Friday, November 17, 2006

hot chocolate and a good yarn

Today, after nearly a gap of two years I read a book in one sitting. When I was in school and college I would start books on a Saturday afternoon and read non stop until the early hours of Sunday ignoring my mother and her impatient calls to eat or to turn the lights out and go to sleep. I would ignore all her entreaties and threats and read till the last page had been consumed, finally tumbling in to a satisfied sleep giving reprieve to my aching eyes.

My four years in advertising saw me with hardly any time to myself. As a result most of my reading was done on wonderfully rain sodden weekends. We had a large two seater in our living room and I would sink in to it book in hand. Every now and then I would look out the windows at the large Parsee mansion opposite our flat and at the soaked Naagchampa trees in its garden. My husband and I would make our way down the road to Crossword on weekends and argue all the way home over who would read what first. And once we were home we would fight over who got to sprawl out on the two seater and who would make the tea.

When we moved in to our first home in London I remember the first visit to our local council library. After two years in the library-barren desert that Bombay is, it felt like I'd been given a nice tall glass of Perrier. During those six months of cold, early evenings and disappointing job hunting my library membership and the eight books I was allowed to bring home kept me going. I would bring our duvet downstairs make a hot chocolate and settle down on our sofa to read. Not very different from my book reading sessions in Bombay, except that now it was no longer confined to weekends. I would spend hours inert, but for the flick of my finger. No wonder it took me so long to find a job.

When I started working I joined millions of other Londoners and began reading on the commute to work and home. The Underground is a wonderful place to read, be seen reading and see what others are reading. I have groaned with impatience at times when the arrival of my station and a particularly gripping chapter have coincided. I have read on the short walk from station to bus stop and in summer even from bus stop to front door. But one should choose their books for commute with care. After a week with Jung Chang and John Halliday's Mao The Unknown Years I developed a wrist sprain.

Now I am back at home. Winter is upon us once more. The duvet has been aired and much hot chocolate has been bought (nothing like Green & Blacks on a rainy, winter afternoon). I started my book this afternoon on a Metropolitan line train back home from town. I read as I prepared and consumed lunch, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and dinner. It felt wonderful. All I could hear was the rain, the daily foot stomping from the Swedish family upstairs (I like to imagine they're practising for the local leg of Feet of Fire - Sweden searches for the home grown Michael Flatley) and the crisp whip of pages turning. I could lose myself in the book without having to surrender to the distractions of the real world.

My back hurts and my eyes are burning. I’m sure if I listen hard enough I can hear my mother telling me to go to sleep. I think I’ll listen to her this time. Good night.

(I leave book reviewing to far more able bloggers, but I cannot help but recommend Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris - Confessions of a Common Reader. Every book lover will identify with something in it. As I've read it a little voice has been going 'That's so true!' all the while in the back of my head. The book I read today though was Anita Brookner's Booker Winning Hotel Du Lac. For those that enjoy short stories, The Collected Stories of Colette is wonderful.)

14 comments:

Just Mohit said...

"I cannot help but recommend Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris - Confessions of a Common Reader"

et tu? Fabulous wasn't it? I especially loved the parts where she talked about how her family treats the books not as revered objects, but as friends...to be folded, left upside down, marked & written on...

Vi said...

Ah! I wish I had the time. Since college started, all the books I've been reading have been school-related and have hardly read anything by pleasure. The last book I read was in the beginning of the semester was by Maitreyi Devi, called It Does not Die. I highly reccommend it.

Hot chocolate's the best, especially when topped with plenty of gooey marshmellows. =)

TomCruiseChellum said...

Great bit of writing. The wag in me tells me that I should comment on the following
1. Perrier and the desert. Remember that ad in which a French Foreign Legion soldier refuses a glass of mineral water in the middle of the desert, because it was not Perrier. Nothing else would do, he said, shaking his head.
2. Wrist pain Pl try Kottanchukkadi with Pinda thailam mixed in eqaul proportions and after 2 months of that graduate to Kottanchukkadi with Narayanadi thailam.
3. Reading in the London tube. When I landed in London after 13 years in Chennai and 6 years in Hong Kong, my friend who had a vast library of Malayalam books, kept me supplied and I caught up on a great deal. Thakazhi's Kayar took me 3 months to finish on the commute

Terri said...

Shoef, as I read this, I couldn't help envying you (and everybody else who has the time to read, not merely scan words): Read all you can BEFORE you have kids. Maternal guilt might prevent you from settling down with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book later on.

Anonymous said...

i can't believe you said that the underground is a good place to read ! :P

Anonymous said...

When I was working last term I used to read on the train all the time...and from the station walkin back home.
School has eaten up all my time now...=(

P.S: Will you be in London in december?

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I was thinking - same thoughts as Terri - when I was reading what you wrote. Enjoy all this reading time you have before you have kids. You may get time here and there later to read but just not this kind of relaxed feeling while reading...Oh yes, reading on the subway is great fun. And know what you mean - I used to be tempted to go on to the next stop and take the train back just so I could finish an interesting chapter!

MumbaiGirl said...

Lovely post! My current and continuous unemployment has had the same effect on me. I've become so ambitious, I've started on the volumes of the Mahabharata translated by Buitenen.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

JustMohit - :D I loved that one! And the opening essay on mixing her books with her husband's.

Vi - It's been ages since I've read anything remotely academic. That makes me feel old :(

TCC - The very same advertisement was running through my mind when I wrote that :)

Terri, Noon - Thanks for the heads up :D

Inexile - Hey it isn't that bad :P Easier than reading in a cab or auto :)

Szerelem - I will very much be in London then! Drop me a line if there's anything you need. I'd love to meet.

Mumbaigirl - :D Wow! That is ambitious! I'm taking smaller steps and re-reading Rajaji's Ramayana.

Just Mohit said...

ohhh yes! only, i just can't bear to talk about that one...too close to truth, and all that! ;-)

Swathi said...

good for you that you stick only to hot chocolate, I need to have something to munch while reading (having grown on Enid Blyton's works) and you know what affect that has...

Dog's Best Friend said...

Hey I have a kid and I still read a lot...mostly when he naps...or when he's occupied with a toy ...but hey its better than not reading at all...
Dont worry shoefiieeeee ...theres hope...trick is get your kid interested in books too - obsessed would be better ...:-)

Bidi-K said...

oh i envy you sooooo much. i am so looking forward to at least some time off during Christmas when i can do exactly as you wrote, put my legs up and read without a break!

MumbaiGirl said...

Rajaji sanitises and victorianises everything.