Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading In Bed When Cold Rains Killed The Spring



When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason. In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.
-Ernest Hemingway (A Movable Feast)
The bright spring morning and the promises it held was a deception; and as I bent over the sink washing my face and trying to rub off a pillow imprint, I could hear the first drops of rain. The sky was overcast with dark clouds; blotting out the sun and it’s tinseled rays, that had entered my window at dawn and had spread so unabashedly over my bed as I tried to hold on to the last remnants of sleep. As the downpour grew steadily, I looked longingly at my bed, overwhelmed by a strong desire to climb back into it, snug under a quilt and a book in hand. The human brain makes innumerable connections, and a certain stimuli can bring about the need to re-create a pleasurable ambience from the past. Rain for me meant being in bed with a book.

My earlier disappointment at a cloudy day ebbed off as I eyed my books, running my fingers over the spines that had seen better days and careful owners. I had picked up these books last winter, squatting on a footpath and haggling over prices while precariously balancing a dozen books on my hands. And now I stared at these dozen new books, trying to decide on a good volume of short stories. I’d started reading Hemingway’s ‘A Movable Feast’ yesterday, but today’s a ‘cloudy’ spring day, and I want to read short stories, and will get back to Hemingway when the sun comes out. I tried to recall the passage I had read before drifting off to sleep last night; about hunger making the senses grow stronger, as pictures seem clearer and writing more vibrant. I was yet to have breakfast, and my mind was quick to paint the picture of a foamy cup of coffee and homemade vanilla cake while leafing through the familiar writing of a favorite author.


The rain drummed on against the windowpane and the tin roof of the old shed next to my room. It was early morning, but it looked like dusk, as a bland grey suffused through the sky, the horizon, the trees, the buildings, and the silhouettes of people with raincoats and umbrellas. I turned back to my bookshelf where short stories of Chekov, Maupassant, O. Henry, Saki, D.H. Lawrence, Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Tagore and even Murakami vied for my attention; and Maupassant won. I took the fat, purple volume with the now yellowed pages and extremely small print, as I remembered the first time I had read Maupassant. It was a story called ‘Love’, about the love of a wild bird for its mate that had been shot dead. I was ten, and I remember the teacher squinting as he read out the lines, “I’m a simple man with simple tastes”, and he paused for a while and then looked so contented with himself, as if he were the inspiration behind these lines.

So the foamy coffee and two slices of vanilla cake and the stories of Maupassant and a warm bed and the rain with occasional thunderbolts, created my happiness on a cloudy spring morning. 

And as the sun came out, I went to gym, showered, studied for an exam, and crossed items off a ‘to-do’ list and at midnight returned to Hemingway, Shakespeare and Company and writing in 1920s Parisian cafes.

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