Saturday, August 4, 2007

Two Weeks

I can tell that this is going to be a painfully long post. I have to catch up for the past few weeks when I have been either busy or away. I went to help Nisha move apartments and settle in. School starts in two weeks’ time, and starting next week, I have a million demands on my time. I have decided not to see individual clients next semester, and will probably know two weeks into the semester that this was a miserably stupid decision, but it will be too late by then. It breaks my heart to think that I have actually decided this. My clients are a huge chunk of the reason why I am happy. But my mind is made up. This will give me more time to work on my infernal thesis. In a week’s time, Ames will be filled to the brim with new blood. All the young collegiates will start filing in. When my friends Anand and Aarti visited me last year the weekend before classes started, we happened to drive through Welch Avenue at 2:00am. They were still reeling from the shock of seeing the sheer number of people out on the street days later (or so they told me). In any case, there will be tens of thousands of people returning to town in a week’s time. That should be fun. Ames looks miserably deserted at the moment.

And sad news: I am completely and utterly broke!!!! A whole summer of no pay, compounded by moving and traveling costs, has left me on the verge of bankruptcy. But nil desperandum!!! I am learning to husband my resources very very carefully. I was amazed at the amount of supplies I had in my pantry. I have resolved to eat at home for a whole month. And since my wholehearted horror for engaging in anything culinary probably lays the biggest claim on my purse, this should see me through to the end of September. I actually am a very good cook (modestly blush), I just am lazy. Also, no more travel for the next month. Come October, I hope my coffers will start filling again.

While I was in Manhattan, Nisha who knows how much I love books, took me to a second-hand bookstore rather endearingly christened “The Dusty Bookshelf”. I, cannot begin to describe what an absolutely amazing experience the place was. I of course was charmed, and confined myself to the classic literature and poetry sections which spanned all of four shelves in an aisle and a half, but which nevertheless afforded me about five or six hours of absolute delight. I was particularly fascinated by the really old books, some of which were printed in the early 1900’s. Nisha, who would much rather have spent the time shopping at the mall, in her usual selfless way resigned herself to being satisfied in my happiness and resolved to help me choose my books. In a few minutes time, she had deciphered that my preference seemed to be for the older books, and she proceeded to interrupt my blissful browsing with recommendations of tattered hardcovers that she called “pre-historic books”. She kept this up for over an hour, because it clearly amused her to see me try to stifle my impatience, when I finally lost my composure, and calling her a complete and utter nuisance packed her off to her beloved crime and fantasy section with a strict decree that she not return to disturb me unless she wished to be lynched.

In any case, I ended up buying five beautiful pre-owned books, two of which are of particular note. One was a beautiful copy of FitzGerald’s “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, which was put out circa 1920 (the internet gave varying dates: 1910 – 1934, the book gives no date). It is a very ornate book, with mounted pictures and gilt designs all over, in salmon and gold hardcover with a gold and black dust jacket. The book looks valuable. I checked up on it, and different sources on the internet price it varying between $22 and $650, both of which are more than I paid for it, so I am happy. But I plan on keeping, and not selling it. I’ll take pictures of it and upload them when I get the chance. The second book is a collection of the works of Rupert Brooke. The book was published in 1915, the year Brooke died in the Aegean on his way to Gallipoli. There was a small note-card, yellowed with age, placed in the book written beautifully in black ink. It read, “Hope Brooke is still your favorite. ~ John.” I have built beautiful fantasies surrounding the note, none of which are probably even remotely true. But it adds to the romance of the whole thing. Reading poetry from a book that is almost a hundred years old is more touching and beautiful than reading the same verses from a mass market paperback. The books also smell divine – old and musty. I told Nisha that the books smelt like our old library at school. She smelt them and agreed. The old library will have to be a topic for another day, save to say that there were two aisles at the very back of the library which were my own personal domain, and indeed I never saw anyone else other than the librarian even venture in that direction. These two aisles held books that I loved to read. And they were very ancient, and smelt and felt exactly like all old books do, like my copy of Brooke does.

Now to a more philosophical line of thought: I strongly believe that when one reads a book, one projects oneself onto the book. One lives through the hero or heroine, mentally speaks the dialogues, imagines the ambience of the scenes, feels everything that the characters feel. One turns the book into a very vivid and personal experience. This, in my opinion, is why people who read a book and then watch a film adaptation of the book, often find the visual lacking – because it is someone’s else’s imagination, someone else’s experience. But I digress – people project themselves onto the book. And every person has one or a few books which define his own being – authors who think, feel and believe what the person himself does. For me until now, these books have been the Katy trilogy (the boon of my childhood), and Rebecca (my adolescent fantasy). And now, I can say with absolute certainty and without a shadow of doubt, that even more than these dear books, the book that defines my adult thought and set of beliefs is Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh”. Mr. Butler is me! Me, a few centuries ago. I think everything he thinks. I believe everything he believes. If I were to write an epistle on what I think a life should and should not be, it would look like a rather shameless copy of his beautiful novel. He even jokes in the wry, sarcastic way that I think is hilarious. I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I know that this is what I am. Even if this makes me sound like a rather soi-disant Mr. Butler, I still revel in the stinging insult. There is so much more I want to say, but this post is long enough, and I will do so later.


Nisha said...

How cool is that!!!!! I will keep a look out for your 'pre historic books' out at Dusty Bookshelf... But what is the use..... You always end up saying "Not my kind... :( ... "

Asha Stephen said...

Hee heee...... you silly billy!!! I'll try and like the PH books you get me :)

Nisha said...

I still am on the look out for something that might interests you... I am going to scold that "doggy_bag" who stole your blog..... How can you ever be flattered???

Asha Stephen said...

You seetie pie... I'm going to hire you as my bodyguard too while you are in this aggressive mood. :)