Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts
"The traffic grew worse by the day. There seemed to more cars every evening. As the jams grew worse, so did Pinky Madam's temper. One evening, when we were just crawling down M.G. Road into Gurgaon, she lost it completely. She began screaming.
'Why can't we go back, Ashoky? Look at this fucking traffic jam. It's like this every other day now.'
'Please, don't begin that again. Please. ''Why not? You promised me, Ashoky, we'll be in Delhi just three months and get some paperwork and go back. But I'm starting to think that... that bastard today who overtook me... Jesus, I can't believe the way some people drive! At first I thought "All right, all right, he's got a kid in the back, maybe he's running late for school, you know, the usual, I can sympathise, I also do the school run, but the way he cut in in front of me... Man, I would have skinned the little bugger if I'd laid my hands on him!
But, no, I don't get distracted easily. Why, then, does my mind occasionally wander off the page, leaving me with images and words that are completely unrelated to the text I'm reading? It's not that the picture in my head and the subsequent narrative are non-sequiturs; they're indeed a follow-through to the previous idea. But still, they're neither part of the plot, nor conducive to the enactment of a situation belonging to the book in which I'm immersed.
An explanation beckons, of course, and I think that there are a few elements to consider. First of all, this phenomenon doesn't occur with just any book, but with special ones. The fragment with which I opened this post belongs to The White Tiger, a novel that had me under its spell from the word go. Aravind Adiga's story about Balram Halwai and his unorthodox approach to business is raw. His voice is original and his vision unique. The plot is strong and well-constructed and the characters believable. Therefore my short mental "excursions" were not caused by tedium but by the rich narrative to which I unconsciously added my own intricate stream of quotidianness. Which leads me to the second factor. By linking, unintentionally, recent or past experiences of my existence to passages in books, that text (whether it be a novel, poem or short story) is contributing to my own personal development. This is probably the sine qua non of literature: not just a pastime, but also, a pathway down which we commence our very own journey in life. A journey that will take us through a landscape of emotional peaks and troughs. And along the way, this literary see-saw helps us form our own identity. My mental escapades are part of that process and may they continue.
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 22nd January at 10am (GMT)