Love among the Book Shelves

You can never be lonely at a bookstore, if you are a bibliophile. One may extend this fact and conclude that it’s true not just for books but also for other interests: a glutton will never mind dining at a lonely table at a restaurant, a movie buff will not find it unusual to go alone to the movies and watch the screening of a much-awaited movie.

I seldom eat alone. It is, as Paul Theroux puts, ‘one of the most depressing activities’. But there are times when I have to eat my lunch alone. And unlike most people at work, who are paid by the number of hours they work, I enjoy my ‘holy’ lunch hour; I must get out of work, got for a stroll. I love to walk on the streets by the side of restaurants and then make a choice as to where I will eat my lunch. I enjoy that freedom of having to make a choice – amongst Mediterranean, Indian, English, Continental; Vegan or Vegetarian; Healthy and lean or Rich and fried, and so on. I take my time, and, after much deliberation that a Libran is known for, I decide on what my lunch will be. It must never be a take-away. I either eat-in or never eat at all. I don’t like to walk my lunch. Eating is such a private affair, you don’t want to walk around and display to the world that you’re busy , you’re worried , you’re walking fast and eating your lunch, or that you have ham and lettuce and cheese, and tomato sandwiched between two thick slices of freshly baked multi-grain bread. The sight of a man, dressed for work, walking and drawing out a sandwich strangulated inside a transparent cling wrap from inside his trouser pockets appalls me.

The lowest common denominator of all needs of us humans – rich or poor, black or white, tall or short, Caucasian or African – is Food. If you exclude all the higher needs of a human, what remains at the dregs is: Food, besides of course clothing and shelter. Then, why not pay the food its dues by sitting in one place and eating it than make a public display of what you’re eating.

Anyway, if you think there is a disconnect between what I intended to start off in the first paragraph and the rest of this writing so far, then let me retract back to what I wanted to write about.

I often like to give my mind a therapeutic treatment of the sight of books in a good book store. After I eat my solitary lunch, I always visit Fuller’s Book Store on Collins Street in Hobart. It falls on the way back to work from where all restaurants are.

I love the sight of those neatly arranged books – new books, paperbacks, re-printed classics, hardbound; fiction and non-fiction; history and current affairs. I often delve around the fictional and classics section where I get to browse the magic of Orwell, Hemmingway, Albert Camus, Ulysses, Steinback and the likes – I don’t find my Indian favourites: RK Narayan and Ruskin Bond in this store, but that doesn’t disappoint me. As much I love the smell of fresh paper, I know I can’t afford the embarrassment of picking a book out from the shelf and smelling it. Yet with so many people reading from the new books, the air is filled with the typical whiff you get at a bookstore.

I see people around me sauntering around the shelves – some like me with no book in hand, some with one book, and others with two and few with more than two books. I never followed them beyond that point to see if they purchased those books but it did look to me that they intended to buy them. And me – I would simply walk slowly from one end of the shelf to another, and then back again, gazing at the same books as I did just a while ago. I’d pick up some books I have read in my Kindle. I’d read some lines from a page in between to see if they read the same in print as they did in pixels. There are some books of whose starting line I vividly remember – such as PG Wodehouse’s Thank You, Jeeves,and Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers. And it gives me a shot of queer happiness to read lines I knew of before as if I knew what the writer was going to write. Strange, I know, but I do this often. It’s just how books and I play with each other.

One strong reason for my frequenting the book store is that I have gone cold-turkey on purchasing more books for the past 2 years. Since I got a Kindle, I have resolved to not buy any printed books. There are two reasons for this. First, because I resist making any place home, and I keep travelling every 2 years, I cannot afford to lug my books around upon relocating. Baggage and cargo are expensive and I have given away all my books I had in my past travels simply because it was not practical to ship them. Second, Kindle books are cheaper. Therefore, I do a rather strange thing when at the bookstore. I decide upon a book I want to buy. Then I say to myself, ‘You won’t regret buying this book. Buy it. It feels good to hold; it’s an excellent story and what a great author! Classic piece. A must buy. Add to your collection.’ Then I turn to rear jacket and see the price tag. It may say somewhere between $19 and $50- average range! Then I pull out my mobile phone, key in the name of the book and check the Kindle price – it may say $8.99. I then put the book back and walk away from it. I seem to self-tantalize and then convince myself that I must not buy the print version for the two reasons I mentioned above.

After some more sauntering and touching and rubbing books, feeling the edges of the crisp pages, checking the binding, the typesetting, comparing prices between print and pixel versions, making a list of books I must download, I look at my watch and I exit the book store. Yet another day goes by when I have entered a book store, loitered around for quarter of an hour and return without making a purchase. I wonder if someone watches me each time I do this, maybe the lady at the cash register, or someone manning the CCTV. They may well think I just come ‘to make love among the bookshelves’. The origin of this phrase, and the title of this piece, is attributed to one of all time favourite Indian authors – Ruskin Bond.

Southern Cross

It is only after spending nearly 5 years spent in the South Pacific that I got to spot a Southern cross. Until this evening, I knew what the constellation of stars on the Australian national flag and of Papua New Guinea signified but had never witnessed it for myself.

This could be due to the fact I never looked up in the sky in solitude on quiet, clear night skies.

I decided to go for a stroll this evening along Knolly Street and turn around at the intersection with Disraeli road to walk all the way back up alongside Victoria Sports complex. I liked to watch the Indian homes built along these roads as I walked. Not so much for their architectural elegance or aesthetics but rather I admired the air of exclusivity those homes had.

Shobha was at home resting her back so today’s was a solitary walk in lieu of a racket game.

On my way back, I happened to gaze up the sky and spotted a distinct formation – characterised by three bright starts. I only fancied that that could be a Southern Cross. For it to be a Southern cross there had to be 2 more – slightly dimmer – stars. And there were.

I knew that in the Southern Cross pattern, you could join two pairs of stars and have two perpendicular lines. I drew them with my eyes and I could spot. There was the Southern Cross! First spotting in 5 years.

It was a clear April sky and I could see the Southern cross.

As I walked further up towards my home, I gazed once again to see if I could see it again and that it was not a figment of my imagination. I had trouble locating it the second time for the sky was clear and there were plenty of stars glittering. But I managed to find it again.

The climb to my house block took me closer and closer to the constellation! And I fancied if I could also spot it from my balcony. I wish I had the company of more experienced start gazer.

Mo was missed thoroughly. I still remember his expert star gazing abilities back in December when we partied at Five Princess.

As I entered home, I removed my flip-flops and stepped out on the balcony in the hope that the constellation will be visible. I bent out from my balcony trying to gaze up and beyond the roof. I gave up when almost my entire upper body was out.

I couldn’t spot it from home.  I wish I had carried my DSLR and Tripod and taken a shot of whatever was visible through the lens.


How people at the top think

This higher up you climb the corporate ladder, the more we train our minds to think binary.

From ‘choosing one amongst the many options’ as we often do for ground work, we rise up the ladder only to decide ‘Can this be done or can this NOT be done?’ There is hardly enough room at the top for explanations. No one wants a lecture for a Yes answer, neither for a No answer.

Just one of the random thoughts that crossed my mind while at work.


To play or not to not really the question

Rather the question is where will I get a Cricket gear from even if I decide to play hoping that my wrist does not give up? Buying a cricket gear doesn’t sound like a healthy investment in a foreign country while on deputation. There may not be a used cricket gear market to sell it off before I depart.

All I can ask for is  borrow cricket gear from the club – sans the abdominal cup, of course!

God, I wish to play, I wish to bowl.

The right time to do a thing right

The right time to do something right is the first time. That is when it is best, in most cases, if not all. Want to give a red hot iron the desired shape? Ensure you strike it right in the first blow. Want to make a desired design out of molten glass? The best time you have at your disposal is the first few moments after the glass mould is taken out of the furnace.

This doing right the first time offers us the striking benefit of being able to mould or cast a target when it is most amiable. It is the first few moments when it is slender, amiable and most receptive to the extraneous world. Now, this line of thinking well applies to the human mind.

I am not writing here about the first few moments after emerging out of the mother’s womb but I am keen to state the importance for an organization to seize the first few days or months of its new employees to invest into their training.

A new recruit is very receptive to pick up signals people around him at work shoot out, knowingly or unknowingly, as a part of their routine activities and inter-personal behaviors. He is most observing about the time people arrive at work, number of hours spent productively at work, code of conduct by people, time spent over endless phone talks and about the extent of frivolity in people’s work. He is also most observing about the competency of his mentors and peers who are his first line of interface with the company’s culture and value-sets.

A learning organization must not lose this invaluable opportunity of constructively invading into a man’s mind and sphere of thinking and activity, which can so effectively be achieved through a well-planned, power packed, idea-rich and sensitive training programme. If an organization succeeds in ensuring that the training programme he embarks on sets the right examples before him, that he is taught, in as good a way as affordable, a right mix of theory and practice, that he begins to start thinking analytically or atleast realizes the importance and benefits of analytical reasoning in terms of preventing budgetary overruns, and that whilst striving to provide him all the above, inculcates sensitivity in him towards adherence to the organization’s core value-sets then, I must say, the organization has made a big investment that would yield impressive dividends. The returns would be realized in the form of sincerity, fidelity, and living the core value-sets and, most importantly, setting up a legacy of rock-solid training programmes.

An organization’s strength in a project can be very well equated, intangibly, to the product of skill-sets, talents, goodness, and sincerity of its employees aboard the project. Does it not follow naturally then that if an organization has invested hard and thoughtfully into training its people for the tasks they take up, the effective strength of the organization would be greater than if it had not invested into a good training? Not only this, the resilience of the team to oncoming failures would be also be formidable as each employee is very likely to not let the employer down into troubled waters.

An organization’s success, whilst there are several other parameters that may play varyingly important roles, is determined to a significant extent on the employees whom it has nurtured ever since they stepped in first. The success is a value-added success if it has come out its employees’ passion, competence, and loyalty. But…But to come to a point even close to this state of success is just a dream if the organization has made not enough emotional investment into its employees. And this starts best when the employee is new to the organization and places himself to embark on the journey of career-growth.