Saturday, March 19

Hold me down

He looked up at the display board again.

Its sickly yellow glow indicated there was still a minute to go, though he could swear it'd been promising that for nearly three. Headphones cut off the sound of his surroundings. His head and feet bobbed and tapped lightly to the music. That was about all the 'dancing' he'd allow himself. He couldn't remember a time when he'd danced with complete abandon, limbs flailing in absolute frenzy. Something deep within, some broken spring in his soul had cut off the music inside. Without it, his body could go no further.

At first, late work days were an exception. Now, they'd become the rule, so he stopped keeping count, instead, thanking the universe if he got done before 9. Tonight, there was no such luck. However, the train wasn't empty. The lifeline of the city never was, just like a living artery was never empty of blood. He managed to get an aisle seat, a small but precious pleasure.

He began to read, though tiredness made him look up and around every now and then. At the next stop, a couple entered the bogie and sat opposite him. They looked as exhausted as he felt. Though he didn't look more than 30, the man's hair was already receding and thinning out. The woman had that 'heart-shaped' face, so popular with novelists. A mole above the lip made her profile interesting; a sudden interruption on an otherwise unremarkable landscape.

There were no rings in sight, though their body language suggested intimacy. How long will we have to do this? Not long. I've already spoken to them. And? And, they'll listen to me. Eventually. So, they don't really like me. It's not that. They had someone else in mind. Have you met? No, but I already told them I wouldn't. That's probably why. Maybe. What about your folks. They're tired of waiting. Well, they don't know how hard it is here. They're asking me to move back. I won't. Neither will I. I'm so tired.

She rested her head on his shoulder and dozed off. He adjusted his body to make her comfortable and stared out the window with a look that was comically stoic, unsure as to how to break the news to her. She couldn't sleep. Again and again, she wondered how to tell him the truth. Opening her eyes, she caught sight of the blank-faced man opposite them. Did their gazes meet?

He was unsure, but it was fun making up stories about people. Though he couldn't help be envious. That they had each other. That he knew no one who would fall asleep on his shoulder. That he'd never dozed off in anyone's arms. And, then felt ashamed about being jealous of strangers. Angry that he craved it so badly. He turned back to the book, his head and feet bobbing and tapping lightly to the music.

The train howled on into the Bombay night.

Song for the moment: Music sounds better with you - Stardust (Giraffage Remix)

Monday, March 7

I can't hold out

It's funny how things can change in the blink of an eye. Or 5 years, give or take a few blinks.

If you'd given me a Rs. 1000 coupon for Crossword back then, I'd have been thrilled. Sure, I've never been the biggest fan of the place because they never have the book I want. In a bizarre twist, Popular in Deccan always does. It even became an oddly confirming ritual. Too lazy to bike to Deccan, I'd try the small Aundh branch of Crossword, then the gargantuan SB Road one, and the assistants at both would shake their heads in infuriating apology. Then I'd walk into Popular and get the book in 5 minutes flat. Sometimes, even less. The SB Road branch of Crossword has shut, the Aundh one has become huge but Popular is err, still sort of popular.

So, you'll understand the lack of joy when gifted a Crossword coupon sometime last year. Since it expires in April, I went by the store today with a blank list. I'd buy whatever was even remotely interesting and fit in my budget. The place was having a sale too, so that was another incentive. After an hour of roaming the bookshelves in increasing despair, I gave up. Honestly, it's all mostly dreadful tat. Which, for a blind book-lover like me, is stupefying. I have never understood the book arrangement system in Crossword either. With acute focus, I'll scan the non-fiction section only to be jarred by a whole section of Agatha Christie mysteries. Amongst the serious tomes in 'Business/MBA', I'll run into Hegarty (and Ogilvy) on Advertising, neither of which fits in there. Perhaps I'm prejudiced thanks to the beauty of libraries and their filing system. I've worked in my school library and spent many an hour at BCL and Stern Library at UAB (what a lovely, lovely place), where the books were perfectly arranged. To go from that to the fish-marketish rot that's Crossword is, well...

They didn't have whatever I asked for as usual.   

Another, more serious issue is pricing. I found the complete 'Feluda' series by Ray for Rs. 1000 and was tempted to get it and end my misery. On surreptitiously looking it up on Amazon, I found them for Rs. 600. That's quite a serious difference. Now, I understand the costs that a brick-and-mortar store must bear but I can't see how they'll survive. Against the might of online giants, bookstores both great and small can't win in the long run. Like the beloved Manney's, the rest may be preparing for the long goodnight. While I'd weep a bitter tear over Popular, Crossword's eventual demise won't even dampen my eye, frankly.

The most drastic change for me has been the Kindle. It's just too damn convenient. Yes, I understand that the books on it don't really 'exist'; were the product to die, I'd own nothing versus say, all the books that I have bought, which are mine. But it doesn't seem to matter for now.

I'll always love books. I'll always think libraries are important and there should be more excellent, accessible ones (when I think of FC's library or Jaykar Library, my heart bleeds at the wasted potential). But, I'll need a damn strong reason to walk into any bookstore barring Popular (which is still awesome).

Of course, this still doesn't solve the problem of what I am to do with the Crossword coupon.

Song for the moment: Told you for the last time - Eric Clapton