It has been a long time since I actually wrote something out here, and I have this crazy project to blame, I guess. So even after deciding to write about this ex-army doctor I met here in Haridwar and his extreme affinity for all things alcoholic, I had not lifted a finger - or six (I'm a six-finger typist) - to write a post. So I probably can go so far as to say that it's thanks to Shruti here that I am lifting that finger - six, actually - to answer a few questions. Yep, another tag. This one, however, is pretty old, and has been taken up by every Tom, Dick, and Bihari around. So in the trend of keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case, the Georges, I nod my thanks at the lady who sits biting her pencil under the coconut trees, and continue.
All righty. This post, then, is supposed to give you a brief idea about my reading habits (Wodehouse) and probably a few writers (Wodehouse) who have changed the way I look at things (W.). Well, the way I look at books, at least.
If Anurag is reading this blog, this is the point where he would say to himself, "Heh. Let's see what the geek has to say about his reading habits." In fact, he fairly jumps at every chance to label me a geek. For example, the following conversation we once had over beer:
Anurag picked up my mobile and saw that I had Linus - that would be the chap with the blanket on the left side of this page - as the background.
"Hey, this is nice! Do you have Snoopy, too?"
I replied in the affirmative.
"Good, good. MMS it to me."
"Ah. I recently found out that Reliance does not enable MMS by default. Sorry."
"Aw. So how did you get this on your phone?"
I told him about the invention that has come to be known as the data cable.
There have been numerous other occasions where he has, without any sort of provocation, proceeded to tar and feather me in public in this manner, and it is still a mystery to me as to why I continue to go and drink with the guy. But I digress, as usual. So, without much further ado, I shall look back at my life, and trying hard not to flinch, will try to locate the book-related memories and put them down on paper.
1) Number of books owned: Sitting out here in Haridwar while my books lie in Pune, this is a bit of a difficult task, but I would put the number at about 250, excluding the auto mags. There are a few shelves of my books lying around in my hometown as well, but those would be books like "Tell me Why/When/How/Whattheheck" and "A gazillion science questions you wanted to ask but were afraid of your science teacher" and the like.
A short note here about my mum - she has an eagle eye for dog-eared books that also have their bindings coming off, and I, in my childhood, have lost many such books to the evil hawker who takes them away and leaves buckets in return. Yes, buckets. Every time I had a bath, I was reminded of all the Indrajal comics/ Tinkles/ Tintins/ Asterixes/ DC comics I could no longer read, and have kicked many a bucket. Oh, hardy-har, yes, strictly literally. The memory still makes me wince. Some of those buckets were made of steel, see?
2) Last Book read: Currently reading "The Van" by Roddy Doyle. The last book I read would be "Carry on, Jeeves", by Wodehouse. For the third time, I think.
3) Last book bought: Oh, yes - this memory is still rather vivid. Back in Pune, I used to spend the weekends working at Barista, and - oh, hang on - not at Barista, I mean I was at Barista, but I was not working for Barista, if you know what I mean. Hammering away at keyboard and all that sort of thing. So there was this very interesting-looking girl working at the attached bookshop, and I sort of took a fancy to her, I believe. Eventually, I fortified myself with a capuccino, and walked across to her in the hope of striking up a conversation.What I was unprepared for was the thick american accent she replied in. I staggered back, grabbing a passing bookshelf for support. The book that came off in my hand happened to be "Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets" by Wodehouse, and I took it as an omen, reminding me of the joys of an unfettered life. Offering a silent prayer of thanks to Mr.Wodehouse, I immediately bought the book, walked out of the shop, out of her life, and into the sunset.
4) 5+ Books that mean a lot to me: Ah. Hm. Let me see. Tough one, this, but I shall attempt.
Pretty much everything written by Wodehouse: To borrow a simile from him, Wodehouse, like the measles, needs to be caught early in life. If caught at a later stage, the effects can be disastrous. Which was pretty much what happened to me. I was introduced to Wodehouse sometime in 2004, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, and the next few months were a blur of grabbing and reading every Wodehouse I could lay my hands on. I love everything about his work - his transferred epithets, his literary allusions (I learned more about Shakespeare from Wodehouse than from Shakespeare himself), and especially the give-and-take between the two Irishmen, Pat and Mike. Sorry, Bertie and Jeeves, I mean. Even today, after a bad day, I just need to pick up a Wodehouse and immediately feel boomps-a-daisy as billy-o.
The entire 'Doctor Who' series: I stumbled into the Blue police telephone booth that was the space-time travelling ship also known as the TARDIS when I was lazing around in the summer holidays after my tenth std., and I was absolutely taken in by the Doctor, his exasperated assistants, his sonic screwdriver, and their Bizarre adventures in space-time. I guess you could label it as juvenile science fiction, but hey, who wants to grow up?
The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien was a genius of epic proportions, pun intended. What-a-book! I desperately wanted to be an elf, and even learned to write my name in the elvish script. To be able to know what the local flora and fauna feel, to be able to see what fell creature flies a few leagues away... sigh.
Rendezvous with Rama: Arthur C. Clarke positively outdid himself with this book. Everything here is so plausible it's scary. And engineering and physics never looked so good as they did here. And whatever you do, do NOT read the sequels. They're sacrilegious.
Jurassic Park: In fact, a lot of Crichton's early works were amazing. I used to be amazed by the way Crichton fused fact with fiction and made it a point to write about a completely different field in every book. Even his introductory essays in each book were complete masterpieces. It broke my heart to read his latest, completely pointless novel centered around global warming. The man has, unfortunately, lost it.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 42. Marvin, the paraniod android. The willoughmying blanket. Ford prefect. Beeblebrox. The total perspective vortex. This book is absolutely brilliant, and absolutely crazy.
Dragons of Eden: I wish I had Sagan's grasp of science. This book is a brilliant history of the evolution of human intelligence. I know now that my revulsion to lizards is nothing sissy: it's an evolutionary artifact, in gobbledygook.
Apart from these, I absolutely love comics and comic strips, and discovering "Peanuts" has been a life-altering experience. Charles Schulz is the undisputed God of comic strips, and if you are not satisfied with 42, you will definitely find all of life's answers - and a few questions you never thought of asking - in the panes of the thirty-seven thousand-odd comic strips that he drew every day of his life, for fifty-two years.
Ummm... I think I've pretty much covered everything, and if you've read this far, boy, you are patient, and I owe you a drink. No, not you, Anurag. And not you either, Shrik. No, Kakkar, forget it. I mean the others. And in case I've missed any book out here, I shall let you know. Till then, tinkerty-tonk.