Saturday, November 27, 2010


Donald Duck did it. He got me hooked to books. In a desperate attempt to quieten my constant chatter, my mother found me a couple of tattered Donald Duck comics in her library and gave them to me at the age of two, to flip through and amuse myself. However, her plan failed horribly, because not only did I NOT stop my chatter (I would make up gibberish and substitute them for the dialogues I was too young to read), but I demanded to be taken to the library every second day, to find and 'read' more!

It's been twenty years since then, and the bibliophilia in me has spread like an epidemic through all possible genres, even giving me the eternal hope of writing a book someday. Recently, Facebook had the BBC Booklist Buzz that got me thinking about this post. (If you've been tagged in that note, how many books have YOU read?) While some part of me felt immensely inferior, thanks to the insane number of books I have NOT read, the other part of me felt like documenting the fun memories of those that I have read.

Through my entire childhood (uh...I would define childhood as 2 through 22), I've been gifted books as birthday presents. Of course, having a birthday in book-ridden March when exams are scorning intently at you would put people off at the prospect of more books, albeit for entertainment. However, I'd wait eagerly for my birthday presents, tearing off the wrapping of all gifts that resembled books first. Within the next few days, I'd stay in a blissful oblivion of the outside world, as I floated in and out of pages and pages of wonderland.

The first books I was gifted was a twin pack of Snow White and Cinderella by my neighbours. The beauty of fairy tales began with those two books...and has lasted ever since. (That can't be truer, since I spent last night on the couch, weeping happily over the ending of The Princess and The Frog - a really beautiful movie!) After pre-school years of 'I have 20 ladybird books how many you have' discussions, I finally moved on to greener pages.....the Enid Blyton series.

Enid Blyton is the rite of passage to childhood, if you ask me. Blyton and Dahl were such prolific writers, that they can be indisputably credited with the ability of sparking creativity in every starry eyed child. From getting scared while reading 'Witches', to getting ravenous while reading about the sumptuous feasts in Malory Towers, my holiday train rides were never complete without a brand new, crisp, Blyton book. When I finally ran out of bookspace (which I unfortunately did, thanks to the 3 generations of Reader's Digest my family has been collecting since forever), I gave up all my Blyton books to my cousin, so that she could be introduced to this magical world of the English Countryside. However, a couple of years later, when I went visiting there and saw all my books looking so out of place in her shelf, I secretly collected them all back and brought them home to re-read them all over again! (And uh, this wouldn't be too far long, so it shows the sort of childish insanity I develop around Blyton books!)

While Blyton introduced me to Girl Power, Carolyn Keene, Ann M Martin and Francine Pascal reinforced it. After years of constant reading, increased glasses power and countless taunts about reading in low light/moving car/upside down, I can officially claim to have read ALL of the Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club books. (Uh, I somehow gave up after reading about fifty Sweet Valley books. I had discovered Judy Blume and Harry Potter by then.)

So after the overdose of girl power, I had the next obsession with books...and magic! Anyone my age would instantly connect with Harry Potter best, because we grew with him. When I was 11, so was Harry. Reading and re-reading each book over and over again made me sink deeper into the world of fantasy and charm. Watching the movies, and then dissing them for not having stood up to my creative vision of Harry's adventures made excellent pastime. Of course, randomly playing Harry Potter quizzes in class (and I'm talking about college here, mind you) was so I tested the depths of my memory trying to figure out the actual meaning of Dumbledore's name.

Today, I have read so many books I'd NEVER be able to remember them all. The fact my very thick glasses (now replaced by very thin contact lens) testifies to. My tastes in books have probably changed a lot. I've been through the:

'Classic' Phase - When I would devour Austen after Austen....I still love reading her books..and using the quaint English expressions in speech and befuddling people!! Of course, Shakespeare and a few other Classic Authors fell into this category by compulsion, as they were prescribed in curriculum - but they got me hooked to discovering more of the series as well.

'Comic' Phase - Tinkle was my favorite-st train comic!! I would always secretly dream about writing to Uncle Pai and praising him to no end about the stories! While I've read dozens of Archie Comics and Tin Tins (which were never really comics, but a frozen motion picture in boxes), Tinkle has, and will always remain THE comic forever. :)

'Indian Author' Phase - When I discovered R.K.Narayan and he transported me to a world I would give my left hand to be a part of. Of course, Rohinton Mistry, Ruskin Bond, Vikram Seth, Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai have all been an integral part of the books I love to read, but R.K.Narayan's entire collection will always hold a permanent membership in my mind library!

'Chick-lit' Phase - From Opal Mehta to The Zoya Factor, I've read them all. And someday, when my life gets as exciting as theirs, I will write one. Till then, I'll continue drawing inspiration from feisty chicks all over the world and devour their adventures.

'Romance Phase' - Yes, I read Mills and Boon, ok? There you go, I've admitted it on the world wide web. They are the BEST cure for my aerophobia, ok? At least, if my plane were to go down, I can imagine being rescued by the handsome pilot or co-passenger and live a happily ever after life, no?

'I should read this book because everyone else has read it Phase' - Uhh...Kite Runner, God of Small Things, Shantaram, Midnight's Children and all of Jhumpa Lahiri's works fall in this category. I know, I should've probably discovered these books myself. Having others forcing me to read the above titles have had me both cringing (whoever you are, who lauded GOST and made me read it, I will find you, hunt you down, and make you read my Mental Chronometry book. And test you on it.) and reading up more (like The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan, inspired me to read Lahiri)

and finally, the 'Oh no, I have nothing new to read now, so I will just pick up the first Nancy Drew/Harry Potter/Famous Five and get right to it' Phase - The one phase I love slipping into every once in a while. :)

I've been bitten by the book bug, and I have a bibiliophilia. The one disorder I'd never like to be cured of!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Of Birds and Words

Delhi is a bird sanctuary. No really, it IS. Why don't you visit sometime and open your ears a little bit. (Point to be noted: Your ears are only effective when you have to study. That is when all the outside noises begin to percolate as clearly as coffee decoction through a sieve. But more on coffee, later.) But to defend my attention span, this particular episode happened at 2 in the morning. When most of the world is asleep. (Except you, Al! :D)

So, at around 2, when I was having a rather weird nightmare about being stuck as the only human in a University of Mars because I misspelled an address on an application.....I heard a thud. And then flutter flutter flutter. And a whooosh.....and ggrrrrruuumble.

I woke up with a sense of panic (thinking that the dream's come true and I really AM off to another planet to study) and looked around. All was calm. I then tried to shut my eyes and re-imagine the sound to check if it was for real or not. Within a second, the sounds began. My first thought was - the robbers have finally managed to turn up in the balcony (this is my ultimate nightmare....I think I've mentioned before that while ordinary girls have fantasies of finding Romeo on their balconies, I spend half my fantasy time concocting schemes to thwart plans of robbers who wish to come the same way. Weird, I know. ) And then it struck me that I'm at an impossibly high floor for even acrobatic robbers to try and meet me.

So Robber theory flew out of the window.

And then I saw a harmless pigeon sitting prettily on the A/C and cleaning herself.

At 2 AM.

Which obsessively compulsive aerial creature cleans itself at 2 in the morning? I mean, don't they need sleep? These pigeons are as active as springs on antidepressants in the morning. Can they not just go to sleep quietly? And if they must clean their shimmery plume of mini-feathers, must they choose MY balcony alone? (I'm using 'they', because eventually, a party happens on the A/C with almost 3-4 pigeons fighting for space and having vigorous 'I'm-cleaner-than-thou' competitions. And yes, at 2 AM)

I tried to go back to sleep that night (it's been happening almost every second the cosmos conspires to keep me up at unearthly hours. I mean, I'm this good child who goes to bed at, like, ten, if I can help it.) But the scraping and scratching and ruffling kept me up forever. Because you never know when a robber may use the pigeon as a decoy and just when I lower my guard, jump into the room through the balcony. Oh, impossibly high floor.

There goes my Robber-Theory No.2.

So anyway, my mood in the morning these days depends on birds. I've spotted some parrots, mynahs, crows and a suspicious looking bird that sounds like a jackdaw straight out of Blyton Books hovering around in my balcony early in the morning. I don't particularly mind them, as long as they keep the pigeons away. (These birds are rather anti-social. They never mingle with another kind, I've noticed.)

My neighbour, I realized, was not as obliging as I was regarding the pigeons. One afternoon, as I sat facing the window and writing something, I saw the window of the opposite building opening, a pistol sticking out and heard a gunshot. I ran all around home, warning people that a mad gunman was on the loose in the opposite building. And then I realized, it was a Diwali patakha gun. And was working very effectively on the pigeons as well...since they NEVER hang out on his balcony anymore.

So what do I do now? Adopt a parrot (but I'm against caging birds), buy myself a patakha gun (I'm against crackers as well) or just let them be (I'm against pigeonkind in general now.) I've finally found the perfect solution to everything.

November Rain.

Not the Guns N Roses song, no. (Of course, I wonder if I can play the song and terrorize the pigeons into insanity such that they never turn up on the balcony again. Ever. Little too mean, that would be.) I'm talking about November Showers. The rains that sweep winter in. The sole reason for the chills and foggy mornings. A perfect excuse to bundle yourself up in swathes of blankets and sleep like a log, pigeon or no pigeon, through the night.

Although, if you are the pigeon who comes to my balcony and are reading this blog (ha ha. One never ceases to hope), then can you please come at 7 in the morning as well? I' and I could really use an alarm flock of birds.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Delightful Diwali

Oh dear. That sounds like a box of sweets, doesn't it? I know it does. But what can I do? In the past couple of days, I've been stuffing myself silly with cakes, sweets and everything with a sucrose overdose that I think it's only fair that I project the mithaas (see? Hindi word! Hindi word!) of the season on my blog as well!

So, it's Diwali! Why is it a unique Diwali this year and no other? Well, for lots of reasons.

1) It's my first Diwali away from home. Not like I'm wandering around, lost and uncared for or anything.....far from it. But still, away from home still leaves a tingly feeling that can only be combated with more sweets. (Works like a charm, believe me.) I never even knew I had such intense feelings about celebrating festivals at home! (Maybe those sweets are turning me into a portion of hindi-serial-melodrama)

2) Because it's a Diwali away from home, I've realized it's also become my Delhi Diwali. Bad idea, since when I went shopping for Diwali clothes, I didn't anticipate the sudden change of weather. I have with me, now, a very ethnic summer Diwali attire that can possibly NOT be worn unless one wants to land up with bronchitis (if the cracker-smoke hasn't yet affected you yet) just after Diwali. I need to now go in search of some sort of jacket/wrap/sweater right away....

3) Serial Lighting. Do you have any idea how much FUN it is to have serial lighting at home? Or twinkling around in other houses? I've always lit my house in Bangalore with diyas. First I'd help light the ones downstairs...then rush upstairs to light some more....then rush downstairs to capture it all on camera before the wind played spoilsport. But here, I've discovered a whole new and colourful diwali. Would you believe I still haven't seen any house with diyas yet? Only serial lighting! Has this been happening forever or do I miss my good ol' 39th Cross in Bangalore so much?

4) Crackers! Yes yes, if you're my friend you probably know my issue with crackers. If you're not, then here's the story. Almost 11 years ago, my class and I were made to write a letter to the then Prime Minister of India taking a pledge that we wouldn't burst crackers that diwali in order to protest against Child labour in fireworks factories. We were shown this video, pictures and told horrific stories of the plight of children there. We were even given little plaques that said 'Aatishbaazi nahin karenge, Baal-mazdoori door karenge' (We won't celebrate, Child-labour we'll eradicate --okay, I twisted the grammar to make it rhyme!) But anyway, I was moved to the extent that I actually did follow that pledge...till date.

I've burst crackers, yes. I've violated the pledge here and there (at the behest of my parents who would clandestinely buy a few sparklers and flowerpots and then disclaim that there's no one at home to burst I would politely oblige.) I've also done it voluntarily. And I don't mean just the sparklers, but all those dhadaam-dhodoom stuff as well. But each year, I'd feel like I wish I could tell the world why they must reduce cracker-usage and save the children, environment, their own ear drums and lung passages.

With this blog, I strangely feel empowered. That I can, in fact, tell the world. So, world! (or the miniscule part of it that reads my blog) Burst crackers, but please remember to check for an indication on the box that says it's been made by adult workers only (I know I can't be naive enough to assume that they're all true. But I can be naive enough to want to assume it.)
And burst less, celebrate more. It's the festival of lights, not sound and air pollution. Diyas and Serial lighting provide a much more quieter and serene feel to Diwali, than smoky crackers. (This is only for people who have crossed 20 years. Don't deny yourself the right to a crackling childhood by imposing self-restraints about calmness and sereneness ok? That'll just be plain weird.)

As you read this, I'm sure you'll have a million rebuttals waiting to burst forth....I can name some very effective ones on your behalf as well. But it is a stand I take, and something I really really believe in. And today, 11 years later, when I have the opportunity to put it up somewhere, I chose to. It's only personal, and gives me pride that I have the passion to fight for a cause too.

So here's wishing everyone a Delightful Diwali....may each of your lives be filled brilliant spots of fiery lights from lamps, and may every day have the warmth of all the lamps lit together, and may each encounter be as sweet as the mithais. :-)

P.S. But think about the child labour, sound and air pollution before you go forth and get crazy with crackers. Remember, it's you who has to live in that atmosphere for about 2-3 more days. But somewhere, there are children who are living in a far worse atmosphere through their childhood.

P.P.S. Sorry for sounding like such a such a sour-milk-ka-halwa. Go and enjoy. Just come back, read this, and feel guilty! :P