A book recommendation & a holiday plan

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (By Bill Bryson)
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (By Bill Bryson)

Whoops! And it’s already been a week since I saw you last!

It’s weird how each day inches so s-l-o-w-l-y by while the years (or a week, in this instance) just seem to up and run. Anyhow, this past week has been full of ups & downs. The first part was more down than up, and even though things were really picking up on the work front, other things were sliding waayyyy down to their lowest ebb ever.

Why so low then? For one thing, being a moody person isn’t as great as those eccentric geniuses make it out to be. You never know when a sad/ weepy mood is coming on. One moment you’re feeling all superior, looking down on that part of the world that takes immense literary pleasure in reading Mills & Boon and other Harlequin Romances. And the next you surprise yourself by weeping uncontrollably over the death of the heroine of the most non-thrilling thriller/ suspense book you’ve ever read. (If you must know, the book is ‘Odd Thomas’, authored by none other than the paranormally-obsessed, prolific Mr. Dean Koontz). It doesn’t help that the heroine is described more or less as a walking candy stick, with her pink cap, pink skirt and pink-and-white blouse cutting a very ‘hot’ picture (at least in the eyes of our hero).

Okay, so why am I rambling on about a book I don’t even intend to recommend to you guys? God knows about that, but there is one I do wanna recco. Recommend, and how! If some of you (like me) have been foolish enough not to have read Bill Bryson, do it now! Do it yesterday. The guy’s a happy-go-lucky genius and, if he hadn’t been older than my father – not to mention married – you’d have been reading Mrs. Bryson’s blog right now.

I’ve just been introduced to Bryson by a friend (thank you, thank you, J) and I started off with his ‘Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe’. The man is so chilled-out, so ready-to-go-with-the-flow and, most importantly, so observant of people, places, things…that it’s a real pleasure to forgo Internet and television and only curl up with him in bed. (That sentence was about to end with: ‘…that it’s a real pleasure to read him’ but then I thought to make it an itsy-bitsy more fun than that).

Now that you have my book/ author recommendation for the week, I also highly recommend a mini vacation – the likes of which I am all set to go for tomorrow. Just grab a pal (as I did) and jet off to one of the tiny hill stations scattered all over the place. The rainy weather makes it all worth it. Don’t know about you but there’s something about water falling unbidden from a zillion faucets that makes me want to sing and dance madly. And since quiet office aisles & cramped city sidewalks are not the place to do either of those things (sing or dance), I figured it’d be better to make it happen in a place where only the trees and the birds could bear witness.

So off I go tomorrow. But don’t you worry – I’ll be back just a day later on Sunday. And this time I promise not to be so lax about posting…

Death of a friend

Flowing watersI hadn’t known him too long. A couple of months at the most. But the news of his passing came as a shock nevertheless. Especially because he was so young. So nice, friendly, sincere.

Little would he have known, when he set out on a picnic, that it would be one of his last few acts in this lifetime. I can imagine him waving goodbye to his dad, to his sister. And then jauntily putting on a pair of sunglasses even as he headed towards the waiting bus.

It was supposed to be a day full of adventure, of negotiating swift river currents secure in a raft packed with colleagues. With friends. But before that adventure could begin, he decided to undertake a small swimming adventure of his own. Of course it proved fatal. The water had been calling out to him, as Death often will do, in forms benign yet deadly.

And, like Death, it brought him down. To a place where he couldn’t fight anymore. Nor think of an escape from the inevitable.

God knows how it feels to want air, so bad you could die. I tried holding my breath in the shower this morning. It lasted for maybe 30 seconds and didn’t feel all that bad. But I had always had the option to quit. Quit before the panic could take over my capacity to think, to get out of there.

Just imagining it makes me queasy. I cannot trust harmless, bottomless water anymore.

Death by drowning. And then you feel no more. Not the swirling darkness of the water, not the fish come to get their pound of flesh from what remains of your earthly existence. Not the gentle falling and rising from the riverbed to its surface. Again and again. Just like breathing.

It’s not so unbelievable, when you think of it. People die in accidents, in plane crashes, of old age and sickness – even in their sleep. But when those people have a name that rings a bell, a face you recall, a guileless smile you will never forget, then the whole equation changes. It is part of the selfishness of being human. The moment you know someone, they stop being a statistic. The existence of that person in this world takes on an importance all its own. And the ceasing of that existence, the power to make you dream of slimy riverbeds, night after restless night.

I had never attended the funeral of someone my age, before. I hadn’t thought I was old enough for that to happen. But it did. Just one evening ago.