Friday, 13 May 2011

Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

It is one beautifully written book. Not a single dull story here. Still, one’s got to have favourite ones, right? Here: Pigeons at Daybreak, a day (and night) in life of a middle-age Indian couple. Pineapple Cake: a Catholic wedding in Bombay as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Scholar and Gypsy: adventures of the young American couple in India — he loves it, she hates it — then they go on holidays, with an unexpected and humorous role reversal.

Games at Twilight
One of his worst afflictions, Mr Basu thought, was not to be able to read the newspaper himself. To have them read to him by his wife. He watched with fiercely controlled irritation that made the corners of his mouth jerk suddenly upwards and outwards, as she searched for her spectacles through the flat. By the time she found them — on the ledge above the bathing place in the bathroom, of all places: what did she want with her spectacles in there? — she had lost the newspaper. When she found it, it was spotted all over with grease for she had left it beside the stove on which the fish was frying. This reminded her to see to the fish before it was overdone. ‘You don’t want charred fish for your lunch, do you?’ she shouted back when he called. He sat back then, in his tall-backed cane chair, folded his hands over his stomach and knew that if he were to open his mouth now, even a slit, it would be to let out a scream of abuse. So he kept it tightly shut.
When she had finally come to the end of that round of bumbling activity, moving from stove to bucket, shelf to table, cupboard to kitchen, she came out on the balcony again, triumphantly carrying with her the newspaper as well as the spectacles. ‘So,’ she said, ‘are you ready to listen to the news now?’
Pigeons at Daybreak

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