When I moved back to Hyderabad a year ago I wasn’t sure it was the right choice for me. The city had a special place in my heart until then. I loved it dearly and I called it home. Back then, it was the only city I felt was closest to home. But I always felt it was low on cultural and artsy activity. I have no anger or hatred for Hyderabad even now. The laziness and the foodiness is both pleasing and annoying. I can’t make up my mind. However, over time I felt an uneasiness. A rising discomfort with the city spaces. The roads no longer seemed welcoming; the sexual harassment was more than I remembered. The random comments from people seemed to have peaked. (Be it about my rowdiness because of the short hair or the comments my fellow residents were getting about being ‘too fat’.) I found the charm fading. Then I began to analyse and question this and I felt it was probably me. I was just aching for a different space, a different rhythm. More adept to my creativity. More aligned with my frame of mind. It is pompous to say I have outgrown this city. But something had changed. Over a period of time, it didn’t feel the same anymore. My relationship with it had changed. And that was unnerving.
Growing up, I was more attached to my comic books than people in the real world. As an adult, things only got better. I lived in libraries for the beautiful smell and endless stories. I drifted along with my characters, always rooting for one. I found genres I liked, loved and hated. I found friends in the authors that spoke to me and inspirations in the authors that stood out. I lived, thus, in two worlds. As Munro puts it: “A story is more like a house. Everybody knows what a house does, how it encloses space and makes connections between one enclosed space and another and presents what is outside in a new way. This is the nearest I can come to explaining what a story does for me, and what I want my stories to do for other people.” I couldn’t agree more.
Recently, I found a space that reminded me of a house. Only that it housed more than one story. More than one possibility. A place where endlessly talking about books would not be snubbed. On the contrary, it would be encouraged. Where fellow humans would huddle to discuss how much they liked or disliked a book. I felt instantly at home. Book clubs are wonderful places to discover new authors, meet new people and discuss books and the worlds they create.
I believe in serendipity and many of my favourite authors and books were discovered when I was lost in a second hand book store hunting for a book to feel a connection to. But as a reader and writer, I favour some genres and authors. A club would break this monotony for me. Plus, I would get to see what others felt about the book. As much as the book, any book, and I have an intimate relationship, it is a sensational experience to listen to what others thought of the book. To open my mind to new ideas, thoughts and people. There will always be a side to the story I did not see.
Book-ends, the book club in Hyderabad, was a lot more than just good books and bad books or good movies and bad movies. It was about engaging on issues that these books and movies bring up. I am thoroughly looking forward to the next intimate meeting of a bunch of book lovers.