And “Ten Days of Spring Rain Have Kept Me Indoors”is a servant who shows me into the roomwhere a poet with a thin beardis sitting on a mat with a jug of winewhispering something about clouds and cold wind,about sickness and the loss of friends.
So when Shashi Tharoor says he read 365 books in a year, I am impressed. It shows his intellectual horsepower or at least his reading speed, which again is an important thing (because even at that speed, as per google, it will take one person 355,794 years to read all books ever written). But when you read a book or treat yourself to any form of art, for which you are not emotionally or intellectually prepared, through experiences in life and through learning, you would end up reading the lines without reading much between the lines.
This has been my personal experience, and I acknowledge the fact that I have many friends who read through ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Love in the times of Cholera’ without getting emotionally swayed. Again, at a personal level books like ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’, ‘Love in the time of Cholera’, or Kundera’s ‘Unbearable..” left a deep impression on me, affecting my deliberations for weeks, and I doubt if those revelations would have come to me for good or bad if I’d immersed myself in those books before I’d experience some subtle, sensitive, and at times tiring strains in relationships. I mean, my ability to appreciate tragedy was not inborn, though it gets better over the years. It’s like they say about Frank Sinatra’s voice – he had a voice which developed over one too many heartbreaks.
Smoking used to be sexy, it used to be a sign of that creative energy symbolized by Albert Camus and Hemingway and Picasso and Guru Dutt and MT Vasudevan Nair and a thousand other literary geniuses. Smoking isn’t sexy anymore. Cigarette smokers are outcasts in almost all walks of life. Outcasts in office buildings which ask cigarette smokers to keep twenty five feet from the other office workers who are gonna live a thousand years, outcasts in rental applications which make you lie that you do not smoke so that you have a place to stay, outcasts in the Starbucks of the world which sell that pink colored cake with two icings of cream on it, outcasts in the trains and airplanes where people would rather sleep for fourteen hours than smoke a cigarette, stay awake and do something productive for the world – because one cigarette shortens your life by seven hours. But the outcasts still light their cigarettes over freshly brewed cups of coffee, stare at the evening skylines, and make those final decisions which can only be made in silent rooms.
Billy Collin’s poem “The Best Cigarette” speaks only to those outcasts, listing out those moments of calm, induced by nicotine, before they make those brilliant decisions. Then he reveals his favorite moment. I could have put this in a more simple way, that’s what the second poem speaks about. As I understand more, I guess I will simplify more. For now, two poems from Billy Collins. And that ladies and gentlemen, brings up the 350th post on Talkies.
The Best Cigarette by Billy Collins
Reading An Anthology Of Chinese Poems Of The Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire The Length And Clarity Of Their Titles – By Billy Collins