May 20, 2012

A Random Sunday In the Life Of, etc.

The rain this morning gave us a great excuse to veg out at home and watch Satyamev Jayate (after the CSA and the dowry episodes, gender determination will double, I’m sure) and read in ghastly postures all over the house. After a very basic lunch, my toes found their way into the side of the sofa and that strange bone sticking out of my skull (since forever) was merrily burrowing its way through the husband’s leg, and I was ready to nap for two hours and repent for four, when the sun showed up, Bangalore kicked their own butt out of the IPL, and we decided to head out for a coffee and a walk.
The girl at the neighborhood coffee parlor calls us “chocolate cake” (Racist? Maybe. We’re brown and bitter for sure), and served a nice thick slab of our favorite coffee accompaniment as we read some more on her sofa.  After that, we decided (as we do every other day) that we’d go shopping for shoes. Both of us have this perpetual vague need for new shoes (although we own only two pairs each at any given time in history) and today we randomly chose the husband as the shoe-shopping candidate. After trying on some fancy ones and lusting after some obscenely expensive ones, he settled on a simple pair and for the first time in about 6 months, our shoe-shopping expedition actually ended up in a purchase.
As our pupils adjusted to the sunlight outside the shoe shop, we spotted a secondhand books fiesta! No doubt the rain had ruined half their day, and probably half their books as well, but there they were, in all their glory!  Our first forage yielded three books and after a long search for the absconding stall owner, we were cheerfully greeted by a gentlemen who said life was very simple, and three books were two euro fifty, and he did not want the books anymore... they were ours. The next stop had us fall in love with a quaint little Dutch comic book on which no price was mentioned, and the surly gentleman at the stall said it was five euro after careful study of the comic and of the books jutting out of our bag. When I smiled and put the book back, he scowled and said “don’t want it for five? It’s twenty then!” I smiled some more and walked on. The husband, spotting a good book that was threatening to shed its cover, asked if I’d like to read it. The pencil mark said it was fifty cents, and the stall owner shrugged hopelessly and said he’d have to give it for that price then, wouldn’t he. As we counted five and ten cent coins to make up the fifty, he was sure we were about to ask for a discount, and we assured him that we were not those people. Everyone at the book bazaar is bitter in his or her own way, and why wouldn’t they be? Many of them were probably around when books being available to and affordable for every one was still a fascinating idea, and in their lifetimes, they’ll probably have to throw away half their stock because nobody wants it anymore! For a change, we were not really bitter today, as we found our first real bargains books-wise in this lovely but expensive city of ours.
We lugged the books around town on a beautiful walk, and are now back on the sofa and it’s time to read some more. Shoes and books and sofas and coffee…what more does one need in life? 

May 09, 2012

Of Human Bondage

Just finished reading Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. The ghastly-looking paperback edition was one of the husband’s wise purchases on our recent trip to Bangalore, and once I started, I did not know much peace or quiet till I finished it.

My mother started feeding me “good” literature from her dad’s collection in early teens when it was, among other things, a practical way to keep noise levels down in the house. Quite cocky and self-assured at 17, I embarked on a 5-year study of English literature and read most of the defining works of fiction of the last 500 years or so, and perhaps these shaped the kind of person I grew up to be. At the same time, I’m not sure I did (or indeed could have done) justice to the brilliant writing and thinking I consumed, and there was a considerable element of pearls-before-swine in my history of burying my nose into books.

In recent times, while I’m surrounded by a very diverse selection of books courtesy the husband’s myriad interests, my own purchases are of dubious literary standards, and seem to be evading the truths of life, much like me.

(If you’re married to me, do not read beyond this line. Hugs.)

It was wonderful, therefore, to come across this semi-autobiographical work by Maugham, and as the bildungsroman progressed and a philosophy of life unfurled, the air was knocked out of me more than a dozen times. The academic or casual study of a writer’s perspective is a faint spark compared to the blazing fire of near-complete identification with a world-view espoused by someone decades before you were born, and who came to it by a path completely different from yours. As the book came closer to its end, the sense of identification started to wear off a bit, and the final resolution offered by Maugham disappointed me immensely, but as he and I believe, there are other ends to stories.