Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Company Of Books.

'The Suitable Boy' joined the Bhagavadgita and the dictionary on my table for eight months. 

‘The Suitable Boy’  By Vikram Seth. 1350 pages.  5,91,552 words. Started - 10th June 2013, Completed -7th Feb 2014. (My reading. Not Seth’s writing. I believe he took ten years to write it.) I had borrowed the book from our public library and renewed it eight times during the eight months I took to read it. The longest for a book borrowed from the library. I enjoyed every moment of my reading the book and as months rolled by, I was feeling sad looking at the reducing number of pages on the right. Just as one of the reviews said.  Most of my reading is done in the clinic, while waiting for patients, between patients or when people miss appointments. Anyone missing an appointment is usually an irritation but during the time I was reading ‘The Suitable Boy’, I was looking forward to people missing appointments! I remember my niece Shruti having written about the novel in one of her posts.( I do not remember the details but she had analysed it well, appreciated it very much and had strongly recommended it.  I do the same.  

As mentioned above, most of my reading is done in the clinic but I also read during the brief periods between lunch/dinner and nap/sleep.  I usually keep two books. One on my table in the clinic and the other near the swing on which I spend the transition period between the dining table and the bed.  After eating, I read till I feel sleepy. The book slipping from my hands is the indication that it is time to shift to the bedroom.  My wife notices that, pokes me in the side to wake me up  and sends me to bed. Usually it does not take more than ten minutes for this to happen and very often I do not remember what I had read during this period. I end up reading the same parts again and again. Since it was taking very long to finish ‘The suitable boy', I attempted to read it in the clinic as well as on the swing. But the book was very heavy to hold and there was the danger of internal injury if it slipped from my hands and fell on my stomach. So I gave up the idea and it remained on my table for eight months.

'The Week,' best for the weak handed and weak minded.

There are two other books which have stayed there much longer. One is The Bhagavadgita which is doing its fourth year and the other is the dictionary which is almost always there. My association with the Bhagavadgita started when I was in primary school. (Maruti Vidyaalaya, Wilson Garden, Bangalore). Every Friday, the last period, 4.15 PM – 5PM, was meant for mass recital of the Gita. Almost all of us had the first two chapters by heart. Competitions were held and I had even won a prize for reciting ‘The qualities of Sthitapragnya’ (The stable minded).  A stainless steel Tea Spoon! (I keep mentioning it whenever the topic of Bhagavdgita comes up - like Bertie Wooster, who had won some prize in scriptures or some such thing when he was a child).

The qualities of the ‘Sthithapragnya’ (Verses 54 to 72 - Second Chapter - Saankhyayoga) were also part of our morning prayers when I was in National High School. All of us had a ‘Pocket volume’ of the Gita and my copy went into the possession of my father after I finished the school. He had read it end to end, could quote freely from it and had filled the margins of the book entirely with his comments. I never bothered to see what he had written then but would give anything to get that copy and see his comments now. But it has vanished. I have none of my father’s qualities or capabilities but I have kept the Bhagavadgita on my table hoping to read, understand and practice its teachings one day. I expect my genes and my long standing association with the Bhagavadgita to help me out! Whether I read it or not, the very presence of the book on my table seems to have helped my image a lot  and it certainly is worth retaining on the table! 

The dictionary (Pocket oxford dictionary) is not ornamental and I open it every now and then while reading. I get the meaning, continue my reading and forget the word again. There were a lot of words new to me (Ineluctable, Apostasy, Traipse, Crenellations, Quatrain, to mention a few) in ‘The Suitable Boy’. Initially I studiously went through the dictionary whenever I found a new word but since I spent more time reading the dictionary (and many words were absent even in my dictionary) than the novel, I stopped looking for the words if I could vaguely make out what they meant, going by the context. I also need the dictionary while writing since my language is not up to mark. I have to double check to make sure that I am writing what I mean. Shortly I will have to replace the volume that I have on my table as its pages are getting detached one by one. The date of purchase says that I bought it thirty years back. I had paid thirty five rupees then and I think that I have got back every paisa.

The much used dictionary - on top.
There are two more books hidden between the patient cards and X ray films. These books were given to me  by a well meaning friend (to read and return - but he made the mistake of saying that I may keep them as long as I want them) more than a year back. ‘The Lost Art Of Healing’ by the Nobel Prize winning cardiologist Bernard Lown,( Renowned cardiologist, won the Nobel peace prize for his work against nuclear weapons) and ‘Ignited Minds’ By APJ Abdul Kalam.

‘The Lost Art Of Healing’ is a wonderful book. It is a very good read for anyone and I feel it is a must for everyone in health care. Here are some quotes from the preface, which when associated with the title will give an idea what Dr Lown has to say.

 “doctors no longer minister to a distinctive person but concern themselves with fragmented, malfunctioning biological parts. The distressed human being is frequently absent from the transaction.”
“technology has become a sufficient substitute for talking with a patient”
“a doctor who takes a careful history reaches a correct diagnosis in 70% of the cases. This is far more efficient than all the currently available tests and technologies.”
“medicine is the science of uncertainty, the art of probability”
 I intend reading it again. My friend anyway has said that I may keep the book as long as I want it.

 I have read parts of ‘Ignited Minds’. I have lot of regards for its author and his views but the book has not impressed me much. But I intend finishing it.    

For repetitive reading (books that I have read half a dozen times or more) I have DVG, Kailasam, G P Rajaratnam, Beechi, (all of them kannada authors) PGW, James Herriot, Laura Ingalls and Gerald Durrel. These are my all time favourites, whom I do not mind reading another half a dozen times.

I started writing about the Suitable Boy which impressed me a lot (the size deters me from attempting to read it again) and I have reached here. I have no idea how to proceed. I think I should stop.

“A man is known by the company he keeps” goes the popular saying. If a man is known by the company of the books he keeps  I may expect to exhibit a much better version of myself than what I actually am!

1 comment:

Shruthi said...

I'm so flattered that you remembered me talking about the book. I've written about it here

Enjoyed this post, as usual :)