Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bibliomania in action

The word "Sale" is apparently like catnip to a cat for shopaholics. Me, I am a shopaphobic and, thus, all I would do if you said "Sale" was murmur "Ho!Hum", roll over and continue sleeping. Unless you mentioned a sale of books, though. THAT lights a bonfire under my fundament (and, if you, like Blogspot, do not know that this word exists, check out what 'A' means in ROFLMAO), and I quite forget that I am too lazy to get out of my house, forget how much I hate shopping, and realize that I have forgotten all that only after hitting the shop.

Book sales, though, have normally promised more than they delivered, in the past. I hit the shop, with what little is left of my hair in a braid, carrying a huge bag to cart all the books I intend buying, only to find that the shop is full of those Harlequin Romances. I have nothing against the people who love them, but I am sure they understand that reading books about women falling in love with tall, dark and handsome men is not my favorite pastime - when I am myself short, bald, pudgy and homely (THAT, by the way, was a euphemism for 'ugly' in my times and not someone who is good at cooking, cleaning and all that, as most matrimonial ads will have you believe).

Bibliomania, though, is unreasoning and, every time someone says 'Book Sales', I find myself on the streets rushing breathlessly towards the shop before you can say "Harlequin Romance". Thus it was, again, when a friend posted a message about a book-fair in Jayanagar, 4th Block, Bangalore.

It is all very well for her to say 'Opposite Krispy Kreme Doughnuts' but I wouldn't know a doughnut if it bit me - or if I bit into it. I check up the all-knowing 'Googlemaps' and it says that 'KKD' is somewhere on Aurobindo Marg, Jayanagar 4th Block. The fact that THAT road was known as 'Aurobindo Marg' ONLY to BBMP and Googlemaps was borne on me later when six distinct people swore on the graves of their ancestors that no such place existed in Jayanagar. (Their ancestors must be doing sixty revolutions a minute in their graves. I can vouch for a street-sign that calls this road 'Aurobindo Marg', though you would be better advised to seek the 11th Main if you want directions.)

This Tippu's was both a pleasant and an unpleasant surprise. Pleasant because there were SO many books and I did not sight a single Harlequin Romance (unless they were tucked away inconspicuously, which suited me fine). Unpleasant because the books were all stacked haphazardly. As a book-buyer, you know that if the books are organized genre-wise, you would head right for the shelves of your choice and start looking. When it is haphazard, you blink like an owl at the sea of books and wonder where to start. Also, as a human being, you know that the pleasantness is soon forgotten and you embrace the unpleasantness with all the fervor of meeting a long-lost lover.

Thanks to the fact that I need to keep doing this in Daryaganj, Delhi, anyway, I was not as fazed as I would have been otherwise. I was soon into the stacks of books, though I must admit that my body did not take too kindly to bending for looking at the lower stacks. (WHAT?? So, why did I not just skip them? Are you mad? Does a man digging for gold skip the difficult parts even if all he has found so far is only gravel?)

Then I find that books have been stacked under the tables as well. Oof! What would the world think of a dignified fifty year old scrabbling on all fours under the table? I had made up my mind to skip them at least (Yeah! Don't start sneering, yet!) when I caught sight of a Colin Dexter peeping coyly from one of the stacks under the table.

The hell with dignity. Anyway, what a person would get to see from behind, when I am on all fours, is probably going to look better than the face that he normally gets to see. Before you could say 'Dexter', I had scuttled under the table and was eyeing the books greedily.

Over the next couple of hours, I knew that I was still able to do a lot of things. I could do a half-squat, a full squat, move around on all fours, sit in the padmasan, kneel down, and pose like Botticelli's Venus too. (AND, if you have seen Botticelli's Venus, you will know that my belly is NOT a point of contrast. For that, you would need to look elsewhere, and in places where your attention will cause your effigies to be burnt). The world lost a great comedy show today because there was no-one to take a video of my sterling performance. Why, there was no-one there to even see it.

Needless to say, all those calisthenics did yield a harvest of books. The problem, though, is it was too much like getting a harvest of roses - it comes with a harvest of thorns or, as in this case, aches and pains in muscles, which I did not even know that God had furnished in my body.

I decided to be done with book selection for the day and went to the counter. By way of making small-talk I asked the guy where I could find books from yester-years and he indicated another room and a couple of stacks in the main hall. You know what, after a few minutes of standing around in a non-contortionist posture, I felt up to another bout of scrabbling around. The guy, though, had gone for a leak and I stood around checking out the books near the counter when a lady walked in and took me for the storekeeper.

This always happens to me, though I much preferred being taken for a bookshop owner than an auto-driver, as did happen to me once in Delhi when I was sitting at the back waiting for the auto-driver to finish his tea. Such is the dignity of my demeanor, the elegance of my looks and my sartorial splendor that my colleagues have complained that it takes an act of will to refrain from calling out "Two cups of tea, chotu" when they espy me.

Anyway, digressions apart, the guy returned in time to rescue me from the lady - being no Ravan with the urgent need to evacuate seven rivers through his bladder - and I resumed operations only to find that my restored vigor was more a mirage than reality, though not before finding a few more books.

That, then, was the saga of buying some 23 Kg of books at Rs.200/= for the first ten Kg and Rs.150/= for all the additional weight. There would have been an additional Odyssey of carting it back home but for the fact that Tippu packed it up in a carton and snagged an auto-driver to get me back home.

NOW to deal with the aches and pains - have gloated over the books for long enough!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yet another problem?

"You have a problem, you know"

Going by the number of times my friends have said this, I must be as full of problems as a mathematics test paper. I can even digest that aspersion but what I find difficult to take is their utter confidence that they have the solutions to all of my problems when they have found it impossible to solve their own. But then, I suppose, it works something like exams have worked for me. I always am certain about the solutions to yesterday's physics paper while I am struggling to even understand the questions in today's exam. You are always more certain of the solutions to the problems that you do not have to address.

"You never see what is wrong with you. Yesterday, when Arvind was turned off by your comment, you called him ultra-sensitive and did not even bother to check whether you had yourself been rude."

Ah! It really gets my goat when idiots presume to talk down to me. Does this chap not even realize the simple thing that, if I put the fault on Arvind, it absolves me from having to do anything to change the way I behave? I mean, what sort of fool will check for his own faults when identifying them would put the onus of correcting them on himself?

"The other day, when that wise man was giving a discourse on how the attitude of selfishness would reduce the quality of your own life, by vitiating all your relationships, you started talking of the Guptas ought to realize their problem. Did it never strike you that the discourse was meant for each person to look into himself and assess his own behavior?"

This guy is a certified lunatic. What else could one call him when he could not even see the inherent inconsistency in his own statements? Here was a discourse about not being selfish and he is blaming me for my unselfishness in wanting the Guptas to benefit from the advice, and advocating that I, instead, stuck to selfishly benefiting from it myself.

"You always blame problems on others. Never seek to see whether there was any problem with you or with your own behavior. How will you ever learn to improve? Externalizing the reasons for the problems you face will never lead you to any lasting solution"

WHAT a man! So, when he started off with 'You have a problem', he was merely externalizing the reason for the problem. No need to bother with his advice.

Maybe I need to give him advice - Physician, heal thyself!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's all in the mind - GP for Alka Narula

Every now and then, I let my beard flow down untrammeled (untrimmed?), put on my saffron robes (metaphorically), sit in a padmasan and pontificate on the thusness of things. Sometimes, I do manage to get my tongue to my cheek; at others, I am serious enough to seem like the understudy of Swami someone-or-the-other. (Not that any Swami, worth his saffron, is likely to even consider acknowledging my existence, leave alone actually knowing me.) A full list of my pontificating posts is indexed in this page.

It is not as though I wait upon encouragement to unleash my 'wisdom' on the unsuspecting populace. But, if there is someone who actually does encourage you, I must admit that it does lend a certain credence to your self-illusions. For lending me that credence, I must thank Alka Narula, who had been kind enough to publish my guest posts more than once, as witness "Does suffering negate the possibility of a compassionate God" and "In defense of Ram".

Once again, she invited me into her blog and once again you have the pleasure (dubious? I am not responsible for your doubts) of seeing my 'saffron-clad avatar'.

Not just happiness - even virtue and sin are all in the mind.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Singular Lessons: Guest post for Sumeetha Manikandan

Every now and then I am surprised by someone, who is kind enough to think that what I write is worth carrying on their blog. Sumeetha Manikandan went one step further. She even thought that I may have a lesson or two to communicate to her readers. She may well be ruing that misconception by now, but now is too late - at least if you are a polite person and, unfortunately for her, she is.

What she and her readers thought of my lessons from bachelorhood I know not. What you think of it you can judge after reading it.


The first time I ever openly said that I may choose to stay single, I was faced with the simple question, “Why?” You may blame me for being unnaturally obtuse, but I saw no reason why I should have a reason. My answer was, “Why should I have any reason to merely continue the same way as I am now? It is for you to explain why you want to change states and marry.” After all, it is the chap who is changing his job who needs to explain why he is doing so and not the guy who is continuing in the same job.

The issue, though, is that most people reacted as though I was a larva refusing to become a butterfly. Though, I am sure that no-one ever polled the butterflies about whether they would have preferred to remain larvae or not – the poor things just never had a choice. In more human terms, it was like I was refusing to pass out of school even after hitting my twenties.


And, if you still want the rest, you can read it here