I spend a considerable amount of time trying to understand how my words and actions get interpreted, because more often than not people read between the lines for non-existent revelations. I lack the social graces and the ability for small talk; I get nervous when the onus of conversing with strangers or more than one person befalls me. I can’t talk about the weather, the people in front of me might not be readers and that eliminates books as conversation starters, I stare with my eyebrows raised to show interest, my mouth freezes in a half-smile and to heighten the creepiness I check the time every fifteen seconds. My tongue utters sentences that seem alien to my mind, I curse the unbearable length of a minute, I feign nonchalance and tip my head back but tip it further than I intended to and my chin hangs in an awkward thrust towards the ceiling, and heaven forbid if I have food in front of me, my lap is littered with crumbs. The funny sentences, the smart one-liners, the queries about the pet and the travels, the sympathies about dental work and humidity-assaulted hair, and interesting trivia about Einstein or Madonna come to my mind usually a day after the end of such disastrous conversations. Despite the utmost caution with which I tread in making my point across, I often send innumerable wrong signals. My list of faux pas when it comes to interactions with people other than those in the inner circle of friends and family is longer than Sheldon Cooper‘s failures in detecting sarcasm.
Today I re-read this article about dating ‘a girl who reads‘ that I had read a year earlier. I present an excerpt from the article; it’s a lovely message that only lovers of book lovers will understand thoroughly.
“If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.“
Sundays find me awake at a frighteningly early hour and staring bleary eyed at textbooks ranging from medicine to orthopaedics, and later reading the fat weekend newspaper while I eat my breakfast at the pace slower than of a snail finishing a marathon. Then I struggle for a frustrating ten minutes to hide my scalp, the graveyard of my beloved and recently deceased clumps of hair. I drive out of home a few minutes to nine am and on the way I rewind and keep listening to the songs that the iPod throws my way. I appear for a mock test every Sunday morning which I hope will equip me well in preparation for the important exam in January. I get bored of attempting questions after just twenty five minutes and start tapping my foot till the students around me glare disapprovingly. I dash home for the half a day in the week when I have declared a self-imposed ban on my MCQ books; from Sunday noon to midnight this bird is free from its cage. I sweat in anticipation and my hands grow cold as if I’m off for a secret rendezvous with a panting lover hidden in the dark bushes outside my window. I got that from Madame Bovary. I open the novels that had titillated me in stolen pockets of time throughout the week and watch a movie later at night. Twelve hours of pure, unadulterated pleasure and none of it involves a lover or dark chocolate or Disneyland.
I read two books last week Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart‘ and Nora Ephron’s ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck‘, and they were as diverse as they can get. One is set in a Nigerian village towards the end of the nineteenth century and the other is set in 1960s-1990s New York City. One is fiction based on stories the author heard, the other is an essay of womanhood. One is written by a legend of African literature and the other wrote few emotionally-manipulative Hollywood movies that I love so much. One is about drinking palm wine in the first hunted human head and the despise towards a lazy, flute-playing father, the other is about the joy of Julia Child’s cookbook and hiding wrinkled necks in mandarin collars. I loved both the books; but since my week had started on a sad note, Achebe’s grim novel was slightly upstaged by Ephron’s breezy essays about living in the most vibrant city in the world, the woes of ‘maintenance‘ by manicures and blow drys in case one runs into an ex-lover, the stages of parenting etc made me smile more and she won my heart with the sentence ‘Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.‘
This weekend I bought three books from Flipkart: Italo Calvino’s ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller‘, Dorothy Parker’s ‘Complete Stories‘ and Julio Cortazar’s ‘Blow Up: And Other Stories‘. I also got Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl‘ and David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas‘ on by e-book reader. I am reading Calvino this week because his imaginative novel makes me, the reader, the protagonist!
I make sure to indulge in something sinfully good every week; sometimes it’s poetry by Whitman or Cummings, sometimes it’s a dark chocolate ice-cream, last week it was browsing online for Pre-Raphealite art by my favorites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and John William Waterhouse. I devoured these paintings for hours till I fantasized being Jane Morris with the long honey-coloured curtain of hair and that proud nose and those sensual lips. I was mesmerized by the warm greens and mellow golds in their paintings.
One of my favorite paintings is by an associate of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Sir Frederick Leighton; I had an acute case of Stendhal Syndrome when I first saw his ‘Flaming June‘.
Birthdays make me delirious with joy, they are highly over-rated in my world. I become excited on New Year’s Day for my birthday in November! I expect the world to stop spinning for a moment on my birthday to acknowledge its significance in my life. I blame it on my parents. Growing up, birthdays were the most coveted and lavishly celebrated events in an otherwise commonplace childhood in a small town. There were more than five hundred guests, I repeat, five bloody hundred guests on each of my birthdays till I decided I was too grown up to wear a party hat and cut a cake while standing under a tuft of balloons. I missed the mountain of gifts though. I continued celebrating birthdays that ranged from a rowdy get-together of friends with mock stripteases and dangerous truths to quiet dinners with family and a temple visit in the morning. Birthdays rule my life and birthday cynics turn me off. I make sure I don’t let the birthdays of my loved ones be just an ordinary day; I am worse than Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreations determined to celebrate Ron Swanson’s birthday. That’s why the news that this years AIIMS post graduate entrance exam is scheduled for the day after my birthday has caused such an emotional upheaval in my life! I don’t want to study on my birthday, but that’s what I’d probably wind up doing instead of all the good stuff I’d imagined, one of which included a leisurely lunch with my girlfriends who would coincidentally all be in town this November.
But God is kind, and he soothed my bruised heart with a news that made my heart do joyful somersaults. My oldest and ‘best-est’ (yes, I use this word) friend is planning to tie the knot next year and I feel so happy for her and the ‘best-est’ (again!) guy in the world that she has chosen to spend her life with (I told her just now that I am officially in love with him too after hearing about his romantic gestures and old-world, Victorian era gentlemanly concern for her which is so hard to come by nowadays. He is Mr.Darcy or ‘non blind’ Mr.Rochester!).
I will watch a movie now, In The Mood For Love.