& occasionally about other things, too...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Rummaging my book shelf

Homecoming means different things to different people and different things at different times to the same person.  To me, homecoming is to return to the sights, smells, sounds of my city – soaking in the particular and the peculiar.

Transformation is inherent to a city and this is especially true for Bombay.
When I was here, I seldom noticed the changes in my city. It had changed every day – stealthy, imperceptibly, and when the change was obtrusive, as it can be quite often, I adjusted uncomplaining.  It continued to change after I left.
Upon my return three years later, it’s only the change that I notice. And it's overwhelming. The sights, smells and the sounds are quite unbearable.

Bombay is in throes of a physical transformation, and its infrastructural monuments are certainly impressive – the new skyscrapers that dot the skyline and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link are – well, quite frankly – awesome.

But it is all at soul-searing cost – millions are deprived of a dignified life and millions eschew dignity and decency to get just a few steps ahead.
I’m sure it’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, and it couldn’t have been much different when I was here.  What is undeniable is that the cost of living is exorbitant, and commuting a chaotic nightmare. 

The only redemption is rains – sometimes torrential, incessant, often scanty - a mere “passing shower,” but always unpredictable, always exhilarating.
I’ve preferred to stay at home, re-working my novel. My body clock has refused to adjust – I lay awake in the middle of the night, and want to sleep during the day. It’s my body’s revenge on my mind.

And my mind finds solace in books.
My books are a good reason to return home. I couldn’t take them when I moved to Canada because I couldn’t afford to – my family’s needs were a priority.

I take a few out – the unread ones. I have a large collection of unread books that I bought with the noble intention of reading, but never did get around to doing so.
Rajni Kothari’s Memoirs Uneasy is the Life of the Mind, for instance.  I read about a dozen pages and marvel at the complexities of his ideas and the lucidity of his style.

I also take out a few books that I’ve loved and re-read several times, not in full, but a few key passages. These books, those passages have stayed with me.
I read A Tale of Two Villages from M. J. Akbar’s RiotAfter Riot. The report that was first published in Sunday magazine and combines reporting on a riot in Sarhupur with passages of Munshi Premchand’s Sadgati, made into a memorable film by Satyajit Ray.

The riots in Sarhupur and the film’s release happened almost simultaneously.
Akbar observes, “Both the villages belong to that world which Mahatma Gandhi described to his dead countrymen as the ‘real India’; in both the stories, the object of torture and death were the people the Mahatma had christened ‘The Children of God’: Harijan. Premchand, Satyajit Ray, Sarhupur: art and life were a mirror to each other; time and pious resolutions had changed nothing; the real India still lived out its awful realities.”

These days the term “taking it to a new level,” is used rather recklessly. A Tale of Two Villages took Indian journalism to an altogether new level.  
A new dawn is trying to pierce the sky. But the overcast sky doesn’t let the sun look at the earth. Suddenly, the birds come alive – it’s nature’s munificence to the tropics.

For me, it’s time to go to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. It's always a delight to read your blog. I read it loud to my wife and it was a pleasure reminiscing the time we spent there. Thanks & regards, Ramesh