The narrow table in the dining room as it was in 2008.
The same table, as it is today.
Our bedroom window sill, and Boseji's corner.
In recent months, Flipkart has become my new best friend. It is just so easy to order a book online and have it delivered to your doorstep in a couple of days! Flipkart has made me forget both my beloved lending library and my main reason for borrowing books from the said library- not enough space in any of our bookshelves. This reasoning has never appealed to the SRE, though- he is an inveterate book buyer. (I'm not quite sure whether he ever finishes a book, or whether he absorbs it by some kind of osmosis, but that is almost completely besides the point).
A narrow table, which used to have decorative thingummies and a fruit basket on it has become a bookshelf with the help of bookends, but is also overflowing. My bedroom window sill is laden, as are other odd surfaces, as you can see in the photographs above.
When the older son was visiting us this summer, Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke was gifted to him by the fond parents. He read it at top speed, and I borrowed it from him, knowing full well that since he would not be taking it back with him to the USA, the other kids and I could read it at leisure. I read it, and lent it, along with The Immortals of Meluha, to Sue. It came back a while ago, and was kept on the narrow table along with The Secret of the Nagas, a more recent acquisition, courtesy Flipkart. I'm sure you know that River of Smoke is a large book, not easy to lose, but that is exactly what I did.
I was talking to the oldest child a few days ago, and since the youngest kid will be travelling to Delhi by train this October, we decided that I would send several books across with him, including River of Smoke. I pulled out several books that I had enjoyed from my window 'shelf', and dumped them on the narrow table. I was, however, puzzled to find River of Smoke and its companions missing from there. Being me, I vaguely wondered where the books were, and then got busy doing something else.
At the back of my mind, though, there was a niggle. Where were those three books? I looked into all our various bookshelves, even under the cloth covering the narrow table, and in some random unlikely places just for fun, but there was no sign of them.
The younger son had been away from Kolkata, so he had hardly been home, but I still asked him, this weekend, if he had, perchance, borrowed them. He said that he hadn't, so I let my brain worry a bit more.
This morning I asked the SRE if he'd seen them. He said he remembered seeing them on that very table, but had not touched them. He wondered if the maid had cleared them away. That, I said, was not possible, because she never touches our books. He looked at his half-unpacked-since-Thursday-evening-suitcase lying on the bedroom floor, and asked me to look in there, and of course there were no books to be seen. (Quite surprisingly, he hadn't bought any on his last trip). We remained most puzzled, and realised that there had been no recent visitor to our house who could have possibly taken the books- the last non-resident, non-family, non-regular worker was the electrician, repairing and replacing a ceiling fan which was moaning and groaning away to high heaven, making so much noise that it was impossible to live with.
An unlikely book pincher, we thought. There had been no guests, either.
The SRE thought that either we or the books were now in a parallel universe. I thought that maybe they had chosen to dematerialise just because I was planning to send one of them off to Delhi. Such things have been known to happen, especially in my life. We were pottering around in the dining room, and wondering what could have possibly happened, when I suddenly remembered . I flicked aside the curtain above the divan, and there was the missing threesome, all present and correct. If I could have kicked myself, I would have. Once again, it was the Cleaning Monster's fault, coupled with her general absentmindedness. Since I was sick and tired of seeing piles of books all over the place, I thought of commandeering the dining room window as an interim book shelf, and at that time the only extra books on the narrow table were those three, and they managed to be completely hidden by the curtain. (In the first picture you will see a single curtain, in the second you can see one of a pair, drawn back to let the light in).
I do try very hard to be organised, but ours is a big household, and if something is not kept in its designated place, it can be very difficult to locate. And cleaning sprees, or clearing up stuff in a hurry, can lead to some major displacements. I still shudder to think of the time I'd managed to misplace all of our life insurance policies. Phew. Yes, original LIC policies, which I had cleared away into the unlikeliest of places. However, (thank God for this), I'm not the only one. One evening I gave a slim plastic folder of credit card statements to the SRE, who had needed them for income tax reasons. Within minutes, though, the folder went missing. He was sitting on the bed, and the folder was supposed to have been kept in one of the drawers of his bedside table, but it was nowhere to be found. We went through all the drawers, and he hadn't moved from the bed, but there was no sign of the wretched thing. We gave up in despair, wondering anew at our foolishness and the malevolence of inanimate objects, and went to bed. The next morning I was, once more, inspired. I pulled out all the drawers and found the folder lying bent, at the back of the chest which the drawers slide into. Bah. The drawer was so full that the poor folder got squeezed out of it. No malevolence, no dematerialising, and no parallel universe.
I am absolutely convinced that we are made for each other. And that we also need a competent secretary, archivist and librarian in our home.