Other Places

December 6, 2018 / Reading time: 5 minutes

Part of the reason[1] I have not started reading Killing Commendatore is an embarrassing failure to get into the required Murakami-reading mood. (And I consider myself a Murakami veteran without a hint of modesty or self deprecation. I know I can do much worse.) It isn’t a hard-to-come-by state of mind; I just need to be a little (on the fence) lost in some song—preferably away with words—on repeat for long enough and have strong black tea on the proverbial tap and an unexplained longing for something that on clearheaded review turns out to be a simple, boring, everyday thing, like a black-capped-box of 2B pencil leads. This is easy when you are on the verge of completing yet another decade around the sun and are living out of a (proverbial) backpack around people (much?) younger than your road-worn self pretending to assume you may be wiser/dumber than what your costume gives away.

I started reading Zen and the Art under an RTO office waiting on R waiting in line for taking a Learner’s License test. This (not the RT office, the book) was the one with the pseudopsychedelic cover and neat typesetting (over cheap paperback pages, so it wasn’t all that bad). It made complete sense as I overheard the to-be-drivers of heavy metal objects talking about machine parts the way art-school-dropouts talk about a seventy course meal. I don’t even know enough art school dropouts and the closest I have come to a three-plus-course meal was by accident and was promptly asked to leave for not wearing the right kind of shoes.[2]

I read the Structure-Culture Document first under a sleepless night-sky sandwiched between the Exhibition- and Product-Design studios in Paldi. The Chocolate-Seeng-Sev-Maska-Bun[3] (I am impervious to that kind of judgement) after the event tasted more chalk-like than chocolatey and no amount of post-allnighter banter—with the screwed up intensity that shows its ugly face after hours of out-kerning otherwise perfectly kerned type—could make a chink in my newfound armour of solitude. I’d read the word of HKV and couldn’t help but look at the manual-kerning proletariat in thinly veiled disdain. My glasses were tinted primary colours and misted over by tea fumes.

It was over an ‘all-chocolate’ Chocolate Tart[4] at Baker’s Inn that I bit into Moveable Feast (finishing it over a bottle of flavoured milk under the ANU’s OpenAirTheatre). The point is that each book demands you reenact its making in some tiny simple significant way even when that means lugging around a tome for six weeks and not opening it the tiniest crack. Sometimes this means holding on to a grab-rail in an otherwise packed bus with one hand with two bags in the other and sometimes it means ignoring mosquito bites under a muddy sky off a dimly lit road across a paddy field. (Wear shorts.) The point is that the book rewards you when the tableau is finally set and the first paragraph turns out to be better, sweeter, less strained than the way you have always imagined it, which it always has a way of turning out to be.

1: The other part of the reason is that I’m lazy and reading pocket-penguins marathon-style to put off reading the M till I get back to the hardback. The other other part of the reason is that M is—because I am gullible to cathartic hero-identification—unputdownable and would interfere with the guiding of the already somewhat lost generation of 4th year students I am supposedly helping out of their design education.

2: I consider that a major league affront as a person not used to wearing any kind of shoes till then. But then it turned out to be a life lesson in disguise (the Clark-kent kind, not the MI-X kind), waiting for some (…) hours in a bus shelter along Africa Avenue (near Connaught Place, not Capetown) in peak winter. I know what you are thinking. Winter. No shoes. Yet, the bus shelter was obviously not the coldest thing I encountered that night. Had no book for company either.

3: The ChocolateSeengSevMaska-Bun is a cultural artefact the way Kathakali or a ShajiKailas-Mohanlal movie is. It is the simplest way to describe a microculture, which is a shamefully shallow way of shying away from saying it is a major statement about a bigger demographic unit. It is unapologetic in its diversity and calorific value. In other words, it is the metric unit for measuring unadulterated jouissance. A chocolate tart is a solid 3 CSSMBs. The Baker’s Inn version is 0.4 CSSMBs at its crest.

4: This one had a piece of cake taking up the bulk of the tart. It was more like 10% of the tart, but I get to exaggerate. A 60-rupee tart has no business hiding a piece of bread (brown kek) to save on artificial chocolate. I consider dishing out a longwinded piece of advice on brand values and honesty and optimum fake chocolate amounts to the lady behind the counter in the sweetest way possible inside of a bakery. Then I remember the staff had thus far been unnecessarily nice to me and had not thrown me out even after badly timed chuckles from behind cheap-looking paperbacks and dried-up coffee cups. Then I smile a polite thankyou smile and quietly crawl back behind the coffee cups. I have a feeling they all knew about the bread-in-tart situation and were instructed to be nice to people ordering it anyway.