I have sought for a long time now
to hunt down the vandal who has
all my favorite books.
Intuition and common sense are honed only on domains that are relatively simple and familiar to us. If we had to rely only on intuition to understand the world around us, we would be largely crippled on unfamiliar territory. This is why it is important to liberate our means of acquiring knowledge from intuition. Rigor does just this – it enables the exploration of truth in unfamiliar universes, the consequences of unfamiliar axioms.
He comes here, here to this reading room to see and keep count of the money that someone else has put up for display, for the intoxication that he gets when this money in amounts he cannot imagine, rises up through his eyes and into his brain. Leave him to his intoxication. Sure, let him be, let him be. This intoxication is the only thing that is left for him and for crores of other people today. Perhaps it is for this intoxication that I too come here.
I speak through silences too. Listen.
In Chennai, there is the notoriously oppressive heat and humidity, especially in the summer and I have been known to grumble about it all just like anybody who’s ever lived in the city has. But, every once in a while, the elements spring a surprise on you, the sky darkens, and suddenly everyone in the city has a spring in their step. Troubles of everyday life fade away for a brief comforting while and people everywhere look heavenward wanting to spot that first drop of rain.
A schoolboy walks past, looking in fascination as the chaiwallah expertly raises one cup seemingly miles above his head and the milk falls in a column, rapidly narrowing towards the bottom until it seems to him that there is just one point to which every drop of milk converges. Just before ‘splash!’, a collision. Little drops fly about, hit the walls of the cup, and even as they slide down, the lower cup is raised and the upper cup brought down.
In the holy month of Margazhi, on the morning of Vaikuntha Ekaadasi, near the holy chariot, a pit would be dug and a large frying pan cleaned out with cow dung set up, the sand from the banks of the Kollidam poured in, and peas fried in this sand till they joyfully popped; one whole bagful of these you could get for two annas. Later that night, under the light of petromax lamps you could buy big-lettered books that told the tales of Vikramadittan, Kokkogam etc. while your eyes drifted elsewhere. At Rangaraja’s the floor ticket for ‘Captain Marvel’ cost two annas.
When my mind is idle, like in a lecture when the professor’s words are floating around in the air, these names are my doodles. This is a rather inconveniently dangerous habit for someone who likes to be as secretive about his crushes as me. I have to strike out my doodles hurriedly when I drift back out of the trance-like state into reality. Desk graffiti is harder.
There’s this old-world romanticism to a big radio set. One that doesn’t tune properly anymore, the capacitors probably having outlived their expected lifetimes.