Books

Tumbleweed

When you find yourself in unknown parts of the world, trying to finish some work assignment or a presentation while nibbling on your croissant and listening to some white noise to gain concentration,

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always try to find some time for yourself, to gather your thoughts, to introspect and retrospect, to write your thoughts down to crystallize the concoctions of your brain over a cup of coffee and to listen to some music to enjoy those stolen moments,

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because it is important to find your own story at the end. The story of our life to break us free from ourselves and from the tangible and intangible object, so even if our body can’t walk through walls and obstructions but our imagination and soul can.

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The other heaven

Paris is no stranger to literature. It has been the centrum of not only the classics such as The Tale of Two Cities(Dickens) and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame(Hugo) but also Paris, France of Gertrude Stein and My Life in France by Julia Child. Henry Miller’s Quiet days in Clichy has a scene in which a policeman arrives at Joey’s and Carl’s apartment and questions them about Colette’s presence. By the grace of Franz Kafka Carl isn’t charged and only given a warning and that makes the statement ” It is Paris, even the policemen are literary” true.

I am in constant search of that literary Paris. Shakespeare and Co. is definitely part of my universe and so is Librairie Galignani on Rue de Rivoli. A part of me is always looking for that moment where I am in tight quarters with the books, the place with a personality of a human being, the one that makes you stay there and stand there leafing through myriad collections of timeless pieces. The place that tells the story, the place where books aren’t neatly stacked on shelves but in bundles. The place where they breathe and are allowed to be dog eared, where they aren’t an embellishment to an institution but an integral part that makes the institution. And I found one such place. In the city of lights! A friend had recommended Abbey Bookshop to me a while ago and this time I wasn’t in any mood to see the gimmicks of tourists on Rue de Bûcherie, I wanted to be in a quiet place which isn’t laden with people adorned with mini cannon sized cameras and taking photos of anything that moves or doesn’t.

It was one of those days when I wasn’t carrying my umbrella and it rained cats and dogs. Drenched, I entered the book store, dried myself a little and began my adventure in this heaven on 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie  75005 Paris. The place reminded me of Doctor Glas of Soderberg, Raskolnikov of Dostoyevsky, Holden Caulfield of Salinger, and Huckleberry Finn of Twain. It seemed all of them were having a conference there in their night suits while sitting on their warm and comfortable arm chairs generating the còsagach (competitor of Hygge these days) in the ambience.

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I browsed through the various sections for hours and so did the two other people who were there in the store with me. The place has so many books that it seems to defy the laws of Physics. Brien, the owner, told me that gravity had its way many times there. I got my copy Chekov’s farces and polar opposite Miller and his escapades in NYC and Paris and decided to leave but it was still raining very hard. I asked Brien if  by any chance he sells umbrellas as well, he went inside and fished for an umbrella and gave it to me and said with the usual Canadian warmth “Bring it back whenever it is a sunny day.”

With a smile on my face and an umbrella over my head, I knew I will be back again.

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Hygge by the Seine

I didn’t want to write this post but George Whitman’s words illuminating over the bookstore made me realize that if I want to be frère lampier then I have to be ready to light the metaphorical lamps.

The visit was akin to a pilgrimage for me. Situated by the river Seine in the latin quarters, the store does nothing but embellishes the bibliophile quotient of the city of lights.IMG_20170816_100829

The store is enormous and it holds so many books that it seems the place has achieved the best Weissman score for its compression algorithm. Initially the store was at 12 Rue de l’Odéon and was used as an office by Fitzgerald couple, T.S. Eliot, Hemingway. The owner of the store, Sylvia Beach, was the one who put James Joyce’s Ulysses into publishing.

The place has a beautiful cat that is not to be disturbed and I really admire the concept of no photography inside. At the entrance or by the bench one can find those tourists, with DSLRs larger than medieval cannons, looking through the eye piece of those massive devices and asking their friends/families/fellow travelers to pretend reading a book. How many photos and what types of photographs they are aiming at? Ich warum nicht!! Despite all this harakiri, there is a vibrant energy here that is scarce to find. The bookstore has rooms like chapters in a novel and Whitman had rightly described it by saying  “Where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.”

It is a place where entire world comes, stays for a while and then leaves and for whatever time I was there, those moments were moments of Hygge for me.

San Francisco To Plant Pure Nation

I spent last month in traveling, both for official work and for leisure. A trip to San Francisco is always inviting and I grabbed it with both hands when my mind finally decided to utilize the memorial day weekend at last minute and I booked a hotel and flight to the golden state. I didn’t have any agenda per say, I decided to roam around the familiar neighborhoods of Mission, Richmond, Tenderloin, Japantown, Russian hill, Nob hill, South of market and so on. After savoring the wonderful view I had  from the balcony of my room, I decided to go out and roam around.

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My first stop was Bartlett Hall to check on a friend who wasn’t there that evening and then starting roaming around the streets. After few hours I was wondering what I am going to do in the city formerly knows as Yerba Buena for three days and the first thing that struck my mind apart from my holy visits to fisherman’s wharf int he morning was the vintage book stores. There are some wonderful book stores in the downtown area but the one that I adore are Kayo books on Post st. ( one has to take appointment), Green apple on Clement street between 6th and 7th avenue ( massive used books store, a must visit for bibliophiles ) – I would compare Green apple with the Book Cellar on 79th st. & York av. in Manhattan, my former home, although Book Cellar is much smaller; and the Books Inc. on Van Ness and Turk. I had ample amount of time and I decided to leaf through every possible book I could and enjoy my coffee, isn’t it a dream?

I already am a vegetarian, to be specific lacto vegetarian but then too I observed some gain in fat in past few months thanks to the whole milk and yogurt and my travel to the parts of USA where the word vegetarian invokes curious glances along with derisive mumbles. I don’t venture into the self help and cooking sections in general, not that I have akin to George Carlin’s aversion to self help but I have a different take. Let’s not digress here; So, I took a stroll into the cooking section this time and leafed through many vegan and vegetarian cooking books. They ranged from basic such as putting together an edible salad to much advanced one such as eggplant tagine with roasted freekah, what caught my eye was the various combinations that were put together and the emphasis on calorie count, reduction of sugar, salt, and oil in food. I enjoyed them thoroughly and enthused, eventually ended up buying two of them.

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Plant pure nation is more aggressive on no usage of oil along with veganism while vegan one is just true to its name. I brought them home and being motivated made a trip to grocery store where I purchased different types of grains such as freekah, mixed quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats along with other vegetables. My fridge hasn’t been so well equipped before but the results? They have been abysmal. When I cook, I am meticulous of the recipe, the heat, ingredients, the steps I have to take, and I don’t think twice to improvise. I started putting these recipes together such as mushroom pâté, or over baked potato chips but they didn’t turn out fine at all. It feels like I don’t know how to cook at all; even today I burnt my 4th batch of potato chips ( baked in oven without oil, not fried ). I used to think I can’t do wrong with chutneys but after today’s results I am wondering were previous ones all fluke or what? Pâté’s quantity is so massive that I need to invite people over few times to finish it over and in those invitations I would have to shove it down their throats.

I need a success soon sans which these books will start biting the dust like so many other books I have bought in the past are biting and stamping the concept of tsundoku in my life.

Guide – 1965

To me R K Narayan has always been more than a fiction writer; at one hand he is a sweet reminisce of relatable stories and on the other is someone whose stories if read deeply can be as complex as Freud’s civilization and its discontents.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/

Based on the book Guide which won Sahitya Academy, the movie – Guide, is a classic produced by Indian cinema industry. Few people know that it was Pearl S. Buck ( The writer of The good earth) convinced Dev Anand to produce a movie on this book while both of them were in Berlin film festival. Corroborated with excellent background score and soulful music, the movie is a mandatory watch to anyone interested in international cinema or any Indian who harbors the notion that CGI clad Hollywood movies are the best thing that have happened in this century. Although R K Narayan wasn’t elated on seeing the movie as the movie doesn’t adhere to the book verbatim, he extolled Waheeda Rehman ( Lead actress) for bringing Rosy alive on the celluloid.

It is interesting to see the how the characters of Rosy and Raju develop throughout the text. Love, skill, success, devotion, aversion, egotism, deception, introspection, withdrawal, asceticism, belief, altruism, and the eventual knowledge follow in order. The guide guides himself to glory. He guides himself to the strength that a few are introduced to and transcends the bridge of life and death. I can extrapolate Guide to the reverence with which The Great Gatsby is looked at and I think I am not wrong.

Catcher in the Rye

Last evening while I was sitting and working at cafe Jax on 84th street, a woman came and sat 2 seats left of me. I gave her a glimpse and tend to my work and on second look I saw that she was reading Catcher in the rye. I have few fond memories of the book and I did overuse the word ‘phony’ for months after I read the book. Everything was phony 🙂 That’s how a young mind works. I tore a piece of paper from my notebook, wrote something on it, got up and placed the note in front of her table. She read it and she and I had a hearty but silent laugh. I had written “I like it when somebody gets exciting about something. It’s nice!! – Holden Caulfield”. After couple of hours we came out of the cafe at nearly same time and talked at length about thousands of things – books, art, painters, museums (MET, neue, Guggenheim, MoMa etc), dinosaurs, food, restaurants, pastries and work.

Happens in Manhattan!

 

Tolstoy

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! In the Wild !

Leo Tolstoy is one of my favorite Russian writer. I do not like to those people who plan each and every single thing in their lives. Sometimes few things need to be left on your impulsive instincts. Into the wild is a great movie and my favorite quote from the movie is

“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.”

 

The English Teacher

Many times we fall into the vicious circle of monotony of life engaging ourselves into morose frivolity. The circle has exits in form of tangents but we fail to notice them. Past few months were tough and I couldn’t squeeze out time to read anything new except few blogs. I have civilizations and its discontents’ digital edition but Mr. Freud loves to write in encrypted language. It takes time to read and understand each and every sentence and I am sure that my 20 min subway ride to office doesn’t offer solace to read and reflect. But there is a one author who always hits the bull’s eye for me. None other than R K Narayan. What a wonderful writer! Whatever he writes seems so real that I can actually see it happening in front of my eyes.I am a slow reader and I sometimes unsettle when people finish tomes in couple of days.If I am enjoying a text then I read sentences and get lost in the thoughts, paint the picture and relate whatever was said to my own life’s experiences.

Today, I tried to break the circle by picking up The English Teacher by R K Narayan. Written in the pre-independence era in India, the book generates such vivid GIF files of the time that I am unable to put it down. I already skipped breakfast and lunch but bookhe pet bhajan na hove gopala( Not possible to pray empty stomach).

What amazes me is that human brain functions approximately the same as a function of age irrespective of the era we are talking about. The main character of the book has all those problems which a present day 27-28 year old might face. The same procrastination , the same apathetic panorama has been transcended and passed on from one generation to other like the Olympic baton.

Few months ago, Thanks to accurate timings of subway, I got late for an appointment and while coming back in ‘anachronistic vintage’  R train I found a small diary on the steel seat. The diary had cuttings from old newspapers and from other diaries as it seemed to me. It was a mosaic of diaries of other people- people who lived between 100 to 125 years ago in NY, mainly Manhattan. People had noted down their daily lives, observations etc in beautiful cursive that would be legible for calligraphy. Comparing to today the world was primitive at least in terms of technology, science but human emotions are in time warp. Agony, anger, love, ambition have always been there and were reflected in the diary events of the numerous people from that scribing venture. I time traveled that day. At my stop I submitted the diary to the Bermuda triangle (lost and found dept.) of MTA. Hope it has reached its owner by now.

Wikipedia link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_English_Teacher

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/The-English-Teacher-R-Narayan/dp/8185986037

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/196743.The_English_Teacher

The Great Gatsby – II

I think its my second post on this book. The first one is here.

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I like the book for 2 reasons :

  1. Its the epitome of the greatest American dream – from rags to riches. But for living any dream, one has to pay a price.
  2. There are people like Tom and Daisy who think its their right to thrash and play with things and people and at the end of the day they retreat to their shells of wealth.
  3. Characteristic Immoderate obsession to the past.

Each and everything is so relevant even today.

The era in which it was written was a revolutionary one. I heard someone saying that the youth revolution started with Gertrude Stein’s lost generation in 1920s not at Woodstock in 1960s.

The Book of Disquiet

“Fields are greener in their description than in their actual greenness”

For a long time … I haven’t recorded any impressions; I don’t think, therefore I don’t exist. I’ve forgotten who I am. I’m unable to write because I’m unable to be. Through an oblique slumber, I’ve been someone else. To realize I don’t remember myself means that I’ve woken up.

Fernando Pessoa