Wednesday, March 10, 2004

a man can either be a cauliflower or he can attempt great things. There is nothing in between

I picked up Sanjay Nigam's The Snake Charmer on a whim. It stared out at me from a bookshelf close to the elevator in the public library. Grabbing a book like this is usually fun. You know nothing about the writer. So there's the element of discovery. And, hopefully, reading the book is aided by this element. In the case of Nigam's tale of a luckless middle-aged snake charmer, who becomes an unlikely Ulysses after being responsible for the shocking death of his snake. The book is lucid and lyrical, full of lines pithy and truistic. A very fast entertaining read. Benzene, chile peppers, and priceless lines ("tomatoes only work for the anaemia of loneliness"). And being an afficionado of scatalogical humour I must quote Nigam's description of Sonalal's first encounter with the Western-style toilet: The bathroom proved especially vexing. He hadn't sat on a Western-style toilet before, though it was one of those things he'd always been curious about. When he finally did sit on it, the experience was anticlimactic. Though he'd never been constipated in his life, his bowels didn't budge for two days. But at last his sphincter became accustomed to the new sight, and the world grew subtle again.

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