I am the Coronavirus Bookworm who went all the way to meet Edith Wharton!
Most people are letting Netflix warm up their hearts as they stay home isolated to keep the coronavirus away but I turned into a book worm!
I fell into that small mountain of books I had bought so long ago and started to dig in. Books as we all know has this sly mysterious power that pulls us in and does not let go, even when you were in the middle of cleaning up, or had left the potatoes to roast in the oven! Netflix had made me greedy for its many treasures, and kept me away from books. Now for some reason, besides allowing Netflix to keep my isolation easier to bear, I also felt words from far away beckoning! Waiting inside the pages of books to imprison me!
I first began with treating myself to a book by my favourite American author Edith Wharton. It was for me a lesser known book which I had found at the Sunday book fair in Hyderabad. This fair is held in Abids, which is a street filled with shops that are closed on Sundays. Inside one large enclave where normally people go to buy clothes, cosmetics, medicines etc. the book sellers sit outside these closed shops selling their second hand books to book worms. A lot of bargaining goes on till seven or eight at night. The sellers and the buyers go home happy.
Outside this cool enclave are the smaller sellers, who sell their books for twenty rupees or fifty rupees and often have even better treasures than the costlier sellers inside. If you can brave the Hyderabad heat here, as they sit on the pavement, with the sweltering sun above, you will be rewarded like I was.
I had found this book called The Glimpses of the Moon on a rickety wooden table crowded with mostly dull old school and college books and magazines. But in that trash sat Edith Wharton! The book cost me Rs. Twenty, less than the price of a milk carton which costs Rs. 30! I could not believe my luck. Though I have yet to read The Age of Innocence for which she got the Pulitzer Prize, I had read The House of Mirth and many of her short stories, some of them the best chilling scary tales I have ever read. Now here was this one, a love story of a very different kind!
It is the story of two young people in love, very poor but proud, living amidst the very rich of 1920’s New York, who get married and decide to spend their first year together by sponging off their rich friends, by spending their honeymoon in their grand villas, mansions, palaces and other exotic homes. This cheeky adventure begins well but ends up like all such schemes, inside a well of woe and wisdom where real life surfaces to change everything!
Written with the exquisite insight and warmth of this writer, the book was a bestseller and cast a spell on me. For three days, the coronavirus could not touch me as I swept through Wharton’s world of wisdom, warmth and grace! If you like love stories, you cannot miss this one!
It may look like I never read the book, from this picture of me. But I assure you it was taken after I finished the book and was taking my well deserved packet of dreams from my nap!