I confess I have been struggling with Vinod Kumar Shukla‘s ‘Hari Ghaas ki Chhappar Wali Jhopadi Aur Bouna Pahad‘ for the last few days. Well, it’s not even been that much of a struggle, but just a kind of resigned plodding through it, as if it is a book I must get through. Because of course, there are some writers who must be read.

I do get the beauty of Shukla’s word play, the rhythm of his language, but I was just not able to engage with Bolu and his gang of friends, the village, Bolu’s flying. It is a beautiful world, but sometimes you are too impatient, worldly, agitated to be somewhere magical.

I confess that I couldn’t get through Shukla’s ‘Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi‘ either. Perhaps he is just a writer I will come back to some day, when I am older, or younger, perhaps.

Last night, agonized enough by cramps and the rest of it, I abandoned ‘Hari Ghaas …’ and brought down ‘Great Expectations’ from a high, high shelf. I instantly fell in love with this DK edition of Dickens book, just what I needed, clean white paper, big font, not too many footnotes, and those, annotated in bold, and a small green box at the bottom of the page, a book easy to hold in bed.

It’s not a book I have ever liked much, but somehow I thought I wanted to check out Pip again. I felt instantly reassured by Pip’s encounter with his convict. Pip’s world, his harridan sister, his lovable blacksmith brother-in-law, and the other adults around him, in what the DK book describes as Stage 1 of his life, seemed to be just what I needed to battle the pain. Or perhaps that was just the painkiller at work.

I think the way books are printed make a huge difference to your experience of them, which is why I hate pirated books, with their dodgy cyclo-styled feel. No, not for any reason of intellectual copyrights.

This morning I also came back to a friend’s blog, a friend who I don’t really know too much, and I read and read several of her posts, and thought, yes, she is a friend. And like Ruskin Bond, she inspired me to write with her own simplicity. And just live with that much simplicity.

It’s OK to be happy, laze, read in bed all day, shop even when you have enough, watch movies, write, cook, play with kids, watch the world go by. Somehow in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land one has to keep reaffirming the right to just live and breathe, without the burden of being useful and productive all the time.

And maybe, based on her recommendation, I will go back to ‘War and Peace’ which I have tried to read several times, and always, always failed. I should look for a DK edition.

Yesterday, we went to the annual Strand Bookstore sale, and once again, the titles just swam before my eyes. I decided to not even try to pretend to look at the books and nursed my backache by sitting on the steps outside while Teja browsed. This time, we did not go crazy and bought only 3 books – one on Chagall, one on the Louvre, and one on Brancusi.

I may not read the art books as much as Teja does, but every time we buy them, I get out the oil pastels and a new sketch book, and put them out, all ready to use.

* ‘Hari Ghaas ki Chhappar Wali Jhopadi Aur Bouna Pahad‘ – The Hut with the Green Grassed Roof and the Tiny Hill.

* ‘Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi’ – A Window Lived in the Wall

great expectations