Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Balance or Imbalance

There are certain times during which certain books should never be read. Actually, I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to read these books. May be you should read them when you’re totally exhilarated and you need something – a jolt to bring you back to earth. Yes. There are the sad ones, the depressing ones and the ones that reek of despair – ‘A Fine Balance’ is the latter. To straighten out things – it’s a bloody good book, an enthralling one at that and Mistry is a master storyteller; but then that’s exactly why I picked the book up in the first place.

I read it; read it through breakfast; every evening after a long day at work; every night till my eyes gave way to the brutal force of sleep; read it through the weekend trip on the bus as long as the light permitted me to; even snatched a few minutes in the loo, at the parlor and while waiting. All the while, I was reading just to get a glimpse, no – a shimmer, that vaguely resounded of hope and something nice to come. Rohinton Mistry offered none; not at the beginning and definitely not at the end.

Poverty is worse than a disease. Because it never dies with the individual; it spreads across generations. If Rohinton was just talking about the misery of poverty, it would have still kept me sane. But his cauldron has more in it – the absurdity of political injunctions, the grotesque display of the narrow mindedness of the rich, the mutilation of justice, the widespread corruption and twisted providence – the final straw. Every time you convince yourself that things cannot get worse than this for the protagonists; that their Karma Grand Total is well above the minimum mark, he does it all over again; pushes them further and further into desolation till in the end they are far, far worse than they seemingly started off as. A Fine Balance is full of imbalances.

With all the traveling over the past month, I had kept aside Dostoevsky for a while thinking I’ll read something lighter and get back to him. My pick couldn’t have been worse. I definitely wish I had read one of Mistry’s happy ending books (if he’s ever written one) before picking this one up. Now I’m at cross roads; I definitely love his style and after a long time here’s an Indian author I feel like I could be so obsessed with, as I was once with Salman Rushdie. But the truth is I’m not that enterprising and I don’t want to go by that road again – not any time soon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting Back in Touch

A week long marathon of churning out presentations ended on Saturday morning at 5 AM. That’s when I pressed the send button. It was worth it; it meant that the weekend was my own. After waking up from a weird dream late that morning, I realized that I needed to go shopping to pick up a canvas or two. I opened my acrylic tubes to see if they were still in a usable state after a cold cross-Atlantic flight and nearly twelve months of not being opened. Luckily, they were. Some more things got added to the list and the only thing missing was company. Not that I hate shopping alone; It’s the best way to get things done fast. But I was in no hurry and I’d been longing for company.

Scrolling down my contacts list, the fact that I have such a pitiful social life slowly dawns on me. I begin to miss M all over again. Damn the social life; if at least he was around... I went back to scrolling. The friends I had promised I would call over the weekend were either too busy this weekend or were not based in Bangalore to entertain my request and the colleague I usually hang out with was off visiting her hubby. I scrolled again. Found some school friend whose number had changed; a college friend who was busy on her way to some wedding. With no choice left I called AN again; half waiting to hear the Oz Boy’s voice in the background.

‘He’s landing this evening,’ she said.
‘Let’s go shopping then!’
‘Ok, see you in an hour.’

After that weekend of despair, I realized that I must have quite a few friends in Bangalore, since I grew up here, studied here, et al. Well, some of them have flown the nest owing to studies, work, marriage, etc; about the others – don’t be alarmed if an unknown number calls you one of these days just to say ‘hi’.