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Musings of a Copywriter

When Books have Wings

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Book thieves are essentially good people who restore a modicum of respect to the business of stealing. When there are so many valuable items to filch, from cows to jewellery to cash, this is a minuscule coterie of genteel, sophisticated thieves who have realised that the most valuable item worth pilfering in the world is books.

While knowledge acquired from stolen books carries the same value, it shows the passion and obsession for seeking knowledge ranks high in book thieves. They are enterprising and adventurous to risk everything including their dignity, without harbouring any fear of getting caught or facing any discomfiting situation for the sake of acquiring knowledge by hook or by crook. Perhaps a stolen book holds special charm and becomes more gripping as the ‘borrower’ would not like to lose it after putting in such hard work to acquire it. Desperate readers who steal and read make it a habit to read stolen books alone.

There are smart operators who politely seek books from your collection even though they have ample opportunity to pick up the titles and drop the stuff in their shopping bags. These people have no compunction, no intention of returning the borrowed titles despite a litany of reminders. Although these books cannot be dubbed stolen as prior permission is sought, the promise of returning them within a week or a month is never honoured. These books become a permanent member of their prized collection. Such collectors have built large bookshelves with borrowed books and stolen titles.

During school days, my English tutor borrowed the complete works of Shakespeare from my father’s collection, promising to return it soon. But the tome did not stage a comeback. Three years later, when we went to his house, we saw the book displayed prominently in a glass showcase. I was thrilled to find it there but before I could utter a word, his wife thanked my mother for gifting them the big, fat book on their silver jubilee wedding anniversary.

His clever spouse handled it smartly and we did not contest it. My mother perhaps hoped he would read the text thoroughly and explain Shakespeare properly to me.  When he started teaching me Shakespeare, I found him fumbling and referring to a paraphrase guide to explain the content.

There were several other instances of borrowing from the collection on the pretext of reading. Another English tutor took novels from my collection for his wife who was fond of reading. He took many books at the same time and returned most of them on time. But one title always went missing — perhaps the one book his wife desperately wanted to have in her collection.

Some friends in college and university also wanted to read the books that I was reading.  They borrowed the titles just before the vacation started. After the holidays they said they had lost it on the train or left it behind in the lodge they stayed in. But the sad truth was waiting to be discovered if you went to their apartment.

When guests with the habit of reading arrive at your place, you need to exercise caution and stay alert. They will not gaze at the aquarium with colourful fish but swim deeper with malicious intent: gape at the spine of books, checking out the new arrivals. They pose innocent questions about your choices and recommendations. It is always better to say a bland no. Your confirmation would mean the sudden departure of some books from the collection as the guest would definitely seek those tomes.  Once they are gone, the guest does not come back to return it ever. Maybe he shifts to another city and takes it with him, forgetting it was his duty to return it to you.  Ever since the habit of gifting books has lost appeal, the art of stealing and usurping books has gathered momentum.

These guests are not hardcore book thieves you encounter in book fairs or bookstores, but they have a similar mindset of reading books acquired through dubious means. When they do not return what is not theirs, they are indulging in an unfair practice but there is no sign of regret or remorse. Since they get original titles at zero cost, they do not need to visit second-hand books market for a big haul of books or seek low-priced pirated editions.

The same tricks are played by so many people over the years and half their collection comprises books acquired through shady means – that is, books they have not paid for. The true believers in the saying that knowledge is free for all!

In case you ask them to return the books, you will be shown the book with the flamboyant signature of another person as the page with your initials has probably already been ripped off, leaving no scope of return to the original owner. Like wealth acquired through shady means is never discriminated, books acquired through dubious means are also most welcome in the bookshelves.

visited the book fair to buy everything except books.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

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Musings of a Copywriter

Visit to a Book Fair 

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

I went to the local Book Fair and bought ceramic coffee mugs. There was a big stall selling woollen garments. I chose a comforter. Wrap myself in it and sit in the balcony area, holding a coffee mug and a good read. 

I came across another stall selling holidays. A travel and tour agency reviving itself after the pandemic. It offered discount packages to distant places of interest. The nearby places were more expensive. A tour to Bangkok was cheaper than a tour covering North Bengal. The images of reading books on a hammock by the seaside seeded my desire to try out such a holiday. During winter, the package tours to the seaside were also sold out. I took some pamphlets and compared the best value offers that I could browse when I reached home and decide where to unwind in the company of books, where to swing in the delight of reading under the shady palms and bask in the winter sun. Reading was not the concern, the spot for reading was more important. The perfect backdrop for photo albums.

Some stalls were selling casual wear. I made up my mind to try something chic and warm for the winter months. Sometimes, I have to take a selfie while reading and post it on social media handles. I have to be careful about the quality and colour. It should be sober and sombre. I came across a furniture store selling bean bags. I decided to buy one for a cosy corner in the living room. For some weeks, it would become the hangout zone. I booked one as it was offering free home delivery. 

My next stop was a new stall of a branded lens for glasses. It was offering free eye testing facility and a free frame on the first order booked at the fairground. I lapped up the offer of a free computerised eye test without knowing anything about its reliability. The result was disappointing. My vision was faulty. He gave me a slip, asking me to meet the optician at the brick and mortar store within seven days and order progressive spectacles. The onset of bifocal vision was certainly not an indicator of any progress in my vision or career. 

As I was battling this new reality, I came across a stall selling brand new noodles. A free trial offer made me stand in the queue that was longer than a noodle. Accessories matter a lot. Somewhat old-fashioned when it comes to displaying a writing instrument in my shirt pocket, I hovered around the stationery stall selling dot and gel pens, colourful pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and markers, jostling with a group of school kids, reaching out to grab as many as possible from the tempting ‘Buy One Get Free’ baskets before the stock disappeared. I took some notebooks and notepads for portable use, to jot down those fleeting thoughts that assail me during my long walks. There was another section selling cover files. I took some transparent ones to keep the rejection letters intact, just like prized academic degrees. Some were fit to archive the printouts of the sample chapters.

My next stop was a store selling lampshades and fancy reading lamps. My strategy of picking up the profitable buys guided me to opt for a hefty one with a hefty discount. I felt happy to get one for my writing desk, good to place it in a corner. This would brighten up the table though it would occupy a lot of space. Its strong metal base would keep it steady – to resist the winds of change blowing in through the wide window kept open almost the entire day. The dark corners of the imaginative mind would also be lit up well.

I had done lots of impulsive shopping. But thankfully, most of the selected items in my cart were related to books. My last stop was bookstores now. Whatever energy I was left with, I wanted to spend it on books. I visited some book stalls to look for new arrivals. I found no offer better than the online ones. Standing in front of a bookshelf, I checked the discounted price and compared it online. I placed an order online as it was cheaper than the price inside the book fair. But the store gave easy access to find a list of good books. After placing online orders for some fiction titles, I decided to lessen my guilt. By seeking rare titles not found on any online platform. These high-priced books do not sell much. But publishers carry them to the book fair stall. I checked many times and found out-of-stock responses from the online stores. But those books turning yellow were right there in front of me. I stopped myself from buying these because of very low or zero discount.

I was carrying a full shopping bag made of eco-friendly jute but without any books in it. No, I was not assailed with guilt. It was a fully justified and meaningful shopping spree. Most of the things I purchased were related to the reading process. I should not blame myself for wasting money on irrelevant items that one should not buy – not at least from a book fair. 

Near the exit gate, there was a fast-food stall selling egg rolls. I gobbled up a spicy double egg roll really fast, to beat hunger pangs. I quenched my thirst with a bottle of chocolate flavoured drink. Instead of feeding the insatiable hunger for books and quenching the thirst for reading books. I left out books from the list of purchases at the book fair I visited and felt closer to large crowds of people who visited the book fair to buy everything except books.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

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Musings of a Copywriter

Life without a pet

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

Pet owners consider themselves blessed and share enriching stories. It sounds like the credit goes to the pet for awakening the fine human that had been dormant, in hiding, till the advent of the creature. Those who live without a pet are not supposed to be caring. To be recognised as sensitive, they should be seen petting a dog or a cat, making a pout, or blowing kisses for a feline or a canine. Even if they are highly insensitive towards fellow human beings, the presence of a pet in life helps build the image of being gentle and compassionate. A boss returns home after sacking a dozen employees and cuddles his pet Labrador – to assure himself that he still retains the softer side.

Many pet owners feel offended if their pet is called a dog. They want pets to be accorded respect. It appears it has become a mission in life to ensure respect for pets. Most of the dogs have fancy foreign names difficult to pronounce. I have not managed to be as generous as the householder who yells at the domestic help, and his pet amplifies his scolding with a high-pitched bark.

Pet owners spend liberally on their upkeep. The pet is served branded food purchased from a supermarket for balanced nutrition. The allocated budget for the pet is much higher than the monthly spending on the domestic help who gets non-branded food to eat.

Frankly speaking, I have never been fond of pets. Preparing chicken or mutton is ruled out in my vegetarian household. It would be an additional responsibility to take the pet out for a fleshy treat during the weekends. And if the pet turned vegetarian because of lack of choice, it would grow weak and lose the aggressive approach while fobbing off salespersons, beggars, and monkeys.

A dog would never feel inclined to bark inside my house as it would be listening to meditative music all the time. Since I prefer spiritual shows on television, the dog would also develop spiritual leanings to prepare for a better next life. The lack of wholesome entertainment in the house would make the pet feel bored, forcing the poor fellow to hang around the entrance gate to seek friendship with stray dogs roaming on the street.

The pet would also be upset if I did not take it out for a leisurely stroll in the park, to ogle at beauties and seek their caresses with a cute wink. I cannot indulge in such flirtatious acts and get away with it without getting lynched in the era of instant justice. The freedom the pet enjoys with girls and women is what I envy the most. Holding a leash and keeping pace with the agile dog would be another cardio exercise for me. It would be plain silly to be its guardian and silently suffer while the pet relished the attention of lissome women around and left me with the job of collecting all those flying kisses on its behalf.

Pets are supposed to protect householders from burglars. When it comes to performing after dark, many pets fail to live up to the expectations. A neighbour’s burly dog fell asleep after consuming drugged cookies offered by burglars who decamped with cash and ornaments. Dozing off on a critical night when burglars break in and barking at the moon the whole night for almost the entire year is simply a case of dismal performance that calls for dismissal.

I have no idea how to keep dogs happy and satisfied. Cuddling them, pampering them, or chatting with them to vent frustration is not my cup of tea. I count myself as incompetent to understand the feelings of others. For such a person, understanding the psychology of dogs is tougher than clearing a competitive test. Any pet of any lineage would like to get rid of me within a few months of living together. It is downright selfish to torture the poor soul only to improve my sensitivity quotient.

I have never believed in competition, but the presence of a pet would make me reverse that. The dog trainer would like the pet to participate in various games and tournaments, to win medals and trophies, to outsmart the owner who managed to win nothing big in his career.

A pet in my bed is something I dread. I do not want that casual pawing, no scratches on the back to make the partner think there is another woman in my life. It depends on the temperament and mood of the pet, whether I am spared or mauled. Serious damage followed by an apology from the pet would be useless. Hence, all that is precious should be held away from the reach of the dog. If the pet suffers any accidental injury at home, animal welfare associations are likely to pounce on me. I need to safeguard my interest as the pet would play the victim card. The best way out is to keep it out of my life.

I am accused of showing my wicked side instead of the sensitive side to animals when I chase away stray dogs and cats instead of indulging them with leftovers. Once encouraged, they become regular visitors and it is transactional. I give something and they follow me in the hope of further benevolence. When I do not feed them anything, they are least bothered to visit me or find out how I am doing.

Nowadays, stray dogs bark at me in the lane before looking away morosely. Recently, a dog tried to grab my fleshy leg for a quick bite but I managed to escape unhurt. After this episode, they look miffed as I chase them away with a stick. They climb the boundary wall to protest and bark, drawing the attention of other human beings in the neighbourhood. But the stray brethren of the locality know I am a peace-loving person who loves to co-exist. They have every right to live and enjoy life just like me. I am in full support of saving them from high decibels and firecrackers. I want a dignified life for them with no ill-treatment at all. So they should appreciate my sentiments and reciprocate by staying out of my way instead of bumping into me. I have no intent to derive pleasure or happiness from any animal source whatsoever.

I am not comfortable with the idea of a dog sitting next to me or on my lap while I am eating food or reading. I do not want the pet to scratch my CD collection if lunch gets late or tear my manuscript pages for brunch. Many writers and poets get stirred when a cat or a dog sits in front of them on the window-sill, busy with a pack of biscuits or a bowl of milk. I am not one of those creative types and the emotional enrichment theory is not applicable in my case. I avoid trips to the doctor for myself and I am not keen to visit the vet with the pet for vaccination schedules from time to time.

I do not want to drive the car with a dog in the backseat. I do not want the people travelling in an e-rickshaw or public bus to feel inferior when the dog peeps out of the car window. The person feels this dog has a better fortune and prays for such a privileged life. I would save that space and drop some passengers to their destinations in the car.

There are deaths in the families all the time and grief management is a big issue. The death of a pet in the family adds to this burden as the pet owner has to cope with another tragedy. I wish to avoid such negative setbacks and block the avoidable sources of grief.

A friend once told me I would have been a better writer if I had been a pet lover. I agreed with that because most good writers are pet lovers. If this piece fails to grab your attention, consider it the outcome of not living with a pet.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

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Musings of a Copywriter

The New Year’s Boon

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

After several waves of the pandemic, the merciful Lord showers good news on the Eve of New Year. It is certainly not going to be a ‘knew’ year because in this year we are going to learn things we never knew, some cosmic droppings that take us through pleasant surprises to restore the dwindling faith of mankind in the Creator of the Universe. He proposes to roll out a slew of packages without appearing on any television channel during prime time. The boom of boons for humanity – to live the truth of fantasies.

Our efforts to create a better world have not found meaty success as we are still engrossed in this model or that model, trying hard to adjust accordingly and find an ideal one fit for prescription the world over. No unanimous choice has emerged over the centuries of experimentation but God has been at the receiving end for creating an unequal world, often blamed for creating various categories in the world like first and third. 

While the doomsday club says the end is drawing near and the world is likely to get decimated, with several cities going underwater to create new mythologies and epics, there is big, breaking news coming in: God has decided to give another chance to live by introducing radical changes in the cycle of life and death.

The best phase of life is childhood and poets and writers have celebrated this stage. The seven stages of mankind remain so but the time allotted to each stands revised. The biggest bonanza comes in the form of extension of age. From now on, human beings will live up to 200 years. The doubling of life span is a huge joy for all. Instead of the usual one hundred years of solitude for us, we get another one hundred years of bonhomie and celebration.   

To explain it in detail, God has increased the childhood span of the newborn. Henceforth, every child gets blooming childhood years up to 25 years before turning teenager and then adulthood wades in at the young, callow age of 50. For one hundred years he remains young and virile to enjoy the worldly, sensual pleasures, to multiply without restrictions. The painful period of old age and decay gets shortened. Old age kicks in after 150 years of his existence in this beautiful, big world with continents and countries where most people die in discontent, without seeing even half of their own country. With more time at their disposal, they get to travel a lot and stay young and healthy to carry on with their duties in a relaxed manner. 

Such a long phase of youth ensures no hurry, no stress, and no tension. Carry on at your lumbering pace and enjoy life the way you like without submitting to any pressure. Lovers have more time to stroll in the landscaped gardens and there is no time-bound compulsion of career building, of getting hitched and having kids soon after. As people remain virile for longer and enjoy love and romance for hundred years in a full bloom stage, it is the best gift for people who often crib they cannot enjoy love and romance for long. Platonic love life give way to real, sensual relationships and people will have a gala time to enjoy sans limits. 

God also does not like people turning unhealthy too soon, becoming prone to diseases, and losing the will to live early in life so He has been compelled to bring in structural changes in the biological patterns. With new slabs for various stages of life, a frenzy of excitement, a frisson of delight in mankind is quite expected. 

As a bonus, God has also approved a minimum life span for all. Which means nobody is going to die before attaining that particular age. Since man has created too many resources on his own beyond God’s calculation and imagination, the Lord feels Man should be able to feed more population for longer periods, without starvation deaths, or drought-like situations. Earlier, the Lord kept it deliberately low because he preferred recycling all around, to keep the planet balanced and healthy. Since man has adopted recycling and renewal and has researched a lot to advance age miracle creams and lotions, God has been benevolent to grant a new lease of life to all without discrimination, to outsmart human moves. ‘Live long’ ceases to be a blessing now.

The world battling the current crises is going to get a panacea. The greed factor prevails because there is so much to do and so little time. Henceforth, man can afford to slow down and enjoy the fruits of labour instead of being obsessed and disturbed. He will be able to experience bliss, finally. With the slowing down of everything that is speed-driven, with man realising he is going to be here for long, there is no tearing hurry to tear this world apart for selfish gains.

Thankfully, death will also not remain unpredictable as the time of its arrival in the life of a person happens only after a fixed number of years. Imagine nobody in the family dying before the age of 150 and they can all love each other and not feel hurt. The wheels of life will not get derailed. Families will not suffer due to the premature demise of the head of the family. Removing uncertainty from life about death is surely a precious gift. Parents will not be in a hurry to complete their duties towards their children in the fear of leaving this world with an incomplete schedule.

God will not make a grand announcement, but he will begin its global implementation in all communities to prove that God is one everywhere. The same Creator controls this universe and we should see this miracle and spectacle at the same time to realise that God is one in all religions and gifts the same benefits without discrimination. As the world seems to be prepared for some drastic changes on the horizon, the Lord thinks this is just the right time to deliver a relief package.

2022 is indeed a phenomenal year that is going to change human lives in a big way. People will return to enjoying life in its organic form and remain close to nature, as their materialistic instincts get tamed. The creative folks will produce more literature, music, and the arts will prosper. Science will be used for benefit alone and the nations will become non-competitive. Traditional farming stages a comeback and people lead simpler lives. After centuries of evolution, the human body gets the secret of staying fit for longer. This global change happens to all living human beings and the world synchronizes to this new reality. The mad rush to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries will also stop as people know they are here for sure. The uncertainty factor getting edged out of human lives marks the beginning of a new era. 

It is going to be so thrilling to see nonagenarian men and women with spotless beauty and youthfulness, beaming smiles, and wearing no dentures at all. While this will destroy cosmetic brands and tonic brands, the positive takeaway will be much greater. Of course, humans will have a new set of challenges. They thrive and survive on challenges but not the same set of challenges for centuries, with the same compulsions. As the New Year rings in something new, this will mean a lot new in human lives. So let us all engage to make ourselves comfortable with the new normal that comes as a blessing from God and no other source. For once, even atheists will have to thank the Lord and admit He is indeed the Master of the Universe, who can shape, reshape, renew and extend everything for human beings and discount the need for resolutions, for stopping the race against time, for reversing the wheels of time. 

While I am still in the dreamy state that gives a lot to feel good about the New Year during the wee hours, the alarm clock beeps. If the content of this dream gets realised, all of us who have ended the childhood phase will live with partial regret but the fact that the virile phase gets an extension means we can have an amazing phase of love and romance for more decades to come and also look forward to a curtailed retirement phase, with no hurry to turn senior citizens seeking higher interest credits every quarter and submitting life certificate for pension plans. This deferral means a big relief to those who do not belong to the millennial generation. For God too, it is a huge relief because the unmanageable crowds of materialistic-minded folks frequenting religious places to seek undue favours will stop, and only the genuine devotees who love God will visit Him.

Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

Statue Without Stature

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

 

The mere thought of having my statue installed in the locality raised excitement to an unprecedented level. Having seen so many historical giants standing tall in the thoroughfares across the city, with sticks or swords, mounted on horseback or covered with a concrete canopy shaped like an umbrella to stay protected from bird droppings, rain, and sunburn, I have also been inspired to strike a similar pose and occupy a prime position. But the problem is that I do not have anything called achievement to deserve such veneration from people or institutions. 

I am ready to purchase the commercial space and get the statue erected by a dubious local developer who would not probe why an ordinary mortal without any contribution to mankind should occupy that space. Since it is a private initiative and the expenses are borne by an individual, I am glad I am not wasting money from the public exchequer. My royalty and copywriting earnings should fund this venture. 

My brief to the artist was simple and direct. I should look like a man who is determined not to create a legacy. When he suggested I should at least hold a pen since I was a writer and look pensive, I opposed him saying I was a non-serious, humorous, frivolous, and small-time writer. Since the statue is not towering, a tiny accessory will not look good. Besides, I cannot flaunt a giant pen visible from far since mine is not mightier than the sword. I confessed I have not written anything award-worthy to deserve honours or a phone call from Sahitya Akademi or the Swedish Academy.  

 If my identity as a small-time writer is disclosed, achieving demi-god status in the league of small-time writers would be assured. Many aspirants would throng the spot to seek my blessings, to pay obeisance. Adding some inputs about the long, relentless struggle would inspire those who face rejections for years and decades. Offering their bound manuscript to me for blessings would comfort them before submitting it to literary agents and publishers. So go ahead and inspire them with a few lines on the granite marble slab mentioning how 50 rejections later, my first book was finally published. 

I shared the plan with a property dealer who said the price of land in my area had gone up. He suggested there were cheaper localities on the outskirts of the town where he could get me a bigger chunk of land for half the price. I argued nobody knows me there and he said nobody knows me here either. Well, he gave the right description of a non-descript writer. I abandoned the idea of erecting my statue near my home and conducted a recce to check the peripheral areas instead.   

I went with the real estate agent and selected a spot near the fish market. He introduced me to the seller who was safeguarding his land by building makeshift temples – in case a road widening or highway linking project got sanctioned in the future he would get a lucrative deal before eviction. I booked one hundred square feet area and asked the dealer to cordon that off with bricks and foliage, and erect a signboard in my name to ward off trespassers and generate buzz regarding my name.  

The construction process began immediately and the foundation was laid in a month. My grey bust was ready and the black granite slab encapsulated my story through an inscription. Not only the date of birth but the date of my death was also mentioned as it would increase the amount of respect. There was no formal inauguration ceremony since I prefer a low profile. However, some marigold garlands were put on the bust and rose petals made a carpet near the statue.

I began to visit the place every day – to gauge public response and observe their reactions. Curious people flocked and stopped for a while – to bust the secret behind the erection of the statue. I was dressed in traditional, formal clothes, with a mask and goggles to evade identification. Even when I moved around freely, nobody guessed it was my bust. Most of the people felt this was another revolutionary leader. Some felt the bust represented a sidelined social reformer or a low-key educator from the tribal areas. When they read the content in English, they could not recall what I had written. Some wondered where my books were sold: online platforms or brick and mortar bookstores. Some tech-savvy geeks tried to Google my name and the searches threw some odd pages. They found a photograph online and held it close to the statue to detect similarities. Soon, the bust image was shared by many visitors. It went viral within hours. 

The local bookseller reported there was a flurry of queries regarding my books but he could not get a single copy from the distributor since it was out of stock and out of print. He said many readers expressed sadness that I had left behind a treasure of books waiting to be discovered by the next generation. Some reporters from the regional press came to cover it and soon the local TV channel beamed the story of the statue. 

I reached many households including those in my locality. My neighbours approached me and said my statue was installed in a far-flung area. They found it offensive as I was mentioned dead though I was still alive. They suggested I should report this matter to the police and the miscreants should be caught. I said I did not want to get embroiled in any conflict or controversy but they promised to do it on my behalf.  Who can stop pesky neighbours from poking their ugly noses?!

They formed an independent committee to look into the matter. They went to the area to seek further details of the sponsors. When they could not achieve any breakthrough, they came back disappointed but promised to get justice. I said the matter was not worth pursuing as it was just a statue and it should remain there since I am surely going to die one day. It was good that the statue had been raised during my lifetime, to offer me a wonderful opportunity to admire the artwork while I was still around. In fact, I should go and click a selfie to bask in the glory and thank those who took the initiative.     

When I went there the next day, I found the spot vandalised, with my broken statue lying in pieces. I returned with the shattered bust in a shopping bag. I tried to fix it with an adhesive, to be kept as a memento, on the rooftop of my house. Not a bad idea to fill it with mud and plant a sapling, and see it grow. The attempt to immortalise myself in this small town had gone bust. But the remnants of the statue should remind me of the futile exercise to carve a niche in this world instead of winning hearts.   

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

Crematoriums for the Rich

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

Courtesy: Creative Commons

It is useless to make an effort to remind a dead person that there is actually no travelling class on the last journey. One who has always maintained class, travelled first class, and classified himself as an ultra-rich person should not lie next to a beggar waiting for his turn to be cremated. Driven by the noble thought to enable his departure from a premium crematorium, I have started preparing a feasibility report before approaching a venture capitalist to fund what looks at the moment like an ambitious adventure of sorts.  

It is such a pitiable sight to witness a rich family jostle in the crowd of mourners from poor families. Those working-class people who may not have broken class barriers in life but in death they seem to have triumphed in establishing the non-discriminatory approach by juxtaposing the rich dead with the poor dead. When the sizeable, privileged class has the resources to afford something ostentatious, a visionary entrepreneur like me should grab the opportunity to create a viable business model that converts funerals into a lavish and luxurious affair.

Just like resorts built in the outskirts of the city, a vast open space would need to be identified and grabbed cheap from farmers to construct an upscale crematorium. There would be a parking lot for buses on hire arriving with mourners, hearse vans, and personal cars. Gun-toting security guards manning the parking zone, with hourly parking rates would be applicable. Once the family of mourners approaches the entrance, they will have three types of schemes – Gold, Diamond and Silver. Depending on their budget and choice, they can pick what suits them best. There will be a discount offer during the festive season. You would be able to consider yourself fortunate if someone in the family expires during the festival time around Diwali or Dussehra. Besides, there would be an EMI (Enterprise Management Incentive) scheme included to bring in the aspirational upper middle class keen to emulate the rich. Yes, the salaried folks should also get to enjoy the enriching experience. When they travel the world using credit cards, they should get the exclusive facility during the last journey.

At the moment, I am thinking of hiring the advertising agency I work with – to look after the branding exercise and build a nice teaser campaign.  I have some ideas to share but I know they will get killed for being too creative. So, I would prefer to let the creative head take charge and make this campaign go viral.

Once the family has booked the option of lighting a pyre or the electric option, they get a card to flash at the entrance. They are led in by a team of young girls and boys in flowing white dress. There are provisions for four funerals at the same time inside this facility. The dead body is taken in by the authorised staff and the family has nothing to do in this regard – notice the element of comfort and convenience packed in. They are led into a room with LED lights, with soft devotional music in the background. As they would  have already specified the religion at the time of booking, they would find devotional music related to their religion. For example, a Sikh would get get Shabad Kirtan related to death. Some sombre instrumental music will play in the background.

The Diamond scheme would be pegged at three lakh rupees, the Gold scheme would be worth two lakh rupees, and the Silver scheme would be up for grabs for just one lakh rupees. The facilities will vary depending on the selected scheme. There will be a theatre that shows how the soul travels after death. There will be some celebrity Gurus offering live discourses and a case-specific analysis of the soul reaching God. The audio-visual experience from the voice of a priest will be calming and comforting for the bereaved family at the hour of grief. There will be a dining room for lunch and dinner facility and the menu truly five-star but purely vegetarian. Leading chefs will prepare favourite dishes and the families with trains of mourners can avail of the meal served in silver utensils. 

Once the cremation starts, the address system will inform the family to get inside and witness the cremation process beamed live. There is a provision to hire Rudaalis (professional mourners) if the family so desires. There will be arrangements to serve tea, coffee, cold drinks and other refreshments like burgers, pastries while they wait and watch the cremation. There will be steam and sauna rooms, massage sections and salons to get back in shape refreshed after several hours inside. There will be counselling sessions for the nearest of the dead, to manage their grief. Such healing sessions are important so that they can carry on living without feeling sad all the time. The Grief Minimization Therapy should make them go back and feel lively and energetic within hours. Trained international experts with specialisation in death-related sorrow will be hired to administer this line of treatment.

Once the cremation is complete, the family will be taken to the ‘Immersion’ section where they will be handed over the urn with ashes. There will be a lake behind. The family will have the option of immersing it there or taking a chopper ride to hover over  the nearest river to sprinkle the ashes and flower petals from above. After the ritual is over, the family will  return to the crematorium to join the rest of the mourners. There will be some gift bags for all containing prayer books, CDS on spirituality, a personalised CD on the entire burning process, handkerchiefs, photo-frames, prayer mats, incense sticks, and other religion-related paraphernalia apart from the photographs of the dead body and the mourners.  More details will have to be fleshed out to make it attractive.

The personalised experience for the grief-stricken family is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) here and adding luxurious dignity to the dead makes it more desirable. The class he belonged to is the class he will travel in when he leaves the world. This should generate the big idea for the success of this innovative venture. To leverage its strength, we can begin a chain of luxury crematoriums in the metro cities first and then proceed to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities depending on the response generated. Presently, we need to think of a suitable name – not Yatra (journey), Safar (trip), Manzil (tier) types – for this start-up and make a shortlist of potential investors to approach for its funding.  Given the huge number of cremations every year, within three years it should recover the investment and bring in tons of profit.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

Surviving to tell a Pony-tale

Devraj Singh Kalsi writes of a hilly (or hilarious?) ride

Photo Courtesy: Devraj Singh Kalsi

I began to think about insurance after riding a pony on my way to a hill station some years ago. Those scary minutes worked better than the life insurance commercials that generate fear of untimely death and disaster.

 As the pony gathered speed while moving along the edge, the danger of tripping and falling into the gorge became palpable. But the man holding its rein assured me that it was highly experienced in such climbs and never made any mistake if the person seated atop did not spoil its mood. I displayed no such intention and maintained dignified behaviour to deserve a safe transit. The pony owner assured me that his pony enjoyed every bit of the muddy ride after the early morning downpour. He advised me not to touch its shampooed mane or any other sensitive part of its body because a tickling sensation could make the poor chap misinterpret and take a wrong step that would spell the untimely end of the rider. When it came to a close shave, I closed my eyes and thought of hugging it like a nervous child embraces the mother. The words of the pony owner rang alarm bells. Throughout the steep climb to reach the snow-capped heights of Kufri, I was firmly in the saddle, but I felt like a coalition government that could be toppled anytime by the withdrawal of support.

All kinds of thoughts entered my mind. I thought the poor animal suffered from suicidal tendencies after demonetisation but, then, it became clear that freedom meant everything to the pony who was finding its path in the treacherous terrain. It was safe not to imagine myself as one of those pillaging dacoits shown in mainstream Hindi films or fancy myself as a gallant king on horseback, galloping forth to counter the cabal of invaders, marauders, and plunderers.

The panoramic scenes of the valley did not grab my attention to click a single photograph as the pony seized all my attention with its stroll conducted in the zigzag style of a drunkard. From the unfenced edges, the pine trees and dense forest cover looked intimidating. One slip and gone forever, making this my last journey on planet earth. I felt so close to death that I regretted leaving behind my incomplete novel, realising the colossal waste of time very late. I fervently prayed for the pony to stop flirting with danger.   

I sought from the pony owner an estimate of the time left to reach the destination. But he was clueless. All he said was the pony appeared to be faster than on other days. I wondered how the pony got to know I loved fast cars and speed. I had paid an exorbitant fee without the faintest idea of the terror-stricken expedition to rejuvenate my senses. It was now a test of nerves and faith in the Divine. To ensure I did not do anything stupid to disturb its gay abandon. I did not even swat a fly near my nose nor scratch my itching neck. The pony’s upward climb continued at an accelerated pace. When in a contemplative frame of mind, it slowed down to collect the string of thoughts. The pony owner smacked his long, slim stick on the shiny brown wobbly posterior when the pony came to a grinding halt without any compulsion of obeying the traffic rules.

The pony owner boasted of the clean track record of zero casualties and no injuries either. He said the pony performed twenty trips in a single day and had been doing this stressful job without any break for four years. After going through the impressive CV ( curriculum vitae) of the pony, I felt it was fit for corporate life. He explained that the pony was comfortable with snow rather than sludge. The sudden rainfall had made the entire path muddy. It was difficult for the pony to maintain a steady gait. We engaged in a freewheeling chat about animal behaviour, how they lose cool, get provoked, collide against tree trunks, or kick them in the frustration of leading a celibate life. This diversion calmed my frayed nerves. He claimed to have the best pony in town and, though it was impossible to corroborate that, it was a relief to be safe in trained hands or legs.

While peace was returning to life, a charged pony from the opposite direction with a portly lady came running down at top speed. The angry pony was ready to collide against anything that came in its way, and the lady on its back looked prepared to be tossed in the air, with her sari pallu flying high to reveal her hefty bosom. For a moment, I felt she was going to land up in my lap as a beautiful gift from the skies above, but then it was a narrow escape as her pony applied brakes when it gradually came to senses after facing a human chain of tourist guides blocking its way. The worst appeared to be behind us now, but my pony stood and watched the thrilling show. The pony owner pulled it ahead, but it refused to budge an inch. Maybe it was keen to have a word with the other pony. Their communication was beyond my comprehension, but the pony kept looking in that direction while making a strange sound that was Greek to its owner. Probably it had no meaning of the kind I was imagining, and the poor fellow stood there to breathe easy before resuming the long walk. 

 While I was forbidden not to touch any part of the animal, the pony owner petted it and set it in motion. God knows what was so sensuous or seductive in the constant rubbing of the belly that the pony began to accelerate, and this last stretch was anything but sober. I lowered myself and almost buried my head in its back, resigned to fate, waiting for this exercise to end.  

Respite came within a short while. Once at the peak, I did not revel in the natural vistas of beauty. Rather, celebrating the fact that I was up and alive was more fulfilling. I dismounted with the pony owner’s mild assistance and felt like thanking him for the safe journey that the railways do not provide. I felt the pony deserved a round of applause and a grand salute.

The pony, parked in a corner, was given a plate of grams to munch as a healthy snack. It was busy keeping a close watch on me when its owner was sipping tea at a food stall. I looked the other way, at the orchards with melting snow. I took pictures of the mountain range and shot a portfolio of the photogenic pony from a distance – to go back and share with the world the harrowing experience of the pony ride.

It appeared the pony was in an apologetic mood and, during the return journey, it would take parental care of the rider. But the descent contravened my expectations as the pony rushed along at great speed. This time the pony owner also lost control, and the reckless pony hurtled down the slippery path. My only fear was whether it would take me on a blind date somewhere in those verdant valleys and gorges. Finally, I must thank the pony for exercising restraint and giving up the fascination for the thrills of walking along the edge. The fact that I am alive to tell this pony tale is nothing less than a miraculous escape. When the pony owner finally caught up with us, he apologised and patted the pony for taking good care of me. Perhaps good care meant depositing me safely at the ground level from  the heights where I had started this journey.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

When I almost became a Professor

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

It is scary to witness a cabal of professors locked up in the staff room by agitating students who want to harass, heckle, punish, manhandle, slap their chubby cheeks, dislodge the spectacles, and look menacingly and maniacally powerful jabbing a middle finger. Holed up in a stuffy room under a slowly whirring ceiling fan, professors keep praying for the quick intervention of the Vice-Chancellor and his meek acceptance of the charter of demands so that the irate students release them from captivity.

Getting roughed up by students with a political agenda or by those with personal grudges is a nightmarish experience for any professor. But it is a professional hazard that most professors are now aware of and prepared to face during their teaching days. Such bitter experiences are included in the annual package. As a precautionary move, they empty their bladders every two hours because ‘being gheraoed’ includes not getting permission from students to answer nature’s call. They keep instant energy drink tetra packs in their bags for emergency use in case of dehydration and some toffees in the handbags in case of sugar level dip. You never know when students decide to strike!      

Though we never had the opportunity to hold our professors hostage during our university days, there were reports of similar incidents happening elsewhere. Imagine the plight of professors who were castigated for no fault of theirs. The impact of such scenes was long-lasting on me. I realised this when I began to explore the option of becoming a professor. The fear of getting slapped and caught in crossfire made me rethink the pursuit of academics as a career after completing my journalism course – the horror of being dragged through the corridors, down the stairs, and punched by promising students.

My record was clean: did not rough up any academician in my life so the question of Karma catching up with me was not applicable. But if you are destined to get abused by students, it will happen even if you choose not to become an educator. During an early phase of my career, I did mentor some students to improve their language and test my communication skills. The horrendous experience made me realise teaching is indeed a dangerous territory. Some strong abusive words were hurled at me like crude bombs and it included vile threats of a bloody encounter in the local area. With guns and other weapons being so easily available in the market just like toys, it is better to take such threats seriously. My hyper-imaginative mind began to visualise getting lynched by vandals brandishing sticks and knives. I avoided venturing out after dark for almost a year.  

It would have been so shameful to return to the classroom and address the same crowd of students that dispatched the poor academician (me) to the hospital. While it is true that the entire student community was involved in the fracas, some nastier ones would vitiate the atmosphere. Earlier, films depicted how professors were ill-treated. But the real world surpasses the fictional world. The mauled professors are rushed to the hospital and their families are busy praying for their speedy recovery.

When most of the students began to prepare for eligibility tests to qualify as lecturers, I sensed I had no proper knowledge in any subject. It was important to have a proper grounding or specialisation in a particular subject before teaching that subject. My knowledge always seemed insufficient to teach a classroom. It was also like a case of stage fright, facing a crowd of students who could raise a question, compelling me to consult the book for an answer. Imagining myself in such a predicament made me feel jittery. I could not convince myself to face the crowd with my half-baked knowledge though many others were confident of doing the same with a poorer knowledge base.

All they wanted was a safe job, with zero passion for the subject and they went ahead to build a career in academics. Most of them did not have a scholarly mindset but they were hard-working to scale up and make the cut because it was a question of qualifying in an entrance test and they had to scrape through.    

The scope of remaining in the company of young babes and the possibility of appealing to them would be a bonus reward. After seeing films based on students falling in love with professors, it was going to be good. Imagine a besotted girl madly in love with the professor coming up with gifts, just to have a chat. If she happened to be beautiful, then males would be stabbed with jealousy. The tendency to imagine extremes egged me to think of attacks with weapons inside the campus. With newspaper headlines screaming the next morning: professor stabbed, jealous student lover accused. 

This rise to fame was notorious so I dropped the idea of becoming a professor with the motive of falling in love with a girl student. Possibly, the madly-in-love girl slapped charges or went to town pressing me-too charges against me. A risky proposition was cancelled but it was tough to resist this because the perks of being a professor include falling in love with a student. On the downside, I imagined an obsessed student jumping off the parapet unable to bear rejection in love. All sorts of possibilities and fatal outcomes of being a professor came to the forefront, a whirlpool that dissolved everything related to academics.   

Another incentive to explore this career was the prospect of holidays that would give them the freedom to write and find readers in the classroom. With a secured job and limited working hours, there was ample time to read and write and find publishers who went ahead because professors command a big circle of student readers who buy the books driven by the fear of scoring poor marks. Imagine a professor asking a student whether he has read his new novel, and he promises to read it as soon as possible. This makes it easier to sell more books even if there is a conflict of interest. Besides, other professors and writers also write kind stuff in their reviews – in the fond hope of a similarly favourable review when they publish their titles.   

Unfortunately, the desire to become a professor waned as creative work in the field of advertising became more exciting. When the pressure of corporate writing left me with less time to write for myself, then I realised I should have become a professor to get a whale of a time to write instead of working under the pressure of deadlines. Now well past the age of being a professor even in an unapproved college, it is better not to think of it.

The joy of being a writer who has not pursued a full-time job is boundless. The madness of writing under stress and anxiety creates better writing and this would not be possible when you wrote in a calm state of mind. This is one merit of not becoming a professor – of writing with a free mind, without the burden of erudition that damages the free, natural flow.

Whenever a professor reads or comments on a piece of mine, I become a devoted student ready to be mentored because writing without a literature background makes you susceptible to frequent attacks so it is better to surrender and admit your ignorance in front of literature professors who will grab the chance to correct you or bombard you with heavy literary quotes. Instead of becoming a silly fool with limited knowledge and nodding yes-yes after every sentence, it is better to stake no claims of scholarship and call it a hobby, to dabble in writing without knowing what writing is all about. The forever-learner tag is easier to wear when you remain a student for life.  

                                                           

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

2147 without Borders

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

Almost five years ago, I wrote a short story about India-Pakistan ties. Since then, I wanted to expand it to a full-length novel set in the future – as far as 2147. With two hundred years being sufficient time to regret the misdeeds, to provide the required distance to view things dispassionately.   

Since future gives the freedom to create a destiny of one’s choice, without offending the sentiments of those living in the present times, I chose a different timeline away from the reach of divisive politics, hoping that the readers belonging to the unborn generations will be blessed with the maturity to realise the blunders of the past and support the amicable rectification of what went wrong, without resorting to any blame-game, without repeating the horrors of the Partition.

The strain of thought came from an oral narrative I heard from my mother years ago. My maternal grandfather, an employee with the railways, quit his job and sought refuge in music after the Partition, devoting his remaining years to the playing of musical instruments and singing of devotional songs, to calm his mind, to forget the scenes of bloodshed he had witnessed all around. It was easy to visualise its dreadful impact even on those who did not suffer physical injuries or lose their loved ones.  

Two lovers from ruling political dynasties on both sides of the border begin their campus romance at a foreign university located in a country that split their homeland centuries ago. Two leading characters who pledge to rewrite history and make their love win hearts of the nations at loggerheads. In the creative process, I drew strength from the fact that a hateful phase of five years led to the division of the two countries so it was possible to reverse that with a similar period of sublime love. A brief outline of their intense love story mapped their marital union and the reunification of the two countries happening on the same day. A grand climax heralding a new dawn – a new tryst with destiny.

Instead of divulging the plot, I let readers imagine the trajectory of events. The changes they undergo to bring about the change of heart, the hardships their love story has to face. After 200 years of separation, hatred and bitterness lose the game. The vicious cycle ends. Love triumphs. Honestly speaking, the imaginary world is no less difficult to construct.

Shaping the real world is a humongous task. The military establishment poses hurdles and the powerful nations with vested interests oppose the coming together. There are conspiracies, assassination bids, and foul attempts to stoke communal fires. But this time, the masses are wiser and the political classes cannot divide and rule. The young lovers persuade their belligerent families to make it a bilateral issue and seek public opinion through voting on this issue in their respective countries, with an overwhelming majority on both sides voting in favour of a borderless world, allowing free movement of people and the restoration of full democratic rights without any discrimination. Mutual love and respect bring lovers together and their grand union is celebrated across the borders with pomp and festivity. The spontaneous outburst of emotions sets a global example of how love can conquer hearts of millions, making it appear as if bitterness and enmity never existed. 

Sharing the rubric with some friends who also dream of a new world without borders elicited positive response, a go-ahead to spend years in isolation writing this magnum opus. The support from people indicates this should happen but they do not know how this is going to happen. The idea of love and lovers doing it sounds impossible and they find it pretty immature to expect so much from love. Well, they have seen the power of hatred and violence in wars but the power of love has not been tested on such a big scale. They think big changes happen through bloodshed and not because of love.

I cannot convincingly explain in detail that the people after another century will have to nothing worse to imagine, no solution to expect from war and bloodshed. With such a bloody past behind, they will be aware that it cannot get any worse. They will be fully prepared to reject all forms of hatred. The living folks still have reserves of bitterness and hatred lying in the core. The next hundred years will deplete it further, leaving faint traces. It will be learning through self-realisation that the present generation does not have. It is the reason why they cannot imagine a different world. The future generations – who record more suffering than us over the century – will be dead against enmity and war. They will be naturally inclined to give love and a peace a chance to restore sanity.  

If I write this today, the educated classes will love it. But the masses are perhaps going to find it funny. Writing a book with unborn readers in mind – a target audience that does not exist today – is a risky proposition. Agreed, it is a concept driven work that imagines an ideal world where the old order gets restored. If people do not like to read it, make an offbeat film on this subject. Viewers will find the sheer impossibility very exciting. Raising this issue and bringing it in the public domain is a good beginning. People will think of it from a fresh angle. Lovers from both sides of Punjab will be enamoured and they will crave for its realisation during their lifetime. The power blocks on both sides of the border will also think of lovers ending their hatred.  

Some friends have read the opening chapter and they all suggest I should advance the date. Make it 2047 instead of 2147. I said this is an embryonic idea and it is impossible even for a writer to imagine a drastic change so quickly. A distant era makes me more comfortable to visualise cycling all the way from Amritsar to Lahore.   

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Musings of a Copywriter

Managing Bookshelves

By Devraj Singh Kalsi

I have a habit of deep cleaning bookshelves. I mean I take all the books out of their cages and pile them up on the floor. I shuffle their pages pretty fast, to let them get a quick whiff of fresh air. The feather duster – used for the car – goes gently over the book covers.

I decided to alter their positions last time for more pleasure, but I did not have any memory of what had been positioned in the front. So, I picked up the ones with attractive covers and kept them behind, thinking that the attractive ones must have hogged the limelight.

Having finished the dusting, I threw in some naphthalene balls to keep silverfish and other bookworms away. Almost the entire packet was emptied, with the hope of zero damage to the precious books in my collection including the smutty reads. When the books were finally placed on the shelves, the new arrangement did not appeal aesthetically. The colour combination of the covers looked odd or the font did not go well.

The authors who do not gel in real life are certainly going to find it impossible to live harmoniously in that restricted space. I changed it again just like that, without any sense of discrimination. The random new look appeared better than the previous one, so I chose to let it prevail until I was faced with a negative feedback from an objective source. I decide to click pictures of the revamped bookshelf and post it on my social media handles as a display or profile photo. Agreed, this was not the ideal way to publicize the makeover for a bookshelf. With fake likes and comments pouring in, I concluded I was not going to be miserably bad in my choices.   

I was suddenly hit by the novel idea of keeping half the bookshelf empty. Did that make the space look better? A crammed bookshelf is scary, gives the feeling of excess of reading stuff, suffocating to the core. I thought I was getting it right. A neighbour who noticed every single minute change was sure to be quick to appreciate by commenting that my bookshelf looked spacious, unlike the messy clutter it had been in the past. Excess of everything is bad, right?

By removing half the load, the bookshelf looked clean and attractive. But it added to my woes. I had to find a place for the other half lying scattered in the open. I had to separate the ones that I had read and did not want to keep, isolate them, sell them or donate them to any local library. It made me think of getting another bookshelf for another room. I began to look for a suitable corner for a new piece of furniture. Would the new bookshelf clutter the room?  

I chose to get a small one, to control my impulsive book-buying habit. Before placing an order, I would have to think about where to keep them. I tried to change my mindset but whenever those attractive book deals would appear, it was impossible to stay away from ordering the new stuff. I thought of using a kindle to read books I do not feel like collecting. This was certain to reduce the incoming load. But when the paperback was almost priced the same as the kindle version, I couldnot resist the temptation of having the physical book in my possession.

I decided to start ordering slim books and stick to genres I like to read. But this was not an effective solution to my persistent problem. My favourite books were mostly thick and genre-bending. I decided none of this was going to work so I finally chose to distribute books I had finished reading.

Being the kind of a reader who never returns to the same book again for solace, I thought this would be fairly good solution. But the problem is that the unread books looked menacing unlike the comforting, friendly presence of the titles I already read. Just a look and I could say I had read this with pride. It gave a big boost to my confidence and encouraged me to read more.

I decided I would keep the read ones there instead of discarding them. Honestly speaking, an entire bookshelf of unread books is very insulting and depressing. Restore an ideal balance between the two. For two unread books, there should be one read book. It is a personal way of looking at it and calculating, to find a proper solution.  

The idea of hiding books in the attic or the loft instead of displaying them made no sense. I found no merit in doing so. Besides, I had to place a ladder and put my life and limbs at risk to reach them for the occasional clean-up and access. The possibility of suffering a spinal injury after a bad fall scares me so I dropped the idea of making the bookshelf almost ceiling high.  

Then how do I maintain a cordial relationship with my books and ensure their health and fitness? Yes, the pages are turning yellow, and I am desperately looking for an age-miracle cream to hide their autumnal years. Perhaps I should take out the ones with delicate pages from the bookshelf and send them to a library. They would find more and more readers in the shortest possible time because their life spans look limited. Well, this made sense to me, and I finally decide to take the seniors off from the bookshelves, to make it a youthful collection again. Instead of keeping the aged ones trapped on the shelves, I should get them more readers. But their appearances were likely not attractive enough to entice young readers. Maybe, the elderly readers or the mature, who believe in the healing power of words and not on the quality of the printed page, would get the chance to go through these treasures before tears set in and the pages simply go missing from the damaged spine, which would have lost its ability to keep the flock together. Sounded like a good idea and I was eager to share the big pile with the world. The best possible use of the books would be made before their end was near. The task of enlightening more minds should be carried out without delay. The act of cleaning the bookshelves brought in a rush of thoughts I that brought me happiness.  It was like saying live your life so long as you have the time to live. The books from my collection still had time to live and spread happiness so I put them in front of more eyes.

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Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.  


PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.