I am an unabashed lover of books by Enid Blyton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and P.G. Wodehouse. All my notions and dreams about Britain and the British was moulded by these three authors. For me Britain was embodied by crumpets for tea, professional and amateur detectives (either accompanied by a dog or by a loyal friend), boarding schools where there is at least one midnight party every term, a french teacher (Mademoiselle), faithful gentlemen's gentlemen, interfering, pompous bobbies ….. and the list goes on.
So imagine my shock when I eventually got to the U.K. Reality hit me like a stinging slap on my face. It was as if all the romantic images of the country painted in all these books had vanished into thin air – poof! - just like that. A friend who had lived in the country for atleast a quarter of a century when I eventually landed there had a good laugh at me, when I expressed my shock and disappointment. She wondered in which romantic world I existed. But I tell you, it broke my little heart to smithereens. I could not bear to think of, leave alone face a country so far removed from my illusions. I really loved the Britain painted in those books. I felt badly cheated, let down. But there you are. One has to come down to reality with a bang some time or the other. (I am sure at least 90% of married people – and this is a conservative estimate of mine – have had the same feeling when they wake up to the harsh realities of married life after harbouring notions straight out of M&B novels and Indian films. Suddenly there are no beautiful locales, no platoon of 50 faceless individuals to dance to a song along with you and your spouse). I mean, reality is really heartless, merciless, oh, my vocabulary fails me miserably at this point. It just has this nasty habit of delivering a really hard one in the solar plexus.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I felt totally idiotic. How could I have been such a complete fool? How could I have let a couple of authors to lead me on a completely misguided flight to the little island?
Not long. I mean I only felt this way for a brief 20-21 years of my life. I had in the intervening years graduated to “grown-up” books and authors. Jeffrey Archer was one of my newer discoveries and I had cottoned onto him like flying strands of cotton to my clothes. He came to my rescue in more ways than one. Not only can I proudly claim to be a reader of grown-up books, but I discovered that my latest favourite author suffers from the same syndrome as me. Or so I thought when I read the headline of an article in the newspaper which said “Archer yearns for Malgudi's flavour”. Yippee, I thought. Here is a famous British author who is very fond of R.K. Narayan and considers him in the league of authors such as Guy de Maupassant or F Scott Fitzgerald. I thought “so he too is looking for the imaginary Malgudi in India. Great – The Empire Strikes Back. Our very own R.K. Narayan has done to him what P.G. Wodehouse and Enid Blyton did to me”. But alas – this was one more of my illusions. When I read the entire article (an interview with the author), he did not at any point mention that he was looking for Malgudi as described by our R.K. Narayan. That was a dirty trick played on me by the author of the article in the newspaper. Looks like all writers suffer from this horrible disease called “cooking up tales syndrome”
Hey do I hear you say I do the same? Well, I might have caught a milder version of it. May be it is catching. But at least the virus is attenuated. My stories are all based on the truth. You just have to look at my name to know that.