Saturday, February 18, 2012

In which I do Nothing

A writer is supposed to be just a regular guy with an eye open for irony and meaning. Fine. But then he needs to be able to handle the question he asks himself 'If so, then what do I bring to the table?'

I went to two libraries today. Nothing ironic thus far.

The Anna centenary library was exceedingly well stocked. It seemed to stock even those books that academics would write to keep tenure and you feel special for sniffing out and reading. Just that they are not open to membership yet. You are welcome to park yourself in their excellent premises for the day, browse through shelf after shelf and try and read as an enviable view of the city competes for attention. But no borrowing. And the folks were clueless about plans to open up memberships. 'Check the newspapers' I was told.

For a princely sum of Rs.50 (annual) the Connemara library lets you have its charms. The said charms are possibly well hidden. I walked through the dusty collections of 80s mainstream Tamil novels, essays, textbooks - that's about it. The place has the modest ambitions of a local college library gasping to do justice to the space.

I hit the OPAC to check if the books I found in Anna were here, but merely hidden in the sea. Not only were the results negative, but I was also tapped on the shoulder by a gentleman of the staff who said: 'browsing not allowed'. I had to inform him this was his library's catalogue. He seemed suspicious that such a thing existed and hung on for a few minutes to peer over my back to ensure.

I wandered around each of the floors and made my way to the old building. Now that looked clean, brightly lit and as far as I could see had topics of interest, or at least ambition - archaeology, architecture, history etc. Just that the entrance was blocked by a table with another gentleman of the staff who informed me: 'no public access'. Not even if I became a member, I was told. Apparently one has to request for books in the hallowed section, which will then be duly fetched for one.

That was enough irony for the day. I was thinking of how to use the word Kafkaesque in a sentence and walked up to top floor of the library. There was a section which, if I am not wrong, was called the dEvanEyap pAvANar section. And it housed Urdu, Gujarati and Sanskrit books!

What can any writer add if life is like this? It gives you irony, it gives you absurdity readymade. Perhaps the poor writer can imagine an event, an action to which meaning can be ascribed, something poetic which the reader can read into. And so on I thought as I walked through the empty room with the setting sun shining through the lone french window at the far end of the section.

And there, between the Urdu and Sanskrit shelves, was a man offering namaaz.

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