Books I cannot write because of the places I have not visited…

by sidin in

Dear All,

Yes I have not written anything for a long time. Yes I did let my work get to me. And yes I promise to do my best to keep the blog updated as much as I can. But if your reading I guess thanks is due for persisting. Trust me when I say not a day goes by without me thinking of writing a word or two. A million "just perfect" ideas for posts are now languising, if thoughts can languish and lie around unused, in numerous local train bogeys, many black and yellow cabs and both floors of Cafe Sundance behind Eros cinema.

I have been buying books again, especially after the month-end pay packets have started coming through. And my latest purchase was a most economical Ruskin Bond. His latest, Roads to Mussoorie, is a delightful appetiser of a book. Just a couple of Bandra-Wadala train trips long, it is nothing more than a collection of the man's ramblings about home, the hills. animals and even a ghost or two.

Just the sort of book that you read in one sitting, recommend to all the friends you know and then needles you to write a book of your own. After all its just a thrown together bunch of experiences with the narrowest of pretenses holding it all together. I would have loved to write it. I thought about it while flying from Bangalore to Mumbai last weekend, and decided I cannot. Ever.

Ruskin Bond writes of hill-stations and freezing early morning walks. He write of the noises outside his windows and the charming familiarity of a hill-station where you know everyone, has eaten at all their homes and noone minds being written about in books. And as much as I may try I have never experienced all those things. But now, after reading the book, I really want to.

I want to walk up and down twisting moutain roads covered up in thick woolens and never looking at anyone when I speak because I watch the fog from my mouth with glee. What it must feel like to walk for hours and find a tea shop miles from the nearest hillside home. You sit on a rickety old bench and sip cups of steaming tea. I must confess I have had a few cups of tea in Kodai and Ooty myself in the thick of a cool winter. The tea was too hot to taste and my blocked nose usually meant I thanked the chai-walla for three minutes of a warm sensation. Nothing more.

I remember a wonderful new year's eve in Kodai I spent with friends. Not Ruskinesque in the least though. None of the cheerful bonhomie of his Mussoorie or the sumptuousness of his misty morning breakfasts of bacons and hearty omelettes. But I did have my fair share of chilly mornings and mist rolling down the hills. Or up rather.

We lived in a dormitory a little away from Koker's Walk and one horridly cold morning I had to turn down a trek to Pillar Rock for fear of the cold and waking my asthma. So I sat on the doorstep of the dorm perched on the hill side. A few sips of soothing Honeybee later I was treated to a brilliant banket of mist that rolled up the hillside right past me in my two jackets and over the garish green roof of the dorm. So thick and rapid was the mist that I could see some of it seeping through a crack in one of the windows into the dark dormitory with its bunker beds and the mess a bunch of engineering college students seem to carry with them wherever they go.

But Mr. Bond has his leftover englishmen and their stories to narrate too. His schoolmasters and infidel husbands and their wives who jump of a cliff only to report for duty the next day as a ghost in the house down the corner. I met one marijuana pusher and one bible preacher in Kodai that year. I refused to partake both their services. The chilly pork and butter tea in the Tibetan restaurant will do fine thank you.

So as I leafed through page after page of his delightful narrative it occured how futile was my longing to write like Ruskin Bond. And I, likemost people do when they get thoughtful while reading on a plane, rested the open book on my knee and looked out the window. Mumbai shimmered under us in a sea of flickering lights with thick veins of yellow for the highways and main roads. For a few moments the scene was impressive. But as we descended I could make out the buses and the building and not just the lights themselves.

I checked to make sure I had my boarding pass to pass on to accounts. I closed the book and placed it in my bag and then braced for the landing. I thought of the roads of Mussoorie, the sharp clear air of the hills and the stories of old schools, postmen and the birds outside Mr. Ruskin Bond's window. I guess I could write about a lot of things.

But not of hill-stations.

More tomorrow people...