Mum hates dust. Dusty things are up there in favourite dislikes. Our library stands on a main, crowded, jostling, nasty road. Even the leaves look brown and nasty. Few as they are. Its called the L'Amour Circulating Library (approximately). To me, it sounds poetic and romantic and brings childhood memories of Cavitha Circulating Library from a long ago growing-up age. To mum, her nose screwed up, it brings visions of buckets and cleaning cloths and covering her nose with her handkerchief, tucking her sari in at the waist, and getting down to some good old cleaning. I think.
At any rate, I drag the two generations of women, one above and one below me, to this alcove. My eyes big as saucers, I scan the racks. I know I can always fall back on the PGWodehouse on the left. He has a good collection, better than mine. He assures me he is not selling it in a hurry. I tell him to think of me if ever he wants to sell it off. I have several of them already but that will not prevent me from buying up the entire three racks. He knows it. He nods sagely. Says, you must be South Indian. You South Indians are crazy about books; and not necessarily romance novels. I nod to the South Indian and smile at the over-generalisation. I let it go.
The monster invades the Berenstein Bears (finished the series last week) and Clifford (which she pronounces as Cliffort for some reason). Mum and I desultorily discuss that maybe we should read the romance things. There are like a billion of them there. Far in excess of all other genres, including Westerns (despite the name). They are less dusty. More colourful. But I cannot do it. They look too silly and uniform. We try the desi-ish versions, some Nisha somebody some chapati something. Try as in, pick it up. But the eyes flit away to the Rushdie, the Ghosh, even Kushwant Singh.
Mum picks up a Ludlum. I don't read that stuff either. I pick up a random book about Flight Attendants on vacation (it turned out to be quite random after all). We ask about any 'new books' Nothing. Mum chances upon Agatha Christies. I say no, have read all of them. Cannot stand thinking of Poirot's moustaches. I find him faintly repulsive now. No, not that, I say. Okay then, lets take this she says. I am tired. The monster is a little jittery. Fat aunties are crowding the place up and eyeing us, with our strangely green cloth vegetable bag and that look in our eyes we get when we see books, with curiosity. Okay ma I say. We leave, having coughed up a three digit sum of money and being admonished for salivating over Suddenly Sam for two whole weeks (it was a pleasure; even if I paid a late fine for it).
I discover, upon returning home, that its a blast from the past. A Perry Mason! Sights, sounds and smells of my aunt's flat in Bangalore where we used to spend an occasional couple of days in the summer, assault me. She had some of them. I used to try desperately to read them, far before I was old enough to understand or appreciate them. Of course in later years I did read a fair collection of them from various places. But it was still a refreshing memory, taking me back to the time when my love of cream and basundi and chocolate was the stuff of family legend, along with my tendency to get 'good marks' in school and to be, err, very short and thin.
Della Street, calling the man chief. Paul Drake and his detective agency. A murder. Lt. Tragg. Members of the jury. A judge. Beautiful women. They were all there, integrally in the story. I really quite enjoyed it. I would have thought that the Los Angeles and the Las Vegas of the story would be more real now than all those years ago in that Bangalore flat. You know, 'cause of having been there so many times now. But nope. Same thing. Same disconnect with everything. Same feeling of suspended reality. Assured that everything would fall in place. It was good, however, I won't deny it. Fun. All very expected denouement and what not, but still enjoyable.