Friday, November 6, 2020

Once Upon a Blouse...

When I was young, which was, as you know, quite a while ago, saree blouses were almost inevitably made out of a fine cotton fabric called rubia, which was available in hundreds of shades in shops which called themselves matching centres. Rubia was fabulous because it had a little stretchiness, which could accommodate an extra couple of kilos without alterations. In recent years, though, saree blouses have attained an unprecedented freedom. All fabrics, cuts, and styles of  blouses are potential saree-mates. T-shirts and formal office shirts, short kurtis, longer ones, all are happily being worn with sarees. However, for formal occasions like weddings, a fitted, matching saree blouse is still the norm.

So, cut to 2017. Our niece's daughter was getting married. Until we moved from Kolkata in 2013, I was quite comfortable, blouse-wise. I had found both a good tailor as well as matching centres in New Market, and also managed to get some beautiful colours in a silk cotton blend, to wear with silk sarees. Those blouses served me well, and some of them still do. (My daughters don't quite approve of the fitting, but that is another story). But a wedding in the family meant new sarees, and new sarees meant new blouses, and new blouses meant a new tailor. Help. My older daughter's tailor was in the North Campus area, which was much too far away. My younger daughter's tailor was about 10-12 kilometers from our home, which wasn't really a problem, except that she didn't have a fitting room, so it was very difficult to tell her what was actually wrong with the garment she had made. I have actually worn a saree wearing the said ill-fitting blouse, gone to her shop and shown her the fitting, then gone to the nearest mall, changed into another blouse, and gone back to her shop to give her the blouse to rectify. This was not a viable proposition at all. ( Some months ago she expanded her premises and now, to my great relief, has a fitting room too, thank goodness. But let me get back to my story...)

It so happened that an enterprising resident of our housing society started a tailoring concern in one of the basement shops. It seemed logical to try the tailor there. There was also a curtained alcove with a mirror where you could check out the fitting of your garments.And so, a few blouses were given to the tailor master of this establishment. Among them was a cheerful apple green handloom material, with a subtle yellow striped weave, bought to wear with a mango yellow khesh saree with green stripes on the pallu. Sadly, this tailor master was not brilliant.Every blouse required a couple of alterations at least. Although the shop was less than five minutes away from our home, door to door, it was still a tedious business. We also had house guests at the time, so I was busier than usual, and probably more scatterbrained too... 

Somehow, the green blouse went missing. I looked for it high and low, on multiple occasions, before and after the wedding in Goa, where, on one morning, I wore the yellow saree with a kalamkaari blouse, silently mourning the missing green one. All wardrobes were checked, each cushion cover pulled out of the linen cupboard, each towel, each garment in our wardrobes. No sign of it. I finally gave up, concluding that the packet containing it after its last sojourn at the tailor's had accidentally gone out with the trash.I even went and asked the tailor if I had left it with him again. Poor man checked high and low but couldn't find it. I even checked the empty bags and packets in the store...

An apparently pointless digression: Our washing machine had been on its last legs for a while, but thankfully survived the first few strict lockdowns, finally conking off in early August. It stays in the bathroom attached to the store room, a bathroom on two levels, the bathing area lower down, the Indian style toilet area a few inches higher.Our landlord's step stool used to stay on the higher level, with the washing machine in front of it and random stuff on top of it and stuffed below it. (That toilet, of course, was never used).Well, the new machine was to be installed the next day, and the delivery boy took the old one away. It seemed like a good opportunity to clean up the area. There was a giant bag full of bags, there was a bag full of old rags, often required by plumbers, painters, and sundry workmen, there were shoe boxes (often a useful item). I rubbed and scrubbed the floor, and decided to take the step stool out and have the new machine on the higher level. In the interests of both tidiness and ecology, I decided to divide the collection of bags between the housing society's general store and the vegetable shop. All of this happened in early August.

Two days ago the RE went to the basement salon for a (long overdue) haircut, and came home with a clear plastic bag full of packets of namkeens. There was also a newspaper wrapped package in the bag. I asked the RE what was in the package. He asked me if I had given some bags to the shop a while ago, and I said yes. He said that the shopkeeper said that one of madam's garments came along with the packets. Yes, it was the green blouse.

I had visited the shop several times since giving them the bag full of bags. They must have used them much later!

If I had just thrown them out with the (segregated) garbage, I would never have got it back.

I have already given the khesh saree away, but no matter. Sarees will be found. (Or bought).

This saga occurred over more than three years.

I don't think any garment has ever given me so much grief and so much joy!



Thursday, October 29, 2020

Touched by the Divine?

 I've been thinking of this -- whether relationships can survive without touch. That the relationship between god and the human has thrived without it seems like a miracle. The first long-distance relationship.

These words by Sumana Roy, friend, poet, author, on Facebook yesterday, set me thinking.

Human touch heals, it is central to so many of our bonds, filial, familial, romantic, and those of friendship. 

Human touch can hurt too. There are countless examples of that. But let us not go there.

I have had one experience where I felt that I was actually touched by my Maker. Someone very close to me had to undergo an extremely complicated operation. There were well-wishers from across the globe offering their suggestions, mostly regarding the location of the operation and the surgeon who would perform it. In most cases, the more renowned the surgeon, the stronger the recommendation. There was an information overload, as it were. I was sitting in the hospital waiting room, waiting to meet the consultant and show him the patient's latest reports. And then, and I can no longer recall if it was a voice or a gentle touch on my head, or both, but deep within my heart, I knew with complete, utter certainty, that this hospital, this doctor, this surgeon, all were the right ones.It was an absolutely unshakable conviction, which got me through the difficult days that followed. All went well, and it truly felt like divine grace.

Here there was no human intermediary. And yet, when we encounter those adepts who are deeply attuned to a higher power, there is magic in their touch, their entire being, and even in the touch of their possessions. Sacred relics are also supposed to be imbued with great spiritual power. I recall one such touch from my teen years. My parents, sister, and I would visit the home of an old gentleman, part of our natal Satsang, and attend weekly prayer sessions in his room. He was very frail, in bed. When it was time to leave, each member of the gathering would line up, bow our heads close to his bed, to the side he was facing, and with trembling, fluttering fingers, he would touch the top of our bowed heads to bless us.Fifty years later I can still recall the comfort and healing of that touch. 


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Best Laid Plans...

 The NCR chapter of our family sometimes gets together for a Sunday lunch, and in Covid times, of course, it is in one or the other of our homes. I had asked the kids to come to our home for lunch yesterday, and, in the interests of making something different from my standard rajma chawal or chhole kulche fare, I decided to make bedmi poori with a railway station type of potato curry, and, in the interests of variety, matar paneer, pulao, and a Kashmiri walnut and radish raita/chutney. After my older daughter and her husband came in and were settled with their drinks and snacks, I sat and efficiently made the dough balls for the pooris. The others followed shortly, there was much merriment and fun. The gas meter reader very apologetically came in to read the meter, as Sunday is the day he is sure of finding most of his clients at home. Before we knew it, it was almost 3 p.m. Time for lunch. My younger daughter was assigned the task of cutting a fresh salad for lunch. ( The original two, a green salad and a raw papaya som tam, had already been consumed as our healthy snacks). The medium burner was a slow poke, so I put the kadhai on the big burner and started frying the puris. Soon, though, the pooris weren't bubbling up at speed. They remained pale rather than the golden brown they were meant to be. I checked the flame. There was no flame. I tried lighting the gas again with the lighter. The son ran and got the matchbox from his father's little mandir. Nada. No hiss.No smell. No gas. Not enough pooris. 

I called the maintenance office, which seemed to be manned at that hour by someone completely clueless. I called the tower security guard, and asked him if the meter reader was still around. He was still in our building, and was as bewildered as the rest of us. In a matter of minutes, it was found that there was no piped gas within our entire complex. The older daughter offered to go home and pick up her induction stove. It didn't seem worth the effort. The son suggested that we put the few prepared pooris in the casserole so they would stay warm, by which time I had stopped caring. I knew that I had half a loaf of brown bread, in case we ran short of rice too! We had lunch, we all ate well, no one needed bread. There was a lovely date and walnut cake, baked by my younger daughter, and icecream to follow. Life was good.

We've been using piped gas ever since we moved to this housing complex, over seven years now. I think we had one pre-announced maintenance shutdown when we had internal piped gas, piped from a cylinder bank within the Society. About four or five years ago the entire colony switched to an external supplier, IGL. This was unprecedented. About an hour after we had eaten, I checked, and the gas supply had been restored. The security chap also phoned to inform me that it was back. We celebrated with stove-top ginger tea.

Old Robert Burns certainly knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Memories and a book review: Victory Colony, 1950

 What are your deepest fears? Can you even comprehend why you have them? One of my most long standing fears is the fear of being displaced, whether by a man-made calamity such as a war, or by natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods! During the India-China war of '62, I was very young, and we were living abroad, but I do remember much parental glumness at the time. The 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan were a lived reality: living in Delhi meant that you were vulnerable. There were trenches dug in the common gardens of our colony, and all our windows were darkened with black paper. My father worked in the Chief of Army Staff's secretariat, so he certainly knew more than he ever let on. We lived in Lodi Colony, our flat overlooking Meher Chand Market, which was a very local, downmarket kind of market back then, not the swish place it has become in this millenium. The war of 1971 had just been declared on the radio, my father had not yet returned from office, and some moronic shopkeeper had lit a bonfire on the roof of his shop. It was early December, and cold, especially since the market backed onto part of the Ridge, a forested area where the calls of the jackals would terrify me. (This area was later absorbed by the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium).  My intrepid mother, all five feet of her, marched down to the shops and made sure that the fire was immediately put out, and that we were not likely to be bombarded that night due to sheer carelessness!

My knowledge of Delhi's geography was largely formed by bus rides and by the buses themselves!   The destination boards held names of places which sounded exotic until they became familiar. Naraina, Najafgarh, Safdarjang, Madras Hotel, R.K. Puram, Janakpuri... As the city grew, the range and extent of bus destinations grew too. I remember asking my father where EPDP Colony was. It sounded rhythmic, euphonious even. We knew about Partition, although our U.P. origin family did not suffer directly because of it. The Punjab part of the story of Partition was far more familiar to us Delhi folk. EPDP stood for East Pakistan Displaced Persons, a legacy of the peculiar creation of a country with two distinct wings, separated by another country. This colony was formed in the early sixties, and renamed Chittaranjan Park in the eighties. 

Living in different parts of the country has been enriching! My recent years in Kolkata introduced me to the culinary, and other rivalry between the Bangal and the Ghoti. I discovered that many of my friends had ancestors from across the River Padma. Bengalis were not the homogenous mass I thought they were when I was in school! (Quite incidentally, I went to a school with a large Bengali population.) A brief visit to Bangladesh in 2011 was also a revelation. Our visit to Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman's house was heartbreaking, the site of a massacre, where the blood stained stair case speaks of the horrors of the violence unleashed upon an entire family. The countryside was exquisitely beautiful, as were the exquisite weaves and handicrafts, yet the history of this young country has been a painful one. Let me ask you here to travel back in time, when Bangladesh was not even a dream, to a time when East Bengal was made into East Pakistan, and a vast number of people came to West Bengal as refugees. 

Bhaswati Ghosh writes about this period in her book, Victory Colony 1950. Amala and Kartik, the children of fisher folk, have lost their parents in a fishing accident, soon after which the horrors of Partition are unleashed. Their Muslim neighbours shelter them until such time as they can be helped to catch a train to Kolkata. The two youngsters get off the train at Sealdah station, an overwhelming, immensely crowded, stinking, noisy place, a huge contrast for those coming from the quiet, coastal countryside. Amala goes to look for some food for her younger brother, Kartik, who is faint with hunger. She comes back empty handed to find her cloth bundle where she had left it, but her brother has vanished. She is devastated. Manas Dutta and his group of friends are college students who are working as volunteers to help settle the refugees. When the howling Amala is threatened by the police, Manas insists on taking her, and other refugees from the station, to the Gariahata Refugee Relief Centre. He has all the necessary approvals. Innoculations are administered and formalities completed before they can leave for the camp.

Life in a refugee camp is by no means easy. Amala is housed with an elderly couple, who become her surrogate family. She is tormented by the absence of her brother, but dares not share her story with others. Going back to Sealdah Station to look for him is her secret goal.

Bhaswati's detailed descriptions make each scene come alive. You can see the old barracks and the tents that make up the camp, and taste the watery gruel that is the only food on offer. You feel the acute pain of those whose lives have been overthrown by a turbulence not of their making. When Manas tries to find out about her life in her village home, Amala snaps "What village, ha ? Do I have any village, Babu? What stories do you want to hear? Why? To see if my mouth bleeds when I tell them? Or so you can feel happy it's not your story?"

 Over time, Amala and the other refugees do settle into a routine, where they are assigned certain duties in the camp. There are characters that claw at your heart with their pain, survivors of unspeakable violence that has robbed them of their sanity.

Manas comes from a well to do family, and lives with his widowed mother, grandfather, and a loyal staff . His mother is not very happy about his social service activities, especially as she is steeped in tradition and doesn't care for her son mingling with lower castes. A sensitive young man, Manas is often struck by the contrast between his own life and the lives of those in the refugee camps. His diary entries reveal his sensitivity: So many people have been left without anywhere to go. God knows how many more are to come. All of them had a home, a patch of land, cows and hens to call their own. Now all they possess are small bundles of clothes and a few utensils if they are lucky. oh and the flesh and bones on their bodies. That's about it, for they have even lost the dignity of being a human. I don't understand why this was necessary to gain freedom. I won't be with them forever, but misfortune will not leave them anytime soon- that I am certain of.

 After a while, the government grants start drying up and food rations dwindle. Malnutrition is rampant, and yet, 'despite such bickering over the belly's fire, it amazed Manas to see how admirably civil the camp atmosphere remained.' Also, 'The very fact that these men and women didn't look beyond what each day brought helped them survive what was essentially an unlivable life.'

There is a great need for economic activity to help sustain the refugees. One step is the setting up of sewing classes. Manik, one of the volunteers, has a widowed aunt (his mother's cousin) who is willing to teach the women in the camp. Bhaswati paints a vivid picture of Manas's first meeting with her. 'It also seemed to him as if he could talk to Chitra about anything, ask her any question without offending her...Manas realised how different it was from when he was with his mother. There, he struggled to find common ground for a two-way conversation. He rarely shared the things he was most passionate about with her; she just wouldn't get it, wrapped as she was in her cosy world of gods, gold, saris and neighbourhood gossip.'

After several months in the camp, with its diminishing government support and inconveniences, the younger members of the camp realize that there is no going back, and they will have to make a life for themselves in this new country. With the help of a local Left Front leader, they had set up a new colony by occupying a large tract of unused land some twenty kilometers away, near Shibpur. The land reportedly belonged to a local zamindar. Of course they are attacked by the zamindar's men and clashes between the groups continue for several days. The state government intervenes and settles the matter by promising monetary compensation to the zamindar. Thus Victory Colony is born.

Rich in it's details, Victory Colony 1950 is a book that needs to be read and re-read. It is, ultimately, a book about the triumph of the human spirit, of love, adventure, commitment to ideals, about individuals who make a difference. Bhaswati's writing is often poetic, always elegant in its simplicity. Do read this beautiful book. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Denizens of the Seventh Floor

It's been five years since we moved to this apartment up on the seventh floor, more or less identical to the one we were staying in, two blocks away in the same complex. Our seventh heaven! And then you realize that apartment blocks also have many non-human residents. The day we moved in, I was absolutely shocked to discover ants crawling into the biscuit container, within hours of our stuff reaching this flat, and getting into all kinds of foodstuffs almost by magic. When we told our landlord's niece, who lives close by, and who was our go to person for all apartment related issues, she said this was the first she was hearing of ants. Pest control was called, and the ant issue was sorted. Every year, when a cockroach or two manifests, we know it's time to renew our pest control contract. 

And then, we discovered a squirrel getting into the chimney's exhaust pipe. It would, very charmingly, skitter up to the balcony with bits of fluff, clamber up the gas pipe, and hop into the exhaust pipe. (It had a cover, but the gaps were large enough for a little squirrel to get into). I love our desi squirrels, they are small and charming, unlike their rather intimidating giant American cousins. However, I had heard horror stories of my cousin's air conditioner wires being destroyed by squirrels, so this little creature wasn't welcome. My helper opened up the exhaust vent and pulled out a huge bundle of fluff and cotton waste, and a tiny baby squirrel, which, sadly, didn't survive. That was the last of the squirrels visiting us. 

The house lizards mostly live in the balcony, a big fat one lurking on the screen door.                              

Thirsty wasps fly all the way up too, to drink from the pots!   

We are, very occasionally, blessed by a visit from sun birds, singing lustily, at a volume that belies their tininess. Happiness is a visiting sparrow. Happiness is not our unwanted guests, the prolifically pooping pigeons. 

They are the most unwelcome visitors. I have no visceral hatred of pigeons per se. They are birds with an interesting history, as messengers, as pigeon post, bred by pigeon fanciers. Their gleaming, iridescent, rich green, purple and magenta neck feathers are beautiful. I even find their guttural, throaty gutur goo sounds pleasant. We used to put out water for them, but then learned that their dropping are toxic and can cause serious respiratory diseases, so we stopped that practice. I didn't like the thought of them dying of thirst, so although the wretched birds are not good to my potted plants (they land their fat heavy bodies on delicate stems sometimes), they come every morning and drink from the pots once I've watered them. They seem to be territorial: our housing complex is probably home to hundreds of pigeons, but they seem to have an allotment system that works. There is a group of three which visits my balcony every morning, and hopefully drink their fill. (They seem to thrive in family groups of three: I remember my younger son, then five, and I naming the greediest one Piggyon, the lurking one was Suspigeon, and the third, unimaginatively, was Friend Pigeon).

What's the problem then, you may well ask.


This is the problem! They have not only ruined the balcony fan (it no longer works), but find it a convenient spot for both dozing and pooping. This is totally unacceptable to me. I have now morphed into the mad woman who can be seen, several times a day, chasing the pigeons with a stick. One evening I cruelly chased off a sleeping pair, and felt quite guilty about it. Fortunately, the guilt didn't last long. Even my poor helper gets sick of the amount of pigeon poop she has to clean. These past couple of weeks have me peeping out of the screen door every time I visit the kitchen, making sure there are no pigeons on the fan. They do try their luck every morning, and then seem to give up, by eleven or so. Have I successfully trained them? I don't know. But I seriously wonder, who exactly is the bird brain out here???

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Book review: From Son to Stranger

 Much neglected though it has been, my blog turned 13 years old on the 29th August. A milestone indeed. Being part of a community of bloggers has been very enriching, and the friendships forged in those days, with originally faceless, like-minded people, have continued for over a decade. (Facebook has now made us able to recognize our formerly faceless friends!)  One such blog friend is the redoubtable Ritu Lalit, who used to blog at Phoenixritu, and now at http://blog.ritulalit.com/.                                                           


 We lived in different cities, and I vaguely hoped to bump into her once I had moved to the NCR, although Faridabad, where she lived, didn't really seem to be in my orbit. And then she moved,  and meetings with her and other Gurgaon friends were planned but didn't happen. In December 2018, I ventured to Quill and Canvas, to attend a programme with the authors of Escape Velocity, a beautiful collection of short stories written and published by the Write and Beyond group. I was absolutely delighted to see Ritu there, and once the programme was over, we decided to have lunch together, at a restaurant in the same mall. 

Ritu told me about her latest project, the book she was writing about parents who were estranged from their adult children. It is a book that I wish did not need to be written, but sadly, it does. And none does it better than Ritu Lalit. She writes with courage and honesty, sharing the intensity of her emotions and the ways she found to overcome the emotional trauma of estrangement from her older son. In searching for a community who shared this grief, she set out methodically to research the issue, with a well thought out questionnaire. Initially, very few parents cared to respond, but over time, and with the promise of complete anonymity, she found herself inundated with responses. 

She cites statistics, coping mechanisms, tragic stories where old parents are robbed of their property and then abandoned, stories where the elderly parent turns the tables on the greedy offspring, the camaraderie and grief of the residents old age homes, Japanese concepts of Satori and Kensho, her harsh inner critic, blame games, the stages of grief, journaling as a way of coping, meditation, positive affirmations, and so much else. The most heart breaking are the unsent letters she writes to her son, whom she continues to love and cherish, despite being completely cut off from him. It is a rich and warm and wonderful book. I read it as soon as it was published, but it has taken me time to process, not helped by the lockdown, of course. It is one of the most unusual books I have read, well worth reading. Powerful insights on both parenting and Life!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

My Salinger Years


I first read The Catcher in the Rye (1951) when I was an undergraduate, as raw and ignorant as they come. It was a book that was different from anything I had read before, including the delicious profanity. I loved this account of two days in the life of a desperately unhappy teenage boy who decides to leave his fancy prep school after being expelled from it for failing in almost all subjects. (His parents don’t yet know about his expulsion).  Thanks to this book, I wanted to read more of Salinger’s works.                                                                                                      

Franny and Zooey (1961) is a slim paperback with identical front and back covers, no blurb, nothing. When I first picked it up I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It was, however, a book I must have been ready for. It spoke to my soul, and still does. The Glass family is richly and beautifully described, from their physical attributes to their gloriously overcrowded sitting room in their New York brownstone, their bathroom cabinet to Bessie Glass’s clinking kimono which her daughters have been conspiring, unsuccessfully, to evict from her life. “She was wearing her usual at home vesture- what her son Buddy (who was a writer, and consequently, as Kafka, no less, has told us, not a nice man) called her pre-notification-of-death uniform.……With its many occultish looking folds, it also served as the repository for the paraphernalia of a very heavy cigarette smoker and an amateur handyman….”                                                                                                                                                              Bessie and Les were, in their younger days, successful vaudeville performers. Their several children were, at various ages, child prodigies who appeared on a radio show called It’s a Wise Child. Seymour, the oldest, has died by suicide. Another son died in a freak accident in the war. (The second world war). One son is a priest somewhere on a Pacific island. The older daughter is a homemaker. The oldest surviving son, Buddy, is a reclusive writer-in-residence at a remote upstate location. The youngest son, the eponymous Zooey, is an upcoming actor, and his younger sister, Franny, the baby of the family, is also an aspiring actress, a college student, sick to her core at the phoniness of the world, the huge egos that abound in her life, and hating herself for being so judgmental and unkind, even in her thoughts. She had come upon one of Seymour’s books, The Way of the Pilgrim, and is trying to ‘pray without ceasing’. She has come home from college and collapsed. How does Zooey help her deal with her grief and transcend it? He takes you on a fascinating journey through his oldest brothers’ explorations of Eastern philosophy and wisdom.                          

In his next book, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction (1963), Buddy, the second son is the narrator. It begins with him remembering a night when he and Seymour are, owing to an outbreak of mumps in their family, looking after Franny in their ostensibly germ-free room, and Seymour soothes the crying ten month old by reading to her a Taoist tale, which particular reading Franny claims to remember several years later! Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters is about Seymour’s wedding day in 1942, a day on which we actually do not see him at all. For various logistical reasons, Buddy is the only member of the family who can attend the wedding. This book describes his journey with four co-passengers in a limousine going away from the wedding that has not taken place, to his discovery of his brother’s journal in their shared apartment, to the revelation that the bride and groom have eloped!                                                                                                                                                           Seymour an Introduction is Buddy’s attempt to write about his brother. It is circuitous and convoluted and incredibly rich. The range of knowledge of Eastern philosophy and poetry it describes was, for me, a revelation.  Here again we have Seymour’s voice in his letters to Buddy, who, as an aspiring writer, greatly values his brother’s opinion. “If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself.”                                                                                     Seymour remains, through his letters and poems, and his memories, Buddy’s guiding light. ‘I can’t finish writing a description of Seymour- even a bad description…..-without being conscious of the good, the real…..Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. Is he never wrong?’

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield says, What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”

I don’t think I’d particularly want to call up Salinger. But I would certainly want to meet his characters, especially the Glass family.