Sunday, January 16, 2011

I scour the strainer hard, wondering at the particles of grime that manage to make their way into the various crevices unnoticed until they accumulate into revolting, sticky brown cakes. Set against the fluorescent-green plastic, it is not a pretty sight. The milk boils and rattles against the steel vessel, a brown crust forming on its inside. Time to turn it off before it swells and pours onto the platform- I abandon the strainer and do so. I take the lid off the container where I store the coffee powder and inhale the intoxicating aroma- it is the best thing in the world next to the fragrance of moist earth touched by fresh rain.

I heap generous spoonfuls of the powder into my coffee-maker, a very thoughtful birthday present, pour water into it and watch the thick mixture swirl within its dark confines. I set it on the stove and let it boil well, then drain the red-tinted decoction into my dark violet mug. The last pear-shaped drops splutter fitfully into the mug, this prized possession of mine. Even in my 'communal living' experience, it hasn't been used by anyone except me, barring on one occasion when it was offered to a Guest of Honour. It carries a white Fort Siloso logo, a souvenir from a place of battle and imprisonment. Who makes money off the souvenirs now, the descendants of the deceased or a mercenary tourism board?

And while I make my coffee and wash spoons and cups, I realise that I've been describing these acts to myself all the while, letting words take over entirely and form pictures in my head, even though I see for myself all I do. The colour of my mug becomes more vivid when represented by a word, the milk pouring through the strainer and mixing with the dark decoction makes a brew whose richness is enhanced by the words describing it in my head.

It is Rohinton Mistry working his magic all over again. Reinforcing my faith in words. He describes every minute action with a simplicity that makes you want to linger on in your reading. You're borne forward gently on wings of ethereal beauty, words encompassing and soothing and unintrusive. There is a tussle going on in my head this very moment, because I have a sneaky suspicion that I'm beginning to like Mistry better than Ruskin Bond. Ring out the old, ring in the new? No. I'd rather try and let them live together, or live myself with this painful pleasure of having to choose between two master craftsmen.

I finished The English Patient yesterday, and discovered yet another stupendous writer in Michael Ondaatje. This weekend has in more ways than one obliterated the traumatic effects of The Slap, and with writers like Mistry, Bond, Ondaatje and JG Farrell at my disposal, I'm not too inclined to step into uncharted waters very soon.

Summer is sneaking in through the meshed window, and bright moonlight is casting a silver patch on the kitchen sink, where unwashed vessels are piled up high. On the detritus of a long, lazy Sunday. It is already too warm for mid-January, and soon the heat will be upon us, another season of nostalgia and memories, part of the irreversible cycle. Now, though, I'll let Thomas Newman play and bury myself into Mistry again, before Monday rears its ugly head.

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