Last week, there was an office off-site that I’d agreed to attend. (I mean, it’s an off-site, it’s not like I’m working, so that’s ok. Anyway, it was fun, of course.) And then this week there was an office lunch that I wanted to skip, but couldn’t. And once you’re out for three hours and your day is broken up, it makes sense to get a haircut as well, right?
So apart from those minor distractions, I’ve been very focused. The only problem is, once you start researching, you never know where exactly to stop. It’s clear that I don’t need anything like the level of expertise that I’ve acquired in my chosen subjects. There’s no point in giving my readers a dissertation on theoretical physics (or, for that matter, philosophy). For one thing, there are many people, far better qualified than me, who have done that work already. For another thing, my intention is to draw my reader in with the story, not drive them away with the theoretical underpinnings. So I need just enough theory, not too much. But when I start reading, I tend to get sucked in deeper and deeper and deeper and before you know it, I’m in the murky depths and there’s no sunlight filtering in and I’m not even sure which way is up any more.
And that’s not all. I have my working hours and I have my leisure hours and now that the working hours are up to me and there’s no commute (apart from going downstairs to the basement, which doesn’t see a lot of traffic even at peak hours), I can actually enjoy my leisure hours without falling asleep at the wheel (literally or figuratively). I’d thought I’d spend some time with the idiot box, which must be feeling pretty neglected and unloved, but it hasn’t happened. Instead, we discovered a library near home.
Growing up, I used to go to the library in the Delhi Gymkhana Club. It had rows and rows and rows of bookshelves that stretched almost to the high ceiling, and it was quite possible to get lost in the gloom cast by those heavy wooden bookshelves and the thousands of books upon them. The catalogue was in a tall wooden cabinet, with musty cards detailing each book and the row and shelf where you could find it, if you were so lucky. There were a lot of good books to read in there, but they were old, old books, perhaps as old as the building itself, many of them covered with leather binding, and they smelt like dust and sometimes they crumbled into specks of dust when you tried to turn the pages. When you’d selected the particular assortment of dust you wanted, you carried them over to the counter and an unsmiling person took your card and stamped each book with a return-by date and then handed you the pile.
The library we have found now is nothing like that library. This one is bright and airy and spacious and the shelves are half empty (but not in a bad way). There are chairs and stools scattered around and a water dispenser at the back. The catalogue is online, of course (hence the half-empty shelves). If you wish, you can search for books online and they will be delivered to your doorstep, in exchange for the books that you’re ready to return. If you really want to go to the library, you can do so, of course, but when you’re ready to issue or return your books, it’s all automated. Place the books and your card in the slot and the machine reads everything and you’re done. There’s plenty to read here as well, half-empty shelves notwithstanding. I’ve already dipped into at least two different series of fantasy for pre-teens and found them to be quite a lot of fun, actually. I’ve also snapped up a Gerald Durrell and a Janet Evanovich, and eyed a Tolkein that I haven’t come across before. There’s a row of PG Wodehouses as well, which I’ve bookmarked for future entertainment. Lots to read, no doubt about it. Unlike the library of yore, this one has fairly new books in excellent condition (no dog-eared pages, no scribbling in margins) with plastic covers and all. They don’t smell of dust or fall apart in your hands… but you can’t have everything, can you?
Given that I’m trying to write, I have to ensure that I don’t get drawn into too much reading. It probably wasn’t a good idea, then to pick up The Martian, by Andy Weir. The damn thing was pretty much unputdownable. I’ve finished it now, of course, and I’m on safer ground with Gerald Durrell, which you can cherish in little bits. But there’s another trip to that library coming up soon and I’m already drooling over the possibilities!