Friday, May 13, 2005

Books people read

And what is good Phaedrus,
And what is not good –
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
It is just unsafe to wander out alone in the deserted streets of Delhi at 2 AM in the morning, especially if you a girl who belongs to a clan which people feel radiate an aura of looseness and availability.
I am desperately trying to move beyond the third page of 'Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. But for that I'll have to find some time to start reading again. The book has been lying unopened since the day I bought it. I read the book earlier, at least part of it. This was years ago, when the primary thrill I sought from books was excitement, and this book seemed terribly slow paced, sermonizing and directionless.
Although I could not complete the book, I did toil with it. I persisted, maintained some inertia no matter how slow, and took help of occasional breaks where I took the help of a rich assortment of Archer, Grisham and Forsyth to reanimate my interest in reading. But whenever there was nothing to read, I came back to Pirsig, like an erring husband comes back to his wife. And ‘Z n d rt of MM’ took me back, each time. But it was a more of a boring wife, with whom you struggle to make a living. But I carried on; my own unprecedented tenacity amazed me. Maybe the sweltering heat of Allahabad, when loo looms large and you go out under threat to your sanity, helped me. But still I struggled to capture the essence of the book, or to make something up for my own comfort.
There were good times, especially his descriptions of things around him and Pirsig’s devotion to his bike. My interest in IC engines grew as a result, to better understand the portions when he describes the maintenance of his bike. Or maybe it was the other way round, I don’t know.
Our affair lasted for a month and a half. But then the dichotomy between the message in the book and my lifestyle struck in, and I threw in my towel. The book was discarded into the dark corners of my tin trunk where it found its way next to a discarded study lamp, which I felt was an apt union. Several migrations across Allahabad, Shillong, Bangalore and Chennai later, I can’t find the old book anymore.
They say, you are what you read. My Engineering and MBA books earn my living and decide my designation, but I don’t think that’s exactly what the phrase meant. Maybe we should take the opinion of Heller, Lee, Adams, Wodehouse, Kafka, Salinger et all. Have they been able to undo the damage inflicted by Sheldon and his clan? And what about the Anderson brothers, Blyton, Stan Lee, Herge, Uncle Pai etc? Do they still influence my flighty imagination, or is its reinvigoration the sole contribution of Tolkien? Do Doyle and Agatha still feel let down by me?
I go back to Pirsig because I think he was trying to say something that will mean something to me at this phase of life. In ‘That 70s show’ the curly haired dude, tells that bitchy chick, who by the way I think will easily qualify for Bluebird’s harem, that Zen is being cool. I’m cool, but I don’t know if Zen means only that. Maybe Pirsig will throw some more light.



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