Helplessly, I rested my head in the lap of my library. I pulled out One Man's Chorus, the collection of mind-blowing essays by Anthony Burgess. Mind-blowing, because they makes me marvel at his grip of the language and history. A writer is incomplete without a sense of history, and history will decay unless it is rescued by style.
So resting my head on the bolster, I turned the pages of the book, reading paragraphs at random. Suddenly a yellow slip came out flying from it and landed on my chest. It was a debit card receipt, for Rs 1,600, dated the day I had bought the book: 6 October 2005. The time: 8.20 pm. The mind, which was highly agitated till then, tamely went back to that evening:
S and I were on the prowl in Landmark at Spencer Plaza, competing with each other to lay our hands on the best catch thrown up by the annual sale. Whoever lay his hands on a book first became its owner -- it did not matter whose eye it caught first. After an hour, we had about five books each in our hands, and we were looking for more.
While digging for the right books, S would ask every now and then, "Did you get the SMS?" I would reply, "Not yet." The SMS mattered, because if it did not come, we would have to leave all the books behind: we barely had Rs 200 between us. The SMS was to come from UTI Bank, to tell us that the salary has hit our accounts. Soon enough, the phone vibrated in my pocket, and we laughed our way to the billing counter. Faith had paid off.
We then laughed our way to the ATM and then, carrying those heavy packets, entered a dingy, dirty TASMAC bar -- our regular haunt. (For non-residents of Chennai: TASMAC shops are the state government-run booze shops, which usually have an attached room or open space that serve as the bar).
Those were the days when I lived for 'today' -- which meant living like a king for first half of the month and in self-induced poverty for the rest. Poverty, self-induced or forced, is stark. But forced poverty usually teaches you a lesson and in many cases, victims of such poverty have gone on to become rich.
But self-induced poverty, which is basically a result of careless spending, does not teach you anything. That's because you are technically not poor, even though you don't have even Rs 50 in you wallet. It's poverty nonetheless, and I've faced it for years -- and happily so. Now I am married and all, and those days -- of luxury in poverty -- are behind me. But I miss them at times, and maybe that's why my mind gets agitated at times.