Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Smorgasbord: Books, Badminton in Winter, Sketchbook Snippets, Chaudhury!

My trapped soul celebrated its freedom today by splurging on books. There's a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in Panbazaar where the books are stocked from floor to ceiling, obscuring the walls from view. Orgasmic! The tottering piles overwhelm me, but I linger for hours as I leaf through one book after another. I had missed them so dearly during the self-imposed three month hiatus, I actually sniffed a new book! I am sure there is a name for this book fetish in a therapist's heavy tome somewhere. I bought six books today; my December is made. I will be in Delhi and Noida for a fortnight, starting this weekend, and I plan to visit Daryaganj's Sunday Book Bazaar again for some cheap bargains. Can you hear my squeal of pure delight?

I bought the following books:
1. Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark
2. Atul Gawande's Better
3. Upamanyu Chatterjee's English, August
4.  Henry Miller's Quiet days in Clichy
5. M.J.Akbar's Blood Brothers
6. Tishani Doshi's The Pleasure Seekers.

I start with August this December.
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This cold is a poor fragment of the winters of my childhood; it's almost reluctant. But December is here and I shake out naphthalene balls from the folds of the woollens. Often I wake up as a Jedi warrior with my ears warmed underneath a hooded sweater. My mind rushes back a dozen winters when the winter sun held so many opportunities for happiness. There were the oranges, peeled and succulent, that I ate with sticky hands; and the naps I took, curled up on an old mattress on the terrace, and a book would slip off my hand as the sun got mellower.

We used to set up a badminton court every winter, and I had a hard time controlling my enthusiasm as I watched the coral coloured net stringed between two bamboo poles, the boundaries marked with chalk powder and even outdoor lights being put up, so that we played badminton late into the night, often after dinner. I was competitive and wanted to keep score, but my sister threw a tantrum every time I insisted on it. She found it an insult to our blood ties, but she was just scared of losing! My youngest uncle was my main competitor and we were ruthless on the court.

My grandmother had a grimy coal stove over which we toasted our feet every night. And as I got into bed, Ma would cover me with a quilt still warm from being sunned on the terrace. Then there were the picnics, but that's another story.

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I have a writer in the family. How thrilling is that! My jethai (mother's elder sister) is a powerhouse of talent. She paints, writes, cooks and excels in all three. She was Assam's first female jailor, then she quit it all to set up her home. She held a paintbrush for the first time after the birth of her son, and then went on to set up her own art school! After her sons left home, she filled up the empty nest with her words. She is a prolific writer and has penned several novels apart from being a regular contributor to newspaper columns. Her book "Karagar'or Diary" (Prison Diary) has been serialized and adapted on screen. I wish that even a fragment of her genius rubs off on me. She taught me it's never too late to follow your dreams. When I visited her today, she showed me a folder that held few of her paintings and sketches. For her these sketches are just spur-of-the-moment ideas captured on scraps of paper. But I feel they deserve more light than the dark recesses of the old Godrej almirah where they had been tucked in for years. I will put a series of her paintings on my photo blog soon, but here I leave you with a few of them.
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Snippets from the sketchbook of my jethai, Elu Devi Baruah













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Meanwhile I can't stop listening to this song in a loop, despite having a very vague idea about its meaning. The song grows on you after each hearing. Here's "Chaudhury" feat Amit Trivedi and Mame Khan.



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