If jetlag has a benefit (which in most respects seems unlikely), it is that I find myself with more time for reading. This may be at times when I would prefer to be asleep; 3.30 am. yesterday, but reading is certainly preferable to lying sleepless in bed and counting imaginary sheep. I suppose there are several ways of approaching the inevitable consequences of long haul flights. I do know of a colleague who resorts to sleeping pills, not a particularly sensible solution it seems to me, as someone who has an aversion even to taking an aspirin. An alternative is to toss and turn in the bed for several nights, (not advisable if you share a bed), until eventually the inbuilt body clock readjusts. Personally I have found that given time, the effects of the jetlag imposition will fade, and until this point I prefer to abandon bed for my study and settle down with a good book.
Books are not in short supply in this house, welcome companions collected and respected over many years which now decorate and insulate many walls of our home. Amongst the many tomes are a number that I have acquired during my visits to India, often interesting volumes that are published in the country and seldom available, or at least little known, here in the UK. No trip to Jayanagar would be complete without a visit to my friends who run Nagasri bookshop. This wonderful treasure house, lovingly cared for by intelligent, book loving experts, is beyond doubt my favourite bookshop anywhere. For forty eight years the knowledgeable proprietor of this bibliophile’s heaven has provided a service to the students, scholars and general readership of the Bangalore metropolis. He knows his customers, remembers their areas of interest and will go the extra mile to ensure that he can meet the needs of even the most demanding of readers. Whenever I visit I am greeted with a welcome handshake and smile, and within minutes I am engaged in conversation about the latest titles from various Indian publishing houses, news of respected authors and commentary about recent and forthcoming editions.
Invariably my luggage is heavier on return to the UK than it was on my outward journey. In no small part this is because of the latest acquisition of books purchased from Nagasri. This time seven heavy volumes added to my travel burden (in my defence I purchased only five – the other two were given as gifts), and these have now joined others either in my study or at the bedside in the queue awaiting my attention.
These latest editions to my collection have been particularly welcome as I have resigned myself to additional reading in the jetlag zone. Allasani Peddana’s sixteenth century epic, “The Story of the Manu” is rather heavy going for the early hours, whereas the stories of Hansda Sowevendra Shekhar are ideal in both tone and substance. However, it is a particular book given to me by my good friend Jayashree that has really held my attention over the past few nights as I have been awaiting the dawn.
“The Girl who Ate Books”, written by Nilanjana Roy provides an exploration of Indian literature and the characters and authors from a significant period of Indian history. Lucidly written, with much humour and plenty of scholarship this book has introduced me to writers of whom I previously knew nothing, whilst providing insights to others with whose work I have long been familiar. As a result of my reading I have compiled yet another list of books that I must purchase and read in an effort to fill some small part of the enormous void that is my ignorance. Books such as this are always a revelation and right from chapter one of this entertaining volume I found myself empathetic towards Nilanjana Roy who described the results of a disease with which I am all too familiar.
Roy details the symptoms associated with “bibliomania” sparing the reader none of the graphic detail. The hours spent trawling bookshops in search of treasured quarry; entering the vendor’s lair intent on purchasing a single volume and leaving with three; an obsession with creating space for further bookshelves whilst forlornly rearranging the current system in hope of finding a little more room; perpetually making lists of recommended books identified in the pages of that which is currently being read; feeling acute irritation when forced to stay in a house devoid of even the most rudimentary literature (I try never to return). This author clearly has a significant problem and I find myself sympathising with her plight. Poor woman, I hear myself saying aloud, how will she ever fit the next twenty years of books into so small a space? What other furnishings will have to go in order to accommodate more book cases?
But then I turn again to the pages in which she outlines the nature of this mania:-
“Collecting books is the same as looking up at the stars: you don’t want to own the stars, any more than you want to own books or the knowledge in them. All you hope to do is to brush the surface of wonder, to acknowledge that there is still, as an adult, some part of you that is always in awe of, and in love with, the world and the word.”
Oh my goodness – she’s talking about me! I too have the disease. Is there a cure? I certainly hope not!
Just re-read that paragraph above that was written by Nilanjana Roy. When an author uses prose as beautiful as this is there any wonder that the reader can become addicted? If this is true of you, be grateful. It is often better to live in your imagination than in the real world.
I’ll be back at Nagasri bookshop in April. I suppose I’d better take a larger suitcase and start rearranging the bookshelves here in my study.