Vellichor…A tale of books

 

On seeing my first salary credited to my account, I knew exactly what I wanted for myself.Of course, apart from spending it on sweets and wishes of my family, I kept it aside to buy books.I was spellbound on thinking the huge number of books I can gather when every month I get such a big amount.Books that were unaffordable until that time, books that I had to keep away thinking about “do_you_really_need_it_now ?” look from my dad, books that contained stories which I had only imagined.How naive was I to believe that I could buy a whole of them with my meagre income!!. and was very sad and surprised to realise that many of books are still elusive for me.

Books that were unaffordable until that time, books that I had to keep away just after reading the blurp so that I dont need to answer “do_you_really_need_it_now ?” look from my dad, books that contained stories which I had only imagined.How naive was I to believe that I could buy a whole lot of them with my meagre income!!. I became very sad and surprised to realise that many of books will still elusive for me.

It was around that time that I had a need to buy some entrance books for my brother.Though I insisted on buying new and fresh books, he was quite reluctant to pay such exorbitant price for them.He was the one who urged me to check out the famous Moore Market, the heaven for second-hand books at Chennai.So there I was all prepped for taking the long journey to the northern end of Chennai, on a hot sultry summer day to check out Moore market.It was there I found a whole new world of second-hand books.I had already known about the cheaply available used books but I must admit that I was an egoist to buy them.I always wanted to buy a new book and have it all to myself.

Reluctantly I decided to look for some of the books available in that old, woody and dingy cubicles. I was bit apprehensive but I admit that I got carried away by the love for books.I quickly found some gems in quite a bad shape but for such low prices that I just could not ignore them.I told myself, it the stories that matter and not the cover or the book as such.

Well, I quickly had to change my opinion.I have had books whose margins had a totally different story to tell.Those scribbled letters some of which I could not decipher had taken a toll on my sleep.I also found mostly bills, exam schedules even some torn 10 rupees to luckily a 100 rupee nullifying the cost of the book, tucked away in the covers.I am not sure how the sellers missed it :).

Somehow I had fallen in love with those second-hand books in that dingy old place.You just have to have some patience, some love and some good bargaining skills to get hold of some of the great books.Though I don’t know why people throw away books, I came to realize that one needs to part with their dear stories when they have to move on to share and find newer stories.

When moving out of Chennai, even I had to pass on my collection of books, which I want to believe will be adorning the shelves of a bibliophile.Even though I have started buying books from those the huge library kind of air conditioned book stalls, searching for books among the categorized places and not look at others or simply buy one at the click on internet or use a kindle, I still long to skim through the huge collection of old books and then stumble upon a totally different book,then bargain with the seller on how unworthy the book is and its good that you get rid of it 😉 and then finally sit and read the same.

Bliss!!

Irusu

At the end of long and tiring day
I hustle to my home happily engrossed
On the looming long holidays

Grabbing some greens and red wine
And some books and classics
I reached the door of my heaven

Owning the entire home
With all of the roommates away
The extrovert in me came to life

I kicked my shoes and threw my shopping bags
With my favorite music on, I poured me a glass of wine
All the while I run high of bibliosmia

It was then, I heard the knock
Another one, yet again!
I keep calm while pondering

Would my flung shoe giveaway?
Or the volume of the music giveaway?
Is my weekend all gone?

I pretend not to hear the knocks
I hope and wait for it to go
Am I a coward or just lazy?

I peek through the curtains
And saw the girl upstairs
Just hurry away!! 🙂

Too much for being an Irusu ??

Eye-fection

So this post is a personal rant :).You have been warned!!

Well, I have been affected by a worse eye infection.Already, I am perfectly matching the “soda-glass” description of glasses and now thrown in an eye infection.It’s like a match made in heaven, like Idly and Sambhar.It’s made my life difficult and my work, even more difficult.My eyes, rather my eye infection made me realise about the important role they are playing and how ungrateful I have been even to acknowledge its presence.It’s like that saying,”You got to lose something to understand its value”

Anyways, back to the rant, the most affected of my daily routine was “squeeze_in_pages_to_read” which in turn hit my monthly target of reading and reviewing four books.I had already chosen and even started reading the books, but then I had to “switch_off“.Yup, culprit “Kindle”

I too had switched to Kindle for the cheaper rates of books and also the ease of carrying around.Though I still love my books, its wonderful smell, the touch back from the pages, the dog-earing of pages, somehow Kindle scored better.It allowed me to mix and read with just one thing to hold.Now with a toddler running around or find the peace of mind in washrooms, I simply loved Kindle books.But now I know that the marathon reading from Kindle had aggravated my eye injury.So books, as well as Kindle had gone back to take their long deserved rest.

Once I had to forcibly let go of my monthly reading target, I became so very relived from an unknown tension from my chest.It gave me a permission to literally breathe!!.I never realised I was pushing myself so very hard to achieve something and suddenly I became so much relaxed when the thought that I have a valid reason not to read 4 books, popped up.Well, I myself was so astonished the way I reacted.I thought I loved books and while it is very much true, I realized I was putting myself into a forced punishement of reading.It also made me realize, I totally forgot to enjoy the book, I  was reading.I could not happily read back the pages, or allow myself to know the characters or surroundings.The fact is that, I never knew what I was turning into.

Yeah, it’s a sort of mindfulness, rather a lack of mindfulness.

I had so much of free time but with less pressure.I had this epiphany of “deeply” looking into other aspects of my life and my family.My eyes-injury made me realize I can have so many wonderful things in my life, if not just blinded by what I must absolutely have in life.Its sometimes worthier to let go of expectations and live just like that :).And that was also the reason for not being available on blogosphere!! Well, that’s the End of rant 🙂

 

Em and Big Hoom

Em and the Big HoomEm and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you go to a home, you knock and wait for someone from the home to open the door and let you in.There is a certain premise to enter the home, make oneself comfortable and then have a chat.And when it’s finally time to part, you might or might not have understood the reality of that home or the family.But that was not the case with Em and Big Hoom.

When I started reading this book, I was literally put in the middle of the lives of Em, Big Hoom and their family. I felt warm and welcomed to their home.Not one time did I feel I was not a part of their family.I literally lived and breathed with them.

I felt the burning and suffocating smell of beedis in my eyes and nose.I understood the bits and pieces and was able to read in between the lines from Em’s talks.I felt ashamed at the same time intrigued at her adult talks.I felt the silent, yet the roaring presence of Big Hoom.I sensed the tender love between these folks.I could hear all the thoughts of em for endless hours.I also shivered when she tried to let go of her life.And I was part relieved and a part sad when she finally left.I knew I was somewhere becoming the shadow of the narrator, who has poured his hearts out!

Our mothers are very dear to us.She somehow has been bestowed with the power of holding all the members of the family.Now, it’s very scary situation if something happens to such a strong link.And even scarier if it related to being mentally disabled.Imelda, aka Em, is one such person, who slowly and at times looses the grip of reality.

‘After you were born, someone turned on a tap. At first it was only a drip, a black drip, and I felt it as sadness. I had felt sad before . . . who hasn’t ? I knew what it was like. But I didn’t know that it would come like that, for no reason. I lived with it for weeks.’

‘Was there a drain?’

‘No. There was no drain. There isn’t one even now’.

‘It is like oil. Like molasses, slow at first.Then one morning I woke up and it was flowing free and fast. I thought I would drown in it. I thought it would drown little you and Susan. I got up, got dressed and went out onto the road and tried to jump in front of a bus. I thought it would be a final thing, quick like a bang.  Only,it wasn’t.

I don’t know if there is any better way of defining depression.It’s akin to drowning in one’s sadness, though we don’t want to be drowned and we know how to stop oneself from being drowned but yet, yet simply could not help but sink down.That’s depression.

And how can one forget Augustine, the Big Hoom ?. When there are people who simply choose to stay out of trouble by avoiding ill people from their lives, here a man who stays and fights for a normal life.His love for Em, cannot be said in words.It can be known only from the heart.

“Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself.”

Such a brilliant portrayal of a dysfunctional(?) family amongst us describing the vivid emotions and the broken thoughts of a depressed, bipolar, suicidal mother but more importantly reading this book showed me the difficulties, that sort of numbness and the absence of normalcy in the lives of the caretakers of these mentally ill people.

I wonder if one day, I fall as hard as Em, will I be lucky enough to be surrounded by folks like Em’s family?

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My Husband and Other Animals

My Husband and Other AnimalsMy Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What made me reach for this book was the title,”My Husband and Other Animals”.Since I had never read any of Janaki’s columns in The Hindu, I didn’t know what the book would be about.While reading this book, a bunch of articles gave me a totally new experience.
We live either in a city or in a village or in a flat or a good old mansion.We make god friends and enemies with your neighbours, relatives, friends etc.But we never would have given a thought about the various “other” beings around us.Reading this book made me literally me sit up and think about the toads, cats, dogs, birds, worms, flies and even mosquitoes[the beings around me].It did make me wonder about their conversations :).

Ms.Janaki favourite and recurring topic in her articles is her husband, Mr.Romulus Whitaker-who is an herpetologist and founder of Madras Crocodile Bank. They together have been living in Madras Crocodile Bank, and later on moved to a farm house near Chengalpet.While reading through the experiences of the author I was quite envious about her adventures and most importantly the fun she had while on them.Be it “always finding a way back to home toads” or “cyclone crocs” or “trekking deep forests”, she has had a great run which we can only imagine.

Laughing and giggling to myself, I finished the book in no time.It was a quick and hearty read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The Kaunteyas.

The KaunteyasThe Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the tale of Mahabharata retold from the viewpoint of Kunti, who I believe was the one who had the power to avert the great war but she couldn’t choose to do so.I now realize why !.At every point of the tale, she always chose the well-being of her family and her kingdom above her own life.Though she is very intelligent and witty and full of love and honor, she always did what a lady is advised and supposed to do since the day she is born.She had huge powers vested upon her but she was always bound to look beyond herself and chose not to utilize her power as a mother, as a queen or as a lady.

The life of Kunti was depicted in such a way that we naturally sympathize with her and her choices and life.From a girl who was given away right after she was born, growing up in foster care, being naive, being vulnerable, being obedient but inquisitive and intelligent, her pain of being in love, her defeat to share her husband, her sacrifice for children everything is elaborately described in this book.For me, it felt like a mirror to the lives of women in our society today as she is expected to keep herself and her priorities at the bottom of the chain. These long tales painted such a picture of how a woman needs to keep sacrificing for her family and how she must follow her husband’s orders, how she is not allowed to make herself a priority, how she has no support from anywhere that it has become the new norm leading our society to a patriarchal one.

I was not particularly blown away by the narration as it had nothing new to offer except a new viewpoint as that of a women’s narrative.This may because I had expected something on lines of MT Randamoozham.Nonetheless, a good read!

When Breath Becomes Air

The title is what made me want to read this deeply moving memoir.Such a profound one, your breath is your life and you don’t realize until it becomes just air.I am not sure if I grasped it correctly, but that was what spontaneously came to my mind when reading the title there.I understand that it has been taken from here: “The book’s title is paraphrased from a verse in Caelica, a 17th-century poem by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville: You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath ”

We all don’t understand the real value of our life until we have been through the tragedy of it.Our perspective suddenly changes.The sufferings and pain become too real to ignore.The author Dr.Paul seemed to have everything in his life, until one day when he found them to gone out just like that.The author ended up being a neurosurgeon to understand the ultimate philosophy of life.All the hard work he has done to make it this far, the many sleepless nights, the choices of subjects he chose to learn, his ultimate seeking of truth about life died a sad ending.

The book showcases the changes of Dr.Paul from a doctor to patient.The reader is taken through his choices of subjects to learn and why he ended up being a neurosurgeon.He discusses the flimsy knowledge of life we have and how he wanted to help more of people with the knowledge he possessed.The book provides a great insight into the lives of the saviors, their working hours, their procedures, the emotional trauma, their depressions.

It also outlines his personal struggles with his life partner, about Lucy both before and after his diagnosis.It also dis is own sufferings and the limited amount of time he had in this world and how he chose to spend the same.I wonder how much pain would he have endured to write down his thoughts.One of the most touching verses in the book is where he and his wife discuss the possibility of having a baby. Lucy wants him to decide: he wants her to.

‘Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?’ she asks.Wouldn’t it be great if it did?’ he replies, adding: ‘Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.’

Paul and Lucy together had “Cady” and he was able to spend a few months with her.It might have been difficult, but “Cady” is a lucky girl to have a great father and a great legacy.

whenbreathbecomesair

 

Reading this book which has been posthumously published after Dr. Paul expired to stage IV lung cancer in March 2015. Through this book he makes us realize that If we had led a meaningful life and if we made the right choices, then our lives are wonderful even of we see a sudden end to it.this book has given me another reason to cherish my life and I keep adding newer memories every day.