across the sky and the cars whizz past concrete stalagmite. You should be able to hear the lady speak and the child whine (and later stop a friend to say "My, you sound so much like Ms. Bovary"). Isn't life but the various fabrics of romance run through the ornate curtain ring called "I"?

If books have lost the time that was bequeathed to them, I wonder, what next.