It was around 5.30 when I decided to get out of my house and do something. Being on the laptop the whole day inside a little rectangle blue room didn’t make sense to me as it was a Sunday. After barely avoiding the landlady downstairs and saving myself from a torturous lecture to pay the bill on time, I started walking towards the Causeway in the cold evening. I wanted to visit the Museum of Modern Art because it had a new exhibit but at the same time I really wasn’t in the mood for a good history lesson. I don’t even remember what the exhibit was about right now, so I think it was nothing special.
After a quick detour to enquire about the crowd outside Jehangir Art Gallery, I went inside Kitab Khana. I realised then and there that this quaint book store had become my Sunday staple since last November. I went to the first shelf on the left, not because it was the first one near the entrance, but because it was where most of the books I liked were kept. I was glad to see lots of new books this time. There was Magnus Mills. The first few pages of Maintenance of a Headway was a funny read which reminded me of the bus transport service in Bombay. Where the bus coming late is considered normal, but coming early is unacceptable and rather punishable. I read a bit of Falconer, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Mr. Palomar, Cathedral, Inherent Vice, The Sense of an Ending. I considered buying Mr. Palomar because I thought it could help me in writing about observations. Cathedral reminded me of an exercise from my Creative Writing class in college, where we were made to describe a tree to a blind person.
But what interested me the most was Murakami. I had just become a Murakami fan after falling in love with After Dark. It was my first Murakami book, not considering Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World which is somewhere stacked under my chair cushion hidden out of sight. After Dark made me want to spend the whole night outside just walking and talking. And reading a good book in a quiet cafe which plays good music. But sadly, I still haven’t found any 24×7 cafe anywhere around here and I guess there aren’t any as well. But even if there was one, I don’t know if I would be able to spend the whole night peacefully reading and walking randomly to places. I’m sure I would be intervened by the law and questioned and would be fined a huge amount for not abiding a law which the police would have just made up on the spot. This was what I was thinking about yesterday when me and my friends were at the terrace at three in the morning. That being a random wanderer at night is a bad idea in Bombay. I was frustrated and a bit disappointed with Bombay for the first time and my whole rant on the police force came back. I do have the looks of a druggie, that’s what everyone says, and I’ve been caught by the cops often for no reason at all, but more on that later. My house just had a law intervention the other day at midnight, so it is better if I just keep the whole topic aside for another time. Come to think of it, my version of After Dark would be filled with these type of experiences and rants. Which might be interesting in a way. Oh, and even being chased by stray dogs.
After Dark reminded me of an anime for some reason at the beginning. Maybe because it was my first book written by a Japanese author. I fell in love with Mari. The way she carries herself, and her imperfectness. Always quiet and only talking when she wants to, her own problems and her inferiority complex, but sprouting confidence to wander a big city for a little escape. The book even had those deep night time conversations where you form a special bond with the person you’re talking to for just that night, for the few hours under the moon. The other reason I liked After Dark was because I read it during peak winter. At home. Under my a thick, cosy blanket having hot chocolate at two in the night.
After going through a few Murakami books, I settled for The Elephant Vanishes. I started reading the first story but after a page or two I saw that it was a pretty long one, so I flicked through the pages and started reading ‘On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.‘ And boy, did I actually click with the story. It bashes the clichéd conception of a 100% perfect girl to a rather imperfect girl. “Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either…”. Even though he describes her in detail, he can’t really recall her in detail. Which is weird. But which is absolutely real. My aspiring ad guy side told me it is a brilliant insight.
The story reminded me of the last part of one of my own stories which I had written last February. The feeling you get when you see your perfect girl and you start planing your time with her. Seeing movies, having cocktails, discussing books. But then suddenly, it just turns into a haze.
I did have my own straightforward version of his long sad story though. In just one sentence. ‘When I go forwards, you go backwards and somewhere we’ll meet.’ But in a way, this turns a sad story into a happy one which might not work in this case.
I forced my mind into not buying the book because I still had a huge book to finish at home. Just after I kept it back on the shelf, I spotted The Lost Girl by DH Lawrance and just for a second I thought I would meet my 100% perfect girl. Where and when, I didn’t know. Right this second or after fifty years, I didn’t know. It was that thought that jumps in front of you, teases you for an instant, and runs off.
While having dinner at a Kerela restaurant, I did see two girls at the corner. But they weren’t even close to a 100%. Not even 50%. Shirking that thought away, I focused back on my puttu, and my plans for the night.