A little introduction & a review of My Dateless Diary
Hello there, people. I'm kosherjellyfish, but I'm anything but kosher. Chinese actually. After much procrastination, I've finally joined my online friends, redelephant & girlanacrhonise, in this literary blog – one way of salvaging my terrible reading habits. Perhaps only through this means I will finally develop the discipline to stick to one book at a time, and actually finish reading it by the end of the day.
And my review today would be R.K. Narayan's My Dateless Diary : An American Journey. Was introduced to a short story of Narayan back when I was a literature student back in secondary school, and I started reading his titles. Narayan's a indian writer that writes in English, known for his collection of stories which he based in a fictional town called Malgudi.
His book, My Dateless Diary: An American Journey has a title that pretty much speaks for itself. An autobiography of sorts, the book is a dateless documentation of Narayan's journey through America – when he was 50 years old (in the 1960s), having to leave his homeland, India, for the first time. Though dateless, the stories somehow falls into sequence: almost day to day accounts as he travelled from town to town in America.
Now, I must admit that I haven't actually finished the book (oops), but Narayan has already charmed me with the first few chapters. The first part had Narayan in New York City (his first stop in America), getting used to the concepts of a cafeteria….
Yesterday, at the self-service cafeteria, I made the mistake of waiting for someone to ask what I wanted. Today I know better. You enter the cafeteria, pull out a 'check' (on which prices are punched) from a machine, pikc up a tray and spoons, and study the various dishes displayed on the long counter under a glass cover, trying to judge what's what and how far a vegetarian could venture – whether that attractive yellow stuff might not be some prohibited food such as lobster;
…which is much different from where he came from…
…how differently you got through a restaurant-session in Mysore. You took your seat, asked for morning paper and a glass of water – just to mark time before deciding whether you should have Masala Dosai again or Idli, or as you generally felt inclined (but resisted) both; but indecision could never be an end in itself, and you devised a further postponement of issues, by asking, when the reading of newspaper was over, 'What have you?' A routine question. The waiter would give a quick recital of the day's menu – nothing new or startling, but you enjoyed hearing it all over again.
Narayan made Mysore sounds like a charming place to be at already (I like Masala Dosai!) He also tried to anecdotes of India to the Americans through coffee….
…when I approached for coffee and was asked, 'Black or white?' 'Neither', I said haughtily. The server looked up rather puzzled. 'What do you mean?' he asked. 'I want it neither black nor white, but brown which ought to be the colour of honest coffee – that's how we made it in South India where devotees of perfection in coffee assemble from all oer the world'. He must have thought me crazy, but such leisurely talk is deliberate, like extra-clutches on the track of a train rolling downhill.
..and answered queries on Gandhi (what Americans know of India)….
'Gandhi was a sturdy man. What a strong man was he!'
'But he weighed only ninety pounds,' I added.
..and also, travelled in crowded trains filled with people heading to a football game…
I am a heretic in this land of football worshippers. In other days they might have burned me at the stake.
Wit and sarcasm is a good mix.
Narayan is one that never forgotten his roots, though he wrote and studied in English (Something I should keep note of :P) But then again, this was a man that lived in India for almost all his life and only left to travel at 50 years old.
To end this, here's a picture of my semi-hero…