I just finished reading English, August. It has become one of my favourite books and Upamanyu Chatterjee one of the best writers. The book is about Agastya, an IAS officer who is posted in a remote Indian town called Madna. It is the story of his mental restlessness that he is facing whether he is actually fit for the job, what does he really want to be. It is one of the very few books that I have been able to relate with. Agastya's non pretentiousness and his behaviour mirror ours. Like when someone asks him whether he is married or not, he gives different answers to everyone as if the people really care :D The humour of the book like his comments on Vasant's cooking and Srivastava and many many more instances are simply superb. I found myself laughing so loud at some places. Bungaali Uncle has come! Pumbaali Kunkal has bum! The observations of the author are detailed, at one point he says that he felt like the smell of the new eraser in a geometry box, great! :-)
Anyway, I am posting some of my favourite lines and passages from the book.
- He realised obscurely that the sense of loneliness was too precious to be shared and finally incommunicable that men were ultimately islands, each had his own universe, immense only to himself, far beyond the grasp of the interest of others.
- The ecstasy of arrival never compensates for the emptiness of the departure.
- Perhaps he was merely longing for the past in an uncongenial present, forgetting its petty unhappiness, bewitched by it only because he was not its master.
- Remember, you're not James Bond..you only live once. (Brilliant line, referring to Bond's You Only Live twice)
- Today I have got myself out of all my perplexities, or rather I have got the perplexities out of myself, for they were not without but within, they lay in my own outlook.
- Movement without purpose, an endless ebb and flow, from one world to another, journeys and passages undertaken by cocoons for not for rest or solace but for ephemerals.
- He had first to banish all yearning and learn to accept the drift, perhaps it was true all was clouded by desire, a fire by smoke,or as a mirror by dust.
His references to Krishna and Arjuna about the mind being restless and Marcus Aurelius are so true of the facets that we wear daily. A great book to learn from...