Monday, 30 January 2017

Some to cherish, some to keep, some for its content, some for its cover...

A Journey to the Exterior
Helen Ann Joseph, II MA English

The chai-wallah at the book fair

Roasting in the Chennai sun, I wandered through, thinking only about that one old classmate of mine who committed suicide the previous night. Unable to contain the shocking news, I walked for miles with my head teeming with questions that strained me. Why would this bold young man, take his life for unrequited love? In my mental agony I wanted God to give me an answer for all those questions which seemed to favor the youth and his reckless deed. Seated in a nearby church and having spent some time there, I suddenly remembered about the agreement I made with a few of my friends to visit the book fair that was going on in the City. 

In spite of exhaustion from exerting myself too much from the physical activity of aimless walking in the scorching heat on an empty stomach, I decided to visit the book fair with my pals more to keep my word to them, than my love for books. Discussions, chats, small talk, gossips, jokes, comments and more were shared among the gang of friends in the course of the journey, but my mind was preoccupied. Nothing seemed to divert my only thought. As a matter of fact, I did not want anything to grab me away from this miserable state of mine. Selfish, self-involvement in a sensitive, senseless thought disregarding my chit chatting friends satisfied that inner, ignorant, immature youth in me.
Entering the book fair was similar to entering all the places in the world at once. Amidst the massive crowd, were hundreds and thousands of books beautifully arranged in varied patterns. All my heaviness escaped like a balloon released of its stagnant air. Colorful cover pages flaunted their authors and titles. Paulo Coelho, J. K Rowling, Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, riddles, puzzles, Sidney Sheldon, Sherlock Holmes, Kushwant Singh,  ‘You can Win’, Tinkle, Suppandi, Aladdin; Question banks which reminded me of my approaching NET exam, myths and legends, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Atlas, politics, economics, chemistry, history, and infinity...A child in me said “I want them, all of them”. 

Some to cherish, some to read, some to simply keep, some for its cover, some for its content, some for my non-existing library, and some to gift my imaginary grand kids. But the economy of my occupation as a student limited me in achieving such a wild desire, and I settled for one book on economics. Journeying from childhood memories to future hopes and dreams, a surge of positiveness embalmed me. Praises to my parents and teachers for introducing me to the world of letters. Only when you read you start living, otherwise it’s a mere existence.

Excitement drooped a little, and knees began to weaken, as a result of an empty stomach, the aimless walk in the morning and zealous stroll through the book stalls. Having consumed a cup of ginger tea served by an ignored chai-wallah at an inconspicuous corner of the book stall re- stabilized my losing energy and brought back that enthusiasm and passion for books and life at once. My conscious gave me a whack and made fun of me for wasting half my day sobbing and thinking negatively about life. I realized some of the adverse thoughts in us can be fought bravely with just a book and maybe a cup of tea to add flavor.

It was then, the whistling messages in my accursed smart phone robbed my attention away and reminded me of that classmate who ended his life. If only there was someone to introduce him to the world of books, the many journeys he could have taken through the pages of the books, the new life and perspective he could have gained about the world, would he never have given up his life and felt worthless. Life is worth living, there is so much to know, learn and experience that giving up is a journey left midway because of laziness or excuses. Start, embark on a journey and reach your destination. This book fair took me to a journey beyond the corporal framework of my body, a journey to the exterior, with books and tea as my companions.

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