Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Page Out Of A Bygone Era

I was young and I was impressionable. It was a time when the skimpy “choosh” pants were being edged out of the closet by the silo-sized “GOGO” pants that became the rage of the day. It was “stylish” to sport an unruly, long and wildly flowing hairstyle known as the “Jesus cut” - not the sleek, pony-tailed type that the present-day aficionados prefer. One of the things that was in vogue those heady days was to be seen to be outlandish, nonconformist and something of a weirdo. The highest form of fashion sense was when you dared show a bit of your bottom peeping out of the opening that you intentionally slashed into your jeans. I was too much of a traditionalist and so I wasn’t into all that. But in keeping with the times, and to demonstrate my superior sense of sophistication and taste, I bought myself this utterly meaningless book titled “Book of Nothing”. A man-about-town had to be owning something funky and groovy. And, this book was simply far-out!

It was a regular A4-sized book, immaculately bound with its title exquisitely embossed in a text that exuded class and refinement. Inside, it contained pages upon pages of beautifully textured paper of the highest quality - containing absolutely NOTHING - except for a single short sentence at the bottom of each sheet - printed in the minutest print possible, resembling that of a insurance policy fine print that promises you nothing for everything. The small prints at the bottom of each of the pages read something like: “Nothing for nothing” or “It is very difficult to do nothing” or “You get nothing for nothing” etc.

On Sunday afternoons, I would take the book to such chic places as the Flury’s in Kolkata, select a corner table that is the most brightly lit among all the tables in the great hall - for visual effect. The measure of your standing is judged by how promptly a waiter presents himself to serve you. Any one needing to raise his hand or holler for the attention of a waiter is looked upon with pity and disdain. Having invested a substantial sum in generous tips during my past visits to the establishment, waiters jostled and scrambled to attend to my table. The most nimble-footed would edge out the rest and approach my table and, with supreme congeniality ask me, in usual formality; “Your usual, Sir?”

My “usual” would be a pot of fine Darjeeling tea and an assortment of pastries. While the waiter disappears into the back room to fill in my order, I would pull out my Book of Nothing and make a suave, visual survey of the great Flury’s tearoom - to see if there were any one who I recognized. Even if there were, a knowing smile and a gentle nod of the head were all that was needed to acknowledge his/her presence. Anything beyond that was considered unsophisticated and inferior.

As the waiter begins to fawn all over me serving tea and laying out the pastries, I would begin my great act of reading the book with undistracted attention - unhindered by the clang and clatter of the cutlery of a great mass of people having their afternoon tea. To complete the show, my eyes would be strained with intense concentration at the blank pages of the Book of Nothing. Occasionally, an acquaintance would pass by my table and seek my permission to flip through the blank pages of the book and utter some words of appreciation such as; “Ah .. so refreshingly different and … umm … unique” - to demonstrate his/her own level of sophistication and worldliness.

The next sophisticated thing I did was to buy myself a largish, black and white, horizontally oriented comic book titled “The Fillipino Food”. During a period when quaint little comic books with prim and proper characters right out of the Mills & Boon classics were the order of the day, this comic book was filled with morbid graphics of an energetic hero brandishing a gargantuan syringe in place of his manhood. While he himself experienced a star-spangled orgasmic release, the person whose arm he poked with his syringe shriveled and died away. On one of the sixty odd pages of the book, a woman was shown lying on her back with her legs spread wide open and a TV screen in place of her Kesang Buthri. On it was depicted the cosmic mandala, the Milky Way and the gateway to the heavens. All these abstract renderings were totally beyond my sophistication and intellect - finally exposing me for the country bumpkin that I really was.

One portrayal in the comic book that remained etched in my mind over the years is its depiction of the human race sprouting out of an old, stinking tennis shoe. I clearly understood and commiserated with this uncommon theory. That is why, perhaps, the human race, even after so many centuries of continuous evolution, still secretes the stink and the stench of its place of origin.


  1. Yeshey, what I understood really got my nerves rattling, so this (your article) is surely going to irk feminists! Your article breathes chauvenism and at the same time it's so paradoxical. I thought you were expressing your views of yonder days, but you ended with the present. And, by the way, M&Bs did not have prim and proper characters. Anon.

  2. Sir, you really had a vast experiences with different kinds of books. Similarly, I love reading Mills and Boon and to be honest, I really can't concentrate with the book if people surrounds me with their starry eyes.

  3. It did not say what it meant. Just a fumble of words. Sorry.

  4. Anonymous,

    Sorry .. please try commenting once again -- I couldn't understand what you tried to say. Also, I do not think I said anything that should irk the feminists. Which part of my post do you find chauvinistic? Or, paradoxical?

    I also left off in the past and no where did I refer to anything in the present.

    I am really intrigued - are you did not intend to comment on another of my post but ended up posting it here?

  5. yeesi7,

    I would be disturbed too - if I was doing serious reading. But I was merely acting so it didnt matter to me hahaha.

  6. yeshey,

    I feel you are succumbing to the temptations that all writers fall into - pushing the boundaries of what readers are comfortable with and shocking them. As writers progress, a certain confidence or vanity, pushes them to be/prove more liberal, more daring etc and usually they venture into areas that the average writer leaves alone or avoids. These subjects are usually to do with topics that that make the average person uncomfortable. Looks like you are heading that way.

    Just an observation.

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    Strange that you should bring up this - what a coincidence. Only this morning we were discussing the issue concerning the type of content and the sensitivity with which a writer ought to handle the issue that he is discussing - particularly where tradition and culture is the subject of discussion. Obviously, in addition to that, a writer ought to also watch carefully the type of readers he/she is attracting and then tailor his writings to suite the maturity level of his/her readership.

    What an irksome job the writers must have. Fortunately I am merely a Blogger :)

  8. C'mon Yeshey, a Blogger needs to write well. The better the writing the more the readers. And yes, you ended with a view of the present; well, at least that's what I firmly understand!

    And to Anonymous - as long as the confidence and vanity gained is geared towards sending positive messages to readers, it's okay, mena? But where this article is concerned I don't know! Anon.

  9. yeshey

    you write well and the confidence gained is spurring you on - as it should. Just make sure that you put it to constructive and positive use rather than to just push boundaries for the sake of pushing boundaries.

    This time it is advice and not just an observation

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    You seem obsessed with boundaries. Your earlier comment also talks of boundaries. I personally believe that boundaries are limited by one's imagination.

    As to being constructive and positive, that is the whole purpose of spending time and effort in posting my thoughts on this Blog. Whether what I write makes a difference or not is not in my hands - but when I raise an issue, I do so because I want to be constructive and positive. And I do so with absolute conviction in what I say.

    I get the feeling that you think I am doing something wrong. If so, I would be happy to know what it is and correct the mistake if I believe that you have a point - please write to me and tell me at:

    In the meantime, thank you for your last time's observation and this time's advice.

  11. Umm..Interesting read! And I didn't think past the language which I really enjoyed, and those leaves off your youthful era! (^-^) I liked this piece, which is an altogether different one from your earlier posts, including of course, those on photography!

    Else, how´s life? I have been practising a bit of macro these weekends (on borrowed lenses!)

  12. Hi Lakey

    Great to see you. So how have you been? Good to hear that you have been doing some macro -- may be you ought to show them to me - I want to see how you have progressed since our last meeting.

    Yea .. I want to keep my blog light and intense and humorous all at once. I think to be tedious all the time is boring. But I will soon be going on a trek again .. so cant write for a while.

  13. Yeshey, light and intense and humorous at one go ? Light and humorous may be, but light and intense? Am not sure how this is possible. Anon.

  14. Oh, Aue Yeshey, I have some of them on the blog, although we haven't updated it in a while!

    Best wishes for your upcoming trip. Where are you headed this time> (^_^)

  15. Hi Lakey

    I am headed for Soe, Jumolhari and Lingzhi.

    OK .. I will check out your site ... Chola's Chorus, rite?