Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday Rains and Wisdom Tooth

Of the seven days in a week, I await Saturdays the most. And when a Saturday goes wrong, it leaves me sulking until another arrives. This Saturday was one such Saturday.

This Saturday I had an appointment with a dentist whose chamber is located very far from where I stay. The appointment was at 6:30 in the evening and a few hours before that, he SMSed me postponing it by one hour – at 7:30. A little before I was to start for his chamber, it began to drizzle with an overcast sky promising heavy downpour later.

Undeterred, I walked out into the road and stepped into an auto. A few minutes into the auto ride, and the rain got steadier. It didn’t take very long for the roads to get wet and the potholes to be filled with water. I could also hear a storm piercing the noise of the rain.

The auto entered the neighborhood of Frazer Town, where the dental chamber was located, and found a traffic jam awaiting it. The rain eased and the storm passed after sometime leaving the air thick and humid.

The lane that connects Frazor Town with the area was blocked, and a flock of men stood around something. “What’s the matter,” I asked a person. “The storm felled a tree blocking the lane, “he replied.

I decided to leave the auto and walk to the clinic. I approached an elderly man to ask the direction. He said walking would take a long time, but it was the only option as the buses and autos going that way had got stranded in the jam.

I was in an old part of Bangalore with decrepit houses, cheap restaurants and dark narrow lanes. And the rain had made it worse. The pavements were dirty and narrow; I had to pick my way through stranded vehicles.

After around an hour, well past the scheduled time, I was at the clinic. About three years ago I had a root canal therapy done on one of my teeth – and had a porcelain crown mounted on it. The crown, being an artificial structure, had not fitted in properly with the other teeth around it forming small crevices that attracted food deposits. The tooth is located on the upper side in front of a wisdom tooth. If the wisdom tooth was extracted, it would solve the problem, Dr Donald said.

A wisdom tooth doesn't participate in any important activity like chewing, for example. And many people either don’t have them naturaly or have them plucked, he assured. I’m yet to make up my mind whether I want to part with mine.

I left the chamber at 10 PM, and by the time I reached home, it was 11, only an hour short of the end of Saturday. Many in Mumbai would say 11 in the evening is when a day starts - but Bangalore is forced to go to bed earlier by law-enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Million Mutinies Now - A Book on Cities and People

Currently I am reading a travel book and ever since I started reading the book, my hands were itching to write a short take on it. The book is A Million Mutinies Now by VS Naipaul. This is my first Naipaul book – and although I had read travel articles and essays both in books and magazines, this is the first time I am reading a book solely dedicated to travel.

There is nothing new to say about Naipaul as a writer because, as a Nobel Prize winner, he is among the most written about. But, when you read a book, you develop your own views about the writer and some of them can be distinct from commonly held ones. So I decided to put mine here.

The book is on India and it gives glimpses of various facets of Indian life through the lives of people staying in Indian metropolis. The book shows how very ordinary things - ordinary people, their lives and struggle - can be your window to a city, its character, politics, economy and history. There is also a little about the rural India that the writer sees as he travels through various parts of the country. Naipaul interviews people and narrates their lives in a story-telling manner. Every person he interviews throws up a distinct side of a city.

The picture of Naipaul that emerges through his writing is very different from how the media paint him – a literary snob with no patience for others opinions. There is no snobbery in how he deals with his characters except when their occasional English (they mostly speak in native language and there is a person translating it into English for Naipaul) doesn’t meet his approval. But he likes to call a spade a spade: a vegetable market that's dirty and smelly is a vegetable market that's dirty and smelly. While narrating his characters' lives, his thrust is on storytelling and he tells the stories with empathy and understanding without being judgmental. At the same time, he captures minute details of how his characters live and behave bringing their worlds alive.

I have not finished the book but sensed that Naipaul’s writing is addictive. Once you take a dip, he pulls you deeper and deeper, disallowing you to keep the book shut for too long.
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