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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sneaky-Peeky Sundays: The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh


As part of the Sneaky-Peeky Sunday here at The Book Worm, here's the page from the book The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh that I am reading right now:

'....to think of him waiting for her at the station at Calcutta, but she had no idea what the station would be like. She thought of a more crowded version of Paddington, in London, and she saw him, waiting for her at the bookstall. She saw herself walking up to him, putting out a hand, saying very demurely, How-do-you-do. But he didn't respond - he smiled at her thinly, looking her over with bright, piercing eyes. He looked exactly as he did in the picture he had sent her - intense, saturnine, more than a little mad. And then she was really frightened: she didn't want to meet a man like that alone, in a strange country. That was when she sent my father a telegram asking him to meet her at the station.

But then, when she saw him, looking over my head, he wasn't at all like his picture. He looked awkward, absurdly young, and somehow very reassuring. Also a little funny, because his eyes were hugely magnified by those glasses of his, and he kept blinking in an anxious, embarrassed kind of way. She hadn't been able to help throwing her arms around him; it was just pure relief. She knew at last why she had come, and she was glad. It had nothing to do with curiosity.

She was given our guest room - a large, airy room which looked out over the garden. I would sit on the bed and watch her - writing letters, playing her recorder, brushing her hair. I loved the smell of her: the smell of shampoo and soap and something else, not perfume, I was sure, because I hated the smell of perfume. Something cool and breezy.

I leant over, picked at her pullover and sniffed at it. She drew back, startled.

"What's this now? What're you up to?"

I'm wondering whether you still smell the same, I told her.

And do I?

Yes, I said. You do. What do you smell of?

She sniffed her pullover herself and made a face: Sweat? Grime?

No - something else.

All right, she said, laughing. I'll confess, it's lavender water.

Later, in my adolescence, I was ashamed, nail-bitingly ashamed of staring at her like that, sniffing at her, fingering her clothes surreptitiously. I used to squirm thinking of how I had behaved, and then I would argue with myself, try to restore a........'




- Debolina Raja Gupta