It’s middle of March and I have still not finished reading the books I had bought for the holiday break around New Year. Only yesterday I found a small paperback of Jane Austen’s which I got from an old book store. It’s a thin book with yellowed pages whose rusty ends speak of the length of time it has survived. I have always been keen on getting new books, their thick white glistening pages, heavy covers and the characteristic scent. But recently, I made my way in to the old book stores and every time it has made me nostalgic. Rusty books, torn out pages, underlined sentences. Piles of under-appreciated outcasts. Who must have read them first? What must the reader have thought when he underlined those words. At what time and in what settings must he have shuffled these pages?
My train of thoughts was again on the same track when I found something between the pages of Jane Austen’s book. It was a greetings card-being used as a book mark apparently. The book was published in 1984 so the greetings card must be nearly that much old. How oddly intimate that it should wish a happy new year.
(I could not completely figure out whats written on the back but here is what I think it is:
My dear Elaine and Peter so sorry we didn’t get time to send any Xmax (Christmas) greetings this year, we were upto our eyes finishing the tour of ‘When we are married and moving at the same time it was hell. However we are settling down now and at last have the phone on. A very happy new year to you both and of course to ……. ……. love ……. and ….. .)
I was in the library and after much grinding my brains I figured all I need in the world is a good cup of tea. In cafe as I was sitting with a friend, a cup of tea in hand, books opened in front of us and talking about everything which was not related to our course of study, in a while a girl came to us. She started asking about the upcoming test and which book is better to review certain topics etc. She was in our batch but we had never had a chance to talk to her much before. This, probably was the first real conversation I had with this girl, though I’ve seen her around many times.
She looked foreigner to me, so I asked if she was. Turned out she was from Afghanistan and must have gotten admission here on ‘foreigners’ seat’. We casually started asking her more questions just for the sake of conversation. When we asked her if she would do her house job here, she replied, “Let me get done with my studies and I won’t stay longer than two days here”. It was not the words she said but the tone which delivered the expression of disgust. To be honest, I was offended. Very much offended, indeed. But not just offended, surprised as well. So much, that I said nothing in response and neither did my friend. Followed by the awkward silence, she said her farewell and left us. I’m not proud of back biting, but when I came to senses again, I could not stop saying, “Once you are done with your studies, we won’t let you stay longer than two days”. My friend chipped in, ” We have given you the chance to study here, we definitely won’t pay you for the house job, so shoo away”. We had a good laugh and so the tension in the air was relieved.
I’m not as much angry as I’m surprised to have people with no opportunities, but once you be good enough to them and welcome them as your own, they have the guts to say bad things about your place. I’m genuinely surprised that what are these people made of? It won’t be fair and definitely wrong to be a racist and of course, not all of them are full of crap, but its a shame. If I and my friend had not remained silent then, we would have proven ourselves to be racists yet our silence gave liberty to someone to despise us on our faces and we bear the ‘honor’ of ‘hospitality’. Its a shame that we are so bound in moralities that its hard to decide where to draw the line.