It’s that time of my Bombay life again! We’re moving house in Bandra for the THIRD time in 7 years, which is not at all uncommon btw, BUT that means mega spring cleaning is now in progress! I’m going to document our move again, with updates on the blog I did in 2012 – Things You Need To Know When Moving in Mumbai! – incase you’re moving too, but first forgive me for one little emo outburst…
I love books, always have and as a result have collected hundreds of them since I could barely read. Many of these are books I have read and loved countless times to tatters and then there are those that have sat quietly on shelves waiting their turn. This move, I’ve decided to try to stop hoarding clothes, books, shoes and bling and try to live a happy, shiny, minimal life – where I can really enjoy the few things I have and all the space in between :) so I started with the hardest part. Books. I’m so happy though that the books that have left my care (with a slight *poof* of sadness) have now found a happy home at Whistling Woods thanks to my British School pal Rahul Puri!
But of course, as is true for all great loves in life, there are some that you can never bring yourself to release and here are my 13. These books have meant so much to me and for so long that I have to take them along on my next adventure. They’ve been part of my Bombay world from the very beginning (some from even before I got here). They’ve watched me grow and waited for me to understand them, so here’s an ode to 13 books I simply couldn’t bear to part with!
I love books that give you a peek into the past. The mystical loves and lives of princesses in lavish palaces. As I read this one over and again my mind always wanders to what it must have been like for her as a girl and what it would have felt like to be her. Did you know she shot her first panther when she was twelve? Was listed in Vogue as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world? Had a secret six-year courtship with the dashing, internationally renowned polo player? Then married the Maharaja of Jaipur and moved into the City Palace of the ‘pink city’ with his two wives? Maharani Gayatri Devi was the last Queen of Jaipur in Rajasthan, and boy was she awesome.
I seem to have a thing for non-fiction crime stories. (Which is why I am currently watch the Oscar Pistorius trial with more than a little morbid fascination.) This novel by Truman Capote details the murders of a family of four before the killers were captured. He spent hours interviewing local residents and investigators and 6 years writing the book. It became the greatest crime seller at the time and is almost universally acknowledged as one of the best books of its type ever written. Philip Seymour Hoffman (who tragically passed away this year) played the author in a film titled Capote that I will also never forget.
This one was a gift from someone I loved a great deal – in what feels like another life. Plus, as it says on the back cover, “this book is soaked in the sunshine of Corfu where the author lived as a boy with ‘his family and other animals.'” I also lived in Greece for three years as a child, I had a pet turtle and a pet chicken. Those were glorious days!
Don’t worry. I’m guilty of watching the movie first too. But then I read the book and it’s a delightful little read. Plus it taught me that, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”
Something about this book and the fact that it’s a love story set against the backdrop of the First World War fascinated me. Plus Ernest Hemingway just said the darndest things like, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” True no? Also one of the reasons I was so excited to taste the Hemingway Daiquiri in Queensland!
I love books for the pictures they put in my head. For that theatre of the mind that only books and radio can conjure. And for often explaining my own emotions to me when I couldn’t quite understand them myself. Thank you Milan Kundera for this: “For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” Ah, so that’s what THAT is. Plus it taught me a cool trick :) “She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It differentiated her from the others.”
When I first met Nowshad, he told me that this was one of his favourite authors and A Fine Balance one of his favourite books. Obviously this made me want to read everything by Rohinton Mistry immediately and I fell in love with Nowshie a little more once I did. So thank you kindly, Mr. Mistry! :)
The thing that struck me first about this book was the quote it starts with, “Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence. – Leon Bloy” After I read the book I immediately went to the Ghetto and inscribed this new life lesson on the walls by the pool table in permanent marker which has since been graffitied over several times. This novel and a song by the Pet Shop Boys taught me everything I needed to know about Jealousy.
The Song said, “I never knew time passed so slow I wish I’d never met you, or that I could bear to let you go.” The Book said, “I measured love by the extent of my jealousy.”
Yup, these were definitely my darker, more emo years :) *lol*
The friend who gave me this book told me, “when you’re ready, this book will come to you. It came to me and now I’m giving it to you. So you must be ready.” So there’s probably more than one reason that friend’s name is Crazy Eddie :) But seriously, this book changed my life. The opening paragraph struck me so deeply that it resounds in my heart to this very day. “For half a century now, a new consciousness has been entering the human world, a new awareness that can only be called transcendent, spiritual. If you find yourself reading this book, then perhaps you already sense what is happening, already feel it inside. It begins with a heightened perception of the way our lives move forward. We notice those chance events that occur at just the right moment, and bring forth just the right individuals, to suddenly send our lives in a new and important direction. Perhaps more than any other people in any other time, we intuit higher meaning in these mysterious happenings.” I kid you not this gave me chills because just recently I had been thinking a variation of that EXACT same thought. I guess I was ready :) I haven’t been ready to finish it yet though, so I plan to start reading it again.
PS. Thank you Eddie for this inscription “Malini, may you always find what your heart is searching for. – Eddie” 143.
This one marks my decades-long obsession with everything ever written by Stephen King. I started reading Stephen King novels because in 9th grade (in Ivory Coast, West Africa at ICSA) I had a crush on a boy named Chris Connor who loved reading his books. We traded audio books and superfanned it up together and before I knew it I was hooked! I don’t know where that boy is now but I once wrote a Stephen King-style thriller with him as the star and his brother Alex Connor in a supporting role and he was happy about that. We also used to go ice-skating together. Anyway, as a result I discovered a brilliant author with a penchant for the macabre and I never looked up at gargoyles the same way again. I was also super thrilled when I discovered a crossover connection between two of his unrelated novels which has unfortunately since faded from my memory. But yeah, SK’s been on my bookshelves for three decades. I also keep my feet under the covers.
Tom Robbins is my favourite author as a grown up. I love his turn of phrase and the way his words dance across the page in an almost middle eastern hip-swaying shimmy. One of my absolute favourite books is Still Life With Woodpecker but I keep giving my copies away because I want more people to read it, for this thought alone:
“Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.
Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.
Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.
There is only one serious question. And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?
Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.”
Mario Vargas Llosa said it best, “Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.” But isn’t that also kind of comforting? I’ll be honest, I found this a complex read but it helped me grow and who can resist an opening like this?
“I write. I write that I am writing. Mentally I see myself writing that I’m writing and I can also see myself seeing that I am writing. I remember writing and also seeing myself writing. And I see myself remembering that I see myself writing and I remember seeing myself remembering that I was writing and I write seeing myself write that I remember having seen myself write that I saw myself writing that I was writing. I can also imagine myself writing that I had already written that I would imagine myself writing that I had written that I was imagining myself writing that I see myself writing that I am writing. – Salvador Elizondo” Dizzy yet?
I don’t think I purposely saved the best for last but seemed to have ended up that way :) This book has fascinated me since the day I laid eyes on it. Science fiction, intergalactic Dune-like travel, a whale, bowl of petunias and utterly delightful insanity? What’s not to love?! This is the book I take with me when no other book is making eye contact and without fail when I’m going to Goa. You can open up any page, start reading at any point and somehow you’ll end up at the restaurant at the end of the universe every single time. It’s just THAT, 42. Douglas Adams you ARE genius (wherever you are now that you’re not.)
And there you have it! *Phew* I was not expecting this little blog to turn into a giant jaunt through memory lane, but it is what is is and I’d love to hear about your favorite books in the comments below if you’re feeling so inclined. So long and thanks for all the compliments when I go fishing :P xoxo
Oh and PS! The rest of my stuff is going to #MMSwap on Monday for a fun little Team MissMalini fashion tradeoff and World For All that collect clothes, books, bags, shoes, accessories, CDs & show pieces for their annual garage sale to raise funds for the helpless animals of Mumbai. If you’re looking to donate give them a shout @worldforall