Almost an year ago, or maybe more – my memory seems to be getting hazier by the day – I picked up a book at a massive book sale in Mumbai. The cover didn’t speak much about the story, neither did the back. I’d read the author’s work before and this one cost a mere 100 bucks but that still wasn’t the reason I bought it (Though that helped!). No, the reason was the first page. The one before the story begins, which read in a neat handwriting:
Happy Christmas 2002
There is something so fascinating about everything that has a story prior to you. At least it is in the city of dreams where searching for my purpose, my identity, my dream – I first lay my hands on ‘The Little Friend’ by Donna Tartt. All my way back home, in the kaali peeli I somehow managed to hail, I wondered about the hand that had passed this book to his lover (yes, I realise the love could have been for anyone but I still like to romanticise things a bit), I thought about the smile on the lover’s face as the gift must have been unwrapped. I visualized them as twenty-somethings roaming around in the streets of New York on a cold Christmas eve. And then I wondered how it ended up here? Was it a garage sale after a bad break up? Or some space to be made for new ventures?
Then, much like all of my other dreams, I reached home placed it neatly on the table and forgot all about it.
It’s tragic how easy it is to forget passion. That’s probably why passion and identity never quite get along – it either consumes you as a whole or it gets too difficult to carry on. One minute I was impatient to get started with the book which felt like it was destined for me and the next, I was packing it up to be sent back home because it was taking way too much space. And anybody who has spent time in Mumbai knows, space is important.
So, a day ago when I found the book again, hidden behind a few scribbled notes that had stopped making sense midway, I was consumed by a sense of guilt. The kind you get when you see an old friend or lover, the uneasiness in the pit of your stomach that you had no idea you could still feel. For some reason, however, when I picked up the book once again and sat down day and night gulping in the words faster than my coffee, I felt closer to it than I ever have. As it turned out, we had more in common than I had thought – we’d both been feeling a little left behind. Seen a few too many goodbyes lately, and while the rest of the world seemed to be moving along fine, we were just waiting for someone to pick us up and get reading.
It wasn’t until almost 50 pages down, that I read – “And if what she’d wanted had been impossible from the start, still there was a certain lonely comfort in the fact that she’d known it was impossible and had gone ahead and done it anyway.” and next to it in the same neat handwriting, the words – ‘This always reminds me of you!’ and I smiled, words had somehow built a connection between three different lives. Mere words!
Weird epiphanies have always been a part of my book reading experiences. And this one gave me one that bought more comfort than a mental shitstorm. Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t so bad to be left behind. At least that way you know that there is a long long way to go but there is a way, nonetheless.
Being left behind could lead you to the hands of a girl whose life gets a little easier with you in it… or it couldn’t. But if we always try to get ahead, we’ll never know.