lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In which Missus Em does a Kraktoa

This is a lesson about how best to get me annoyed.

Nobody can claim I am confrontational. I am not. I get along, smooth things over, ignore things that most people would pitch a fit about.

Things happen and I adjust; go with the flow and all that...There are very few things I am serious or fanatical about; it is my books and crosswords.

I have already gone on a bit about how much reading means to me and all that. Also about how fanatical I am about crosswords. The world can go to hell in a hand-basket all around me and I serenely carry on, doing my crosswords, ploughing through my reading list.

For instance, my flat is getting painted. For the past one month, we have been living surrounded by furniture taken out of other rooms, with the noise of the polishing machine, the too loud chatter of the painters; with the massive disruptions painting a flat one is living in entail.

We lived a week surrounded by china and crockery stalked all round us on make-shift surfaces, eating delivered food in the living room, balancing our plates on our knees. No Problem. I was merely amused and considered it a diversion and a holiday from regular cooking.

I smiled when an assistant mistook a shoe-cupboard for a door and scraped all the old polish off and sanded it. No harm done, it can have a fresh, if unscheduled, coat of polish for free, I said. I shrugged when a switch panel broke. Just replace it at your cost, I said.

We survived our computers being dismantled, being disconnected from the world for a week while our den got done. I just made sure the shelves were swathed in dust-covers and plastic sheets to keep the worst of the plaster dust away from my books. And I simply went to a cyber cafe and did my online crosswords. No problem. Unflappable Missus Em.

But. But. The painters, who thought I was a sweet and soft-spoken woman who politely asked for a surface to be redone or a splash to be cleaned up, who thought I was a baa-lamb, decided to be nice to me.

They dusted the books. That sentence ought to have some four or five exclamation marks after it, but I am mindful of Pratchett's remark that five exclamation marks are a sure sign of insanity.

They dusted the books. They took them out of the shelves, dusted them and put them back, all wrong. Upside down, or back to front, arranged according to size and height and width. No alphabetical order by author, no chronological order of publication for favourite authors, no by genre or category separation.

I won't say I carried on. I won't say I ranted. I won't say I screamed like a banshee. I did all that and more. I demanded that they remove all the books from the shelves and watch me sort them according to my classification and made them put them back, exactly the way they should be.

Considering that I have the Encyclopaedia Britannica, texts on music, reference books, complete works of Shakespeare, mathematical books and papers, bound volumes of Audio Amateur and Wireless world, Telugu classics, remnants of my father-in-law's library, my collection of contemporary Telugu poetry, cookery books and books on crafts, science fiction and fantasy, complete Discworld series, most of Stephen King's novels until he lost it, and miscellaneous novels that I picked up in airports, a lot of non-fiction... The list is rather large; anyway, considering this, the painting work came to a complete standstill for a whole day. I refused to let anything be done till my books were back the way they were.

The painters don't think I am a baa-lamb or a sweet and soft-spoken woman anymore. A small price to pay.



Anonymous Badari Narayanan said...

Poor painters. To cross the ocean only to drown in a drop of water - to rub off the entire building's old paint only to end up rubbing you up the wrong way! Such is life!

5:03 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

*Shamefaced grin* I know, I made a huge fuss. The only other time I blew up as badly was when a brother-in-law filled in up a crossword grid with gibberish. I was not amused. :D

5:24 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

You lose your cool for odd things, it seems.

2:38 pm  

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