January 26, 2013 by Preeks
It was a cold December winter night, two weeks back. I was tucked in two layers of razai and clutching my hot water bag for life. My head was inside the warm blanket, lest any cold air enters.
And then I heard it. A strange ruffle and a shriek. I slowly formed a small hole in my razai’s enclosing to investigate the sounds. There was no mistaking the source. It was my bookshelf.
I strained my ears to try and understand what was going on.
Oh yes. It was the books.
“Will you move? Bloody hell. You are standing on my back cover! If you don’t move, I will tell all my fans and they will sit at Jantar Mantar and protest against you and your stupid establishment. MOVE. NOW.”
It was Five Point Someone, Chetan Bhagat’s magnum opus, speaking to none other than Britannica’s Encyclopedia.
The giant encyclopedia moved with the slightest of movement and shifted his bulky weight. He grumbled, “Hell ya. Establishment. Who even looks at me? Lying here in dust since ages. With outdated information. What’s that thing you youngsters refer to? Wiki. Pooh. Is that even a good name for an Encyclopedia? BRITANNICA. How classy does that sound, eh? Wiki.”
From a shelf above came another voice. “Did someone blame me for something? Its ok if you did. I am used to it. In fact, to be frank, I feel bored when I am not blamed for something or the other. Unrelated context is all the more preferred. Anyone? Anything?”
It was Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Five Point Someone shouted right back in response. “Dude, I totally get it, man! You and I, same story!”
There was a smirk from above. In the usual condescending, self-confident tone of its author, the Midnight’s Children sang in a mellifluous English accent, “Please do not put me in the same category as you. I have a Cambridge alma mater and I was written in the US. I am banned from Lit-fests and guess what, I still come and make a point. I don’t hang around cheap protest marches like you. Hmmpph.”
There was a sudden movement below and jutting out his butt and pointing towards the back cover, Chetan Bhagat’s best seller shouted indignantly. “Now a blockbuster move, starring Aamir Khan. What do you have to say to that? 100 crores, 7 filmfares. Hain? Aamir Khan! What do you have to compare? Deepa Mehta? Her sad, easily forgotten ventures?”
The Midnight’s Children laughed from above. “Oh naive Indian author. I can’t believe you just brought that up. Sigh.”
An altercation was brewing. All the young Indian authored books, sold for Rs 100 on Flipkart, never released in Hard Cover, rallied around Five Point Someone. While the elite Booker nominees and Man Booker winners gathered around in circles around Rushdie’s collection.
In a shelf between them, the Nagas were in a huddle. They whispered worriedly among themselves, “Which category do we belong to? We are not mass books, are we? But we are! On the other hand, we actually have a good story to boast of. Oh dear Shiva, where do we belong!”
In another corner, Rajaji’s Mahabharat and Ramayan smiled to themselves and spoke wisely, “Their stories come and go, but ours? We’re evergreen. Karmanye Waadika Raste..Maa Phaleshu..”
Before they could complete, they heard a camera click. The foreign authors were all peering down from the top shelf, “Oh look. Poor Indian books. Where’s their growth story now, huh?”
“No matter how much they claim, they can never stop reading the John Grishams and Archers. So much for Indians rising.”
The fight below was getting worse. A young book called ‘Oh Shit! Not Again‘ went as far as hanging on the shelf and attempting to jump off. The White Tiger, Sea of Poppies and other such elite affairs stood behind Midnight’s Children and discussed solemnly how they were the only true torchbearers of English fiction in India.
I peered quietly and then decided to go a bit further to get a better view. Mistake. My movement was noticed by the indispensable Secret Seven from the bottom most shelf.
They immediately sounded the bugle and shouted out the secret meeting code word. There was silence all around. All books went back to their original positions and assumed their inanimate poses.
I tip-toed up to the shelf and stared at Five Point Someone for a while. Nothing. Nada. And just when I started walking back to the bed, I saw Britannica shrug at me. At least now won’t you look at me?
I sighed and snuggled back into my razai. As I covered my head again, I heard a ruffle.
I swear, I heard it!