I have been a member of the British Council Library in Chennai for many years, except for a gap or two, of some months perhaps, when I had satisfied my reading requirements by subscribing to the services of a lending library.
A visit to the British Council Library has always been a very welcome experience. Even as I approach the library, I visualize to myself the pure pleasure of being amidst thousands of books. Inside the library, it is so quiet that I am automatically absorbed into another world, a world of deep contemplation, unexpected discovery, and of hidden treasures. I always have this feeling reinforced that, blessed with this ability to commune with these writers whose soulful presence is intimately felt, I am never richer than when being in such company and, more important, engaged in their retelling.
Though I wish to visit it more often than I have done, the frequency has remained monthly over all these long years. It’s a long journey from home and I mostly travel by bus which is the cheapest but occupies at least 2 hours both ways, even if you get the bus without much of a wait.
It is seldom that I have read all the four that I brought home, although I always feel a huge thrill just carrying four volumes that potentially represent hours of inestimable reading pleasure. It is a feeling akin to having the power to board at random any of the four trains, which are each bound for a new, unknown destination, alight anywhere on the way and board another, without going through the trouble of waiting and buying fresh fare. Though, like most readers, I do look for the works of my favourite authors, but I am an impartial explorer. I would anytime prefer a book by a new author, if its blurb or something particular about it instantly appeals to me. This predilection for a new author betrays my attraction to fiction set in the contemporary world.
The books that I borrowed on my last visit are due next week, and I am surprised and happy that I am reading the last one of the four that a member is allowed to borrow on an individual membership. I started with 24 for 3 by Jennie Walker – a very small novel written well. The plot is sort of vague for my taste, but in portions it engaged my interest. Next I read One of Us by Melissa Benn – a very enjoyable read. With all its characters credible, contemporary and alive, the story unfolds at a gentle pace, going back and forth over a huge timescape. Ruth Rendell’s Tigerlily’s Orchids gave me the satisfaction that her books always give me. With so many characters, seldom distinguishable as major or minor, there is always an energy and bustle in her books. And, her ability to eschew exaggeration and drama and yet lock the reader into her narration is uniquely hers. I am about a quarter of my way into Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam and it is drawing me in.