Back in Mangalore the library came to us. Struggling against the heat and the uphill climb an old man cycled closer.
Every month or fortnight he’d arrive. His bycycle had a large open box attached at the back. He could have fit in it easily. The box was made of tin or some metal that was showing its age, but it was not rusted.
Inside the box were comic books and magazines. Good literature too, maybe some religious works but I never bothered about them. The family would gather near the bycycle and pick up new material. The old man always stood bent over the box, watching what we’d pick up.
The material wasn’t actually new. They were just the latest things he got his hands on. Books from America libraries, books that said “remember me Jess”, book with random writing, folds and tears. The books were usually from the 70’s and 80’s with Americans having written in them. I have no idea how they got here.
I’d take copies of Archie’s comics and try to figure out the magazines. I must have been very young; I was very proud about having learnt how to spell “Zoo” from one of them.
The cycle library seemed to disappear from my life after a while, just all those warm Mangalore afternoons when there was nothing to do.
The heat of the mid-day sun seemed to have seeped into the basement where we pawed through book, our fingers getting dirtier by the minute.
We were done with our practicals early and being unwilling to head home or brave the heat we choose to stay in college. A friend mentioned that old books where stored away in the basement, awaiting disposal, and when he mentioned that these books were as free as air, I sighed and realized I’d have major back pain by the time I got home. I pushed my laptop around and made room while we spiraled down the stairs.I couldn’t help but hope we’d find something extraordinary.
I had known about the pile before, but back then I imagined it was this secret stash meant to stay hidden in the basement. The basement is a cold,dark area that burrows under the science block. Quite a few people label it “shady” and find themselves peering uncomfortably into the dark trying to figure out if they’re alone down there. The last time I visited the pile, I had stuck my hands through dusty metal grills older than me and looked at attendance registers from the fifties. The basement is meant for staff only, so looking through names from the last century in a dusty,dark corner was rather thrilling.
But now I knew that I could take those books away. The pile had diminished considerably and had transformed into a scattered dump of books. The basement was damp, made me sweat and rather disappointingly wasn’t as dark as it was the last time I was there.My friends and I set about hopping over and going through the books. I didn’t see any registers and most of what we came across were old science textbooks (no wonder they were being thrown away). They were all hardbound and quite a few were more older than all our ages combined.
My finger grew dusty as I dug up book, books that never seemed to get any cleaner no matter how I tried. I picked up 3 magazines- the first called mainstream, (complaining that everything is too mainstream is a running joke in my circle of friends), a torn up copy of a magazine whose name seemed impossible to figure out, and another that demanded Modi resign all the way back in 2002. The laughs that it cause was worth the trip down here. I also picked up two ancient books on sociology. One had the name of my friend Deb on it, I texted him asking him if he was a time traveler. He explained that his fetish for social equality gave him super-powers. I also found a almanac from 1963 that was probably owned by a racist -the sections on Africa and the middle east were torn out.
I wish I had raided the pile before anyone else had gotten to it, but I can’t say I’m unhappy with my loot. I would have taken a lot more if I could have, maybe some of those issue from the 79 volumes on Gandhi’s sayings…
I can’t think of any dish I hated as a kid and came to like later. However I do remember I never liked tomatoes as a kid and I can’t get enough of them these days.
I don’t mean to say I like putting tomatoes on everything [well I do] what I mean is I like eating tomatoes by themselves. Tomatoes I have discovered taste really good even when they aren’t cut up and put on stuff. Just take a bite out of one and you’ll see. I once ate seven tomatoes in fourteen bites.
I still have friends who pick out tomatoes from what they’re eating. Lonely bread crusts and tomatoes are a common sight on used plates. It’s a tragedy really. Did you know there a thousands of tomato species that are going to go extinct because people don’t care about the sort of tomatoes they eat?
The first time I realized tomatoes taste amazing is when there were a bunch of stray tomatoes were in the fridge. They were tiny, a little bigger than a finger nail, I had no idea what they were so I ate it. I don’t know why but ever since I’ve fallen in love with tomatoes. I stopped putting them away, I actually looked forward to eating them. Sometimes I just ate tomatoes when I was too lazy to cook. Maybe they were magic tomatoes.
I don’t understand how those juicy little orbs ever managed to repel me. I remember how I used to cringe every time I came across them and put them away. Burgers, Pizzas etc were all ripped to shreds with knives and fingers in my attempts to get rid of them. Tomatoes never seemed to go with anything.
There’s a lot you can do with tomatoes that doesn’t need a lot of work. Just heat them up a little ,after you cut them in two, and they taste amazing. I wasn’t long ago when I discovered the wonders of tomatoes I can still recollect the cringes that tomatoes used to brings. I don’t know how to describe it. all I can do is head to the fridge and eat a couple more of them.