Monday, February 18, 2008

the business of mixing business of pleasure

My house is smelling like America.

People always talk about the smell of foreign that used to burst out of people's suitcases when they returned from abroad. But when you finally go to foreign you have your own idea of how it smells I think.

The first time I smelled what I think of as the smell of America (to be correct the USA) was about ten years ago, in Crossword, when there was only one Crossword, next to Mahalkshmi temple. I had just started teaching at Sophia college and the occasional honorarium of (then ) Rs.450 seemed good for pleasure only, not the business of daily groceries. So I'd usually go to Crossword and buy a book, take a cab to the station instead of a bus after.

And then one day standing like an upside down L in Indian fiction, then a modest shelf or two, I smelled the smell of good coffee, mixed with warm baking mixed with the heady smell of new books. I experienced severe disorientation. This was a smell that I smelled when I went to Louie's in Baltimore (RIP) - my first time in a bookstore cafe, walking to the Gryphon on the Upper West Side or browsing in Barnes and Noble while waiting for Shebana to meet me for a movie at the Lincoln cinema in the 60s. Books and coffee, in India, had not so far been mixed.

Well times change. The things we loved as rare pleasures we now hate as signs of pointless decadence in a consumerist age. So, we stay at home more, I do anyway, hating the way the world is becoming some days, noticing that summer's almost hear because the crows make huge shadows on the trees as they swoop overhead, which means the sun is bright and heating it up.

Now, trying to write almost full time for a bit, I try to live healthy and drink smaller cups of coffee. When the dhobi rings the doorbell it startles me out of the writing stupor and when I go to the living rom I feel as if I am discovering my house a fresh and it is full of the tactile, velvetty smell of Italian coffee brought by merciful friends and piles of newspapers asking to be read and clipped of all bizarre news for future projects.

Writing for a living drastically reduces the ability to write for pleasure. Otherwise writing used to be like fresh love, longed for, made time for, enjoyed with a kind of sensual guilt, because I knew I ought to be working at something else. Now it's confusing, deadlines slip by like the little turning you were supposed to take but just missed and anxiety is your invisible friend, kissing your neck when no one is looking at the dinner party.

Now, business and pleasure are mixed and like the drawstrings on a velvet purse, it takes a long time to bring it to the right adjustment so it's easy to put in your thumb and pull out a plum.

Therefore, be tolerant Deepshikha. A cockroach on its back, takes a little time to roll over, no?

6 comments:

Banno said...

Lovely post. Could almost smell the coffee in your house.

parotechnics said...

hariyali banno, what's the use of almost? come and actually smell and then actually drink sometime

Deepshikha said...

I will wait P, because it is worth waiting for the lovely posts you drop after the long times of drought!! And can u make me some coffee as well?? :)

parotechnics said...

D, please come, please drink coffee and other things anytime I am home and you're around!

Deepshikha said...

Pakki baat P. Filhaal I am in UK on project, will return by April.. then i will for sure feel happy to meet you :).. Please let me know if you want me to get you something -- sinful chocolates or enchanting coffee's'..

Mukul said...

wah bhai!