Tuesday, June 24, 2008


"He is a man without qualities… There are millions of them nowadays… What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context – nothing is, to him, what it is; everything is subject to change, in flux, part of a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a superwhole that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a partial answer, every feeling only an opinion, and he never cares what something is, only 'how' it is."
– Robert Musil
For some time now, I had been literally struggling with Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. I knew I was being more than ambitious when I picked up this mammoth book – I’d heard that this book was notorious for challenging the readers’ patience – but didn't realize it'll make me give up so soon.

The first time I picked up the book, which was some months back, I couldn’t go beyond the first few chapters. So dense was the language and so varied were the thoughts running through the book, I felt like burdened with a heaviness that almost exhausted my mind. This was perhaps because none of the books that I had read so far prepared me for something like Musil’s way of writing. This is a book built on ideas – and for most part it leaves the plot (there isn’t much of a so-called plot, anyway, and the book actually remained unfinished when Musil died) to take long rambling pauses and expound thoughts/ideas that seems to go farther away from the actual plot. All these seem to leave the story hanging, leaving me all the more flummoxed at being taken to so many directions and yet not going anywhere. In fact, there’s not much of the linear story-telling that we’re otherwise used to in novels; there’s very little exterior detail about the places and people that inhabit the book; and the book is just a dense cloud of thoughts that grows thicker as it progresses. Obviously, it demands continued patience and lots of will from the reader. And, I must admit, right now I am facing a shortage of both.

I was again toying with the book last night when I realized that, perhaps, I picked up the book at a wrong time – for this is a phase when I am in a strange frame of mind, and I’m least prepared to commit myself to a book that demands such extreme attention.

So, right now, I am keeping the book at an arm’s stretch, just to allow myself to flip through the pages at times, and remind myself that it is lying there, unread.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tagged, again

Plain Jane tagged me to:
  1. Pick up the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.
Now, there are a few books lying around, unread. And, looking at them gives me a guilty feeling.

So, I skip the unread ones and from the table I pick up a book I read long back – Milan Kundera’s The Book of laughter and Forgetting. On page 123, after the first 5 lines, I find:
“A novel?” asked Banaka disapprovingly.

Bibi corrected herself evasively: “It won’t necessarily be a novel.”

“Just think about what a novel is,” said Banaka.
Now the thing is, I don’t know what is being spoken here, although I claim to have read this book. So, curious, I want to re-read the book (which is good enough since I’m not reading anything these days, not even newspapers).

Coming to the last part of the tag, I realize that I don’t even know five people whom I can tag. So, all of you who read this, consider yourself tagged.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

During the rains

The rains are here. Sometimes it’s a heavy shower, sometimes just a drizzle. But, most of the times, the sky is overcast, the air is humid, and the signs of monsoon are just about everywhere – from the hillsides that are turning greener to the mud stains that are appearing on the clothes. And now, if I get to hear frogs croaking somewhere one of these days, the monsoon picture will be complete.

Indeed, if you ever pause and think about it, each change of season seems truly overwhelming.

The onset of rains, however, did nothing much help me come out of my present state of disorientation. If anything, it made me more of a sloth. I kept passing my time in usual idleness. When it rained, if I happened to at home, I would stand in the balcony, leaning on the railing, gazing at the dark monsoon clouds as they filled up the entire sky. Sometimes, waking up from sleep, if I found it to be raining, I would keep lying on the bed listening to the sound of rain, and allowing my mind to wander. Occasionally, coming out of office, if I found it to be raining, I would wait for the bus under the gulmohar tree, and watch the raindrops dripping from its leaves.

I know I have this tendency to go gaga over rains, but I sincerely find it worth going gaga.

PS: I have to admit that I didn’t have much to write anything of late. Or rather, on a more honest note, I couldn’t really bring myself to write anything. Many a times I sat down and typed a few lines, only to delete them later and wring my hands in despair. It seems silly of course, how this inability to put up a post, was affecting me. I hope, with this post, I break the barren spell.

PPS: This post is the result of a comment from Plain Jane.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

After the rain

It rained yesterday. While going home, in the bus, I sat watching the windowpanes blurred by the splattering raindrops, and it made me happy, like always.

The rains, however, also brought about too many difficulties -- clogged drains, flooded roads, traffic jams, power cuts, slushy pavements, and much chaos in general.

I somehow dodged the troubles and reached home safe. But, of course, when I reached home the electricity was out. On another day, I might have cursed badly. Yesterday, however, I managed to keep my outrage at bay, and lit the candle that was lying unused by my bedside for far too long. And I contemplated, later in the evening when I lay in my bed reading by the flickering flame, that this was indeed a fine evening, that the power cut was quite tolerable, that the crawling lines of printed black words in the yellow light looked pretty beautiful, that the shadows in the wall looked dreamlike and mysterious, that there seemed nothing amiss at all.

And, then the lights came. Everything suddenly came to life. The small flickering candle-light started looking inadequate and my interest in the book started waning. Finally, I snuffed out the candle, shut the book, and opened the laptop.

By the time I finally closed the laptop I realized, much to my chagrin, it was already quite late and I had just wasted away my evening.