Monday, October 22, 2007

On the deathbed with severe spinal injuries. Well, almost.

Picture this. It was either in 1973 or 1974 that I acquired an even-then rare copy of The Bodley Head Leacock, edited by JB Priestley and published in 1957, from the old Manneys bookshop in the Poona cantonment one Saturday morning. The other book I bought with it was Napoleon's Book of Fate, an almanac of various predictive devices. I enjoyed and read both the books over the years but somehow lost the latter along the way, probably in the shift from 233 Khetwadi Main Road. As a rule, I’m careful with books. Time takes its toll. Preventing it is beyond me. In the case of Leacock, though, it has been criminal neglect on my part, I’m afraid. I had been missing it for quite a while now. In spite of my best efforts and intentions, I was unable to figure out its location. The other day, when I was clearing a cabinet of its contents for Ujwal (she needs the space to store her craft paraphernalia), I suddenly chanced upon the elusive Leacock. It was lurking at the bottom of the cabinet almost completely covered with a black soot – a victim apparently of a prolonged attack by white ant. Its spine as well as the spine lining and the hinges at the front and the back were in near ruin. The gutter at various places too was badly damaged. Looking at it made me vow never to buy another book. I may not live up to it almost certainly. But vow I did in that shattering moment. Well, I did my best to alleviate its suffering – and my guilt – with vigorous brushing off of the black soot followed by a generous application of an anti-white ant spray and scotch tape. The patient seems to be slowly recovering and in a fairly readable state as of now.