I took out ‘reading’ from my list of hobbies a couple of years ago. I remember going to public library to borrow algorithms texts last year. The year before that, I browsed the shelves for books on development studies and sociology. This year, I’ve visited only on behalf of my mother to get her yoga books from the ground floor main section.
It is quite probable that I was never an avid reader. I mostly read what Achu annan suggested/bought me. An omnibus for every birthday when I was young. A lot of Paulo Coelho from our school library. Those standard books almost everyone reads – Kite Runner, To kill a mockingbird, JD Salinger.
He bought me Cat’s Eye in my final year and it was great. For some reason, I really liked reading books written by women. There was this book by a lady – I forget the name but I’m sure I have it written down in one of my diaries – it talked of suitors and hemming lines, dainty glass cups taken out in the afternoons with designs on them, extra linen stored away in cupboards and wardrobes, recipe books with extra scribblings in pencil on margins, and double curtains – not necessarily all plush (mostly not and those being the best kind. Too cosy. Is it too English, early 20th centuryish? There were Indian books among them as well. Unlike Wodehouse with golf and butlers, that was my brother’s thing.
Sapiens is lying around and he has asked me to read it, more than a couple times. I tried and the contents page gave me the idea of a summary of Anthropology texts – evolution. Achu annan still vouches for it, but I’m not sure I’d visit again. I had a similar experience with 100 years of solitude. Made a mental note of returning later to see if maybe I liked it now, but haven’t yet.
So – I started reading again. My reading has, over last 2 years, been reduced to blogs on WordPress (mostly recipes of thoroughly familiar and straightforward stuff like dal – yes it’s a fetish), Medium articles and more stuff off the internet. On Sundays I look for Vasundhara Chauhan’s cookery and recipes or culinary experiences in Hindu – mutton cooked in pressure cookers with meat falling off the bone and tender chicken pieces in stew. All of G. Sampath’s satirical stories, especially the ones where his complainant wife is cooking a curry, and finishes before the raunchy couple he’s watching on tv does.
As always, I digress.
I’m reading Winesburg, Ohio. It’s a small town where everyone knows each other. I picked it from a list of rustic set books. Honestly, I do not stick to settings though, and I picture a prairie-land – yellow meadow of grasses with sun shining over, intermittent cottage houses with ivy walls and narrow roads connecting them. The landscape in “Love comes slowly” precisely describes it. Once in a while Sherlock Holmes visits to solve a case, unimpressed, and the lady from A Sound of Music is running amidst the dry grasses, singing in the evenings in her skirt-gowns. All the women are strong and wear layers of clothing. The men are strong as well, like in those movies set in Ireland and they eat freshly baked bread and chicken pies from firewood ovens with gravy.
There’s a beach adjacent to it, the shore from a story about an old man once written by a friend. Somehow it fit there right next to the prairie.
The meadow segues into the short grassy ground in front of our engineering college quarters, where boys played in the evenings after school and fresh cow milk was delivered by a woman who lived in the depths of the road that went behind our house, to far away from where the sun shines.
There was a Facebook challenge long back, where you had to pick an image out of 4, and it showed your personality. I know it sounds too simplistic, it was; I remember 3 of the options – the sky, the sea and a meadow.
If you picked the sea it meant you’re outgoing, love hanging out with people etc. I was the meadow (I remember being terrified of the sea picture lol). I can’t remember what the description said but it fit me so maybe it was the cliché loves to curl up in bed and doesn’t like going out as much. I made a mental note to keep revisiting every few years to see if I ever picked the sea.
We were taught “Daffodils” in middle school (I think we all were, irrespective of the schools we went to). I had no idea what a daffodil looked like, the teacher did describe them but our brains have their own way of concocting images, no? I was stuck in a vast daffodil field for a long time. The field over time metamorphosed into the meadow, the prairie and everything else. I googled to find a match to the image in my head, sometimes it occurred in dreams, sometimes in stories and movies, it just wasn’t daffodils anymore. I don’t think it ever was.
I think somewhere in my childhood reading or English poetry classes, I got lost in one of those villages. And I refuse to come out.
Or maybe I just love revisiting.
Do you know what the worst part about writing is? It sometimes takes the magic out of things. I swear.
I remember writing about Indian coffee house once. It took me a long time to feel again what I wrote about after posting it, cos when I returned all I could think of were people’s comments. It’s like exposing a part of you. More importantly, it’s just not in my head anymore, I’ve put it down in words thereby limiting it – defining it. You know?
It’s like some things shouldn’t be put on paper until you’re ready to let go of them.
So Winesburg, Ohio – it’s mostly men’s stories – men from Winesburg, a small village town with vast open fields. There are women obviously else I couldn’t bear it. This author Sherwood Anderson wrote it, there are dainty cups from time to time, soft hands and wistful smiles and a lot of cynicism. But most importantly, there are evenings with the sun shining over the village and its cottages.
I don’t think I do a good job at a charismatic or even an accurate description. But I think I might be writing less and reading more now.
It’s time to get lost again.