Books and Butterflies

Yesterday I was cleaning the bookshelf. Much dust has gathered. Many pages have aged; some came off as flakes that look like butterflies with no energy left to fly.

I feel like that sometimes. However, it is not because I lack energy or drive, but I seem to have tied my own wings. I say "seem to" because I am not quite sure. Come to think about it, leaves too fly in the wind and they have no wings.

Why am I talking about wings? Books. Yes, to return to the subject. This picture is perhaps from one rack, and I plopped them on the floor on sheets of newspaper because I did not want them to get dusty. The books already have dust on them. So, what was I protecting — the books or the floor? Who protects what and from whom can be a big circular argument.

I began to riffle through the pages of some; strangely, I had inscribed a book on Kali with a Bob Dylan verse:

"She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl..."

And it wasn't to be gifted to anybody.

There is not too much fiction. I like stories and am truly riveted by a well-told one. However, whoever says that non-fiction is not about stories? We live through the big and small events, and are no less than characters playing our parts — the parts need not be grand; in fact, they might be as props or bystanders. Bystanders are not to be sniffed at. Just as spectators make a performer, bystanders give an event meaning.

I pretend to be a bystander as I clear the shelf. The books become events — did Jesus live in India? And can that be somehow tied to the history of the Arab peoples. I noticed it then and I note it again. It is 'Arab peoples'. The plural of the plural.

Pluralism is a word much in currency these days. Pluralism, as these books reveal in their wondrous variety, is eclecticism...In this lot, i realised there was one book I had not placed there. My own.

Why we behave the way we do, says another book. I as bystander will never know because the 'we' here is iffy. Cultures can only be about mores, but behaviour is more driven by how we think individually.

Or how we break cages.

"My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms." (The Waste Land, T.S.Eliot)

As I return to the shelf, now clean, I find no butterfly flakes. No wings to untie. I shall just walk, instead.


  1. FV,
    I have started to believe that there is a very thin line between fiction and nonfiction, all fictions have an element of assumption or imagination and no Non-fiction is written out of thin air .

    There are always untied after reading and some wings clipped ...Facts always kill imagination .

    On a different note , I have read your work, in detail for last 6 years now , may be 7 . I get disturbed when i see you unparalleled intellectual energy drained in arguing with people of one view or the other . You are a true nationalist , possibly the most head strong woman I have ever read . All Book followers , who believe that evolution of the world stopped with that book or with that event , are anti humans . Like they say , don't wrestle with the pig :)

    I crave for your typical "soul stirring " writing , sad to see your creative energy getting killed in defending a point of view . Defend it by all means (and by the way you know we disagree on most political views) ....but you aborting an opportunity to share with your readers , whats truly your hall mark, an amazing repertoire of philosophy, poetry and narration on human relationships .

    Stay who you are :)

    1. Hi Manish:

      Facts don't kill imagination; they fuel it, in my opinion. I've published non-fiction, and trust me it was all true...(even the thin air must have been thin!)

      Thank you for your words. Honestly, it matters. There are several reasons when one goes slow on sharing thoughts that are introspective — time taken up wrestling with pigs is not one of them. Indeed, in a public space on public issues one does get involved, perhaps unnecessarily.

      Creativity does not get killed by outside forces. Perhaps one just decides that it amounts to taking to the wind by sharing it. I have had some amazing feedback (including critiques) of my work here, but as I watch the daily tamasha of one-dimensional one-liners passing for philosophy and memes are the new art, I do wonder.

      And I wonder how the liberals also fall in line, think as a herd.

      I'll always stay who I am...at least some of us need to be more than waves!

  2. Hi FV
    Long time no blog. Finally the above and I could actually see you cleaning your bookshelf with the revelation of all these pearls of genuine intellect.

    1. Hi Circle:

      Yes, I've been thinking more than writing, but I can't tell you how touched I am that you - and a few others - have continued to read. Thank you.

      As regards the books, to be honest, I feel many have served their purpose, so am in the process of removing them. I've finally discovered that this is the only way to stop living in the past.

      Hope you've been well...but not good :)

  3. Hello Farzana, feeling good after reading your post after quite a long time. Your post made me think about the books I possess. I protectively stored them for the re-reading in the future, but over the time my liking and reading habit changed or has inclined to limited authors. But something unknown holds me back to discard those piles of fiction I have read in the past, during my different ages and in different moods. Now I am certain that I will never read them again... still, I like seeing them behind the glass panel in waiting of my decision. I hope one day I will overpower this obsession and give them to 'Pustak Parab' so that they will have new a reader. Hope you are fine. Jitu Rajgor

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience with books, Jitu. I realise we are so possessive that we hate people even borrowing books, and not returning them. I often give them away to a library. Indeed, they get new readers.

    Hope you are well, too.


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