Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Potential Gold Mine

I swore I would never enter 'Reliance Time Out' after an experience with an overzealous member of the 'literary police'. Thought policing apart, I abhorred the layout of the store which characterizes what may potentially be a librarian's worst nightmare.It is as though the retailer inherited a junk yard full of books,DVDs,watches,perfumes and miscellaneous paraphernalia and decided to host the world's largest garage sale.

Nevertheless, I decided to go in since I was in the neighbourhood and far from being in good humour. The organization of the store didn't help to alleviate my dejection, but the thought of leaving the store with a bundle of books did. One walks in and sees best sellers and potential revenue generators arranged in a pyramid. I was dumbfounded to see that the next two sections had nothing to do with books whatsoever. The third section was titled 'We Recommend', and it had the latest in contemporary fiction. I got the sense of a colonial hangover when I found one section called 'Indian Fiction' and another labelled 'Foreign Fiction'.

I found 'The Castle' by Kafka in the 'Foreign Fiction' section and picked it up. Since I have recently discovered that I derive tremendous satisfaction from the work of Orhan Pamuk, I started to rummage,without much success, through all the shelves to find his work.I don't consider a stroll through a book store complete without a visit to the 'Classics' and 'Literature' sections.I was overjoyed to find 'Orlando' by Virginia Woolf and quite surprised to find 'On Argentina' by Jorge Luis Borges. At this point I wanted to scream,'They have Borges!', as I started to pull out books from random shelves in search of Borges' works of fiction. When I realized that the uplifting feeling was starting to wane, I requested one of the shop assistants to help me find other books by Borges. He ambled to a computer, started internet explorer, refreshed the desktop a couple of times, logged into Amazon, searched for Borges and decided that Borges' work is classified as 'Literature'.

What ensued was plain hilarity.He searched in every shelf for a book by Borges. If you ever go to Reliance Time Out, beware. The classification of books is neither intuitive nor conventional. You may find Kafka in the 'foreign fiction' section,Margaret Atwood in the 'classics' section and perhaps a self help book lurking in the 'literature' section. I was almost sure that I would find 'My Name is Red' in the 'Indian fiction' section next to 'The Inheritance of Loss' (google Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai to see what I mean).

Somehow, by some twist of fate, I found 'Istanbul' and 'Other Colors' by Pamuk, placed on the bottommost shelf and books by the 2009 Nobel Laureate on the topmost shelf. I gathered that books by various Nobel winners are arranged in descending chronology. Paradoxically, there was no sign of Mario Vargas Llosa, the 2010 laureate.

I decided to buy two books by Pamuk, one by Kafka and one by Woolf. At first I politely declined the membership card. It's quite evident that,despite my little conquest, I had no intention of returning.It soon turned out that I would have to pay a pittance to become a member;the proximity of the store to the bibliophile's house was another nagging factor.

So there I was, the 'potential gold mine'. The bookworm who came empty handed,nearly launched a defamation campaign, and instead left with four books and a membership card.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Day at the Taluk Office

This is a dramatized account of my mother's recent tryst at the local taluk office. She was required to get a notarized document and was directed to this particular office. She was accompanied by a young man who works as an assistant to one of the many agents who help people with such legalities.

The scene: The lady and the assistant trudged down a narrow,woe begotten lane in a woe begotten location in North Bangalore.Somewhere, among the multitude of thatched huts, was the office. They looked carefully into each of those huts before they recognized one of them as the office.There was a lone man sitting at a table with a heap of papers to his left. There was a small cup of tea to his right. He seemed to be in a foul mood, quite typical of government officials who are forced to work,and the dingy room did nothing to alleviate his condition.

Before they enter:

The assistant: Madam, you will have to give him 'something' if you want things to get done quickly.

The lady nods and they enter.

Inside the office:

The lady: I need you to prepare a family tree. Here is a draft version of it (holding out a piece of paper).As you can see; this is my husband's name, this is my name, this is my daughter's and there are no others.Here's the necessary proof.(She goes on to show various government documents specifying the details of her family).

The official:Alright, but these names are written in English. I will prepare a document in Kannada.

The lady:I have to send copies of this to people in Mumbai and Hyderabad! How are they supposed to understand Kannada? (The assistant also pleaded in order to soothe the official).

The official (looking visibly offended): I belong to this state. You cannot force me to write in any other language. I will write it in Kannada.

The lady and the assistant decide not to push things further. They accept whatever he has written. The assistant,with some subtlety, signals to the lady. She duly offers four hundred rupees to the official as she has been instructed earlier.

The lady and the assistant make their way out of the miserable room and visit a notary. The notary translated and notarized the document.

The translated document doesn't state who is the husband and who's the wife. It doesn't specify if the child is a son or a daughter(this is actually a big deal in Indian family law).It only depicts a hierarchy of names. The script below the diagram reads, "If no female children/legal heirs are specified, then I take sole responsibility in case of any litigation".

The lady sighs; the fact that the child is female had been lost in several layers of translation.