Friday, December 12, 2014

Find a hobby, turn it into an obsession.

I've been through phases of obsessions. There was art in high school, I don't think I've ever read up on anyone more than I then did on Van Gogh. My German obsession was something else entirely. It was a heady feeling I thoroughly loved of being taken up in a swarm of culture. I listened only to German songs for some six months, watched German movies, read German books and was completely immersed in all things Deutschland. Fun meant Tatort-marathons, Rammstein, scoffing at Til Schweiger movies, more Rammstein, sourcing news strictly from Spiegel and Deutsche Welle, stalking German blogs and still more Rammstein. I remember working at a language help-desk at this education fair with an African guy who taught French, and I was able to tell him more facts on Germany than India. You know, like how many states there are... Oh, don't judge.

I also have a long happy history with butterfly and bird-watching. They were our pet hobbies as a family, and it didn't take long for both to turn into pet obsessions. The Sunday mornings spent travelling to lakes and hills in and around Pune, chasing butterflies and watching out for birds, binoculars around our necks and guidebooks in hand: they were beautiful. So the other day, when I went on a birding trek-type thing, I expected to be awed and stunned and so forth. But with the enchantment now somewhat worn off, I was also amused.

Imagine a teeny village on the edge of Pune. Just one dusty street lined with stocky brick houses. It's a little after dawn and the people are already at the farms, working, the women probably at the well. Imagine a tired old man dozing at the side of the road, roused by screeching brakes. A gigantic white bus from the city comes to a halt right at his feet, and people pour out of it. These aren't normally dressed city people. They are wearing an assortment of navy and mud-green clothes and funny caps. They talk in loud whispers, following one man who sets up a large black piece of equipment on the ground and the group crowd around it, taking turns looking through it at the top of a tall transmission tower with uncontainable admiration. Imagine the tired old man inching curiously towards the group, justifiably puzzled.

What we were doing was gawking through a spotting-scope at a nest at the top of the tower of a woolly necked stork. We were there for over half an hour and so was the old man whom we barely noticed. When someone did finally see him, all he did was warn the rest of us that the man might enter the bus and steal something. The hilarity of our presence there would never have struck me as an insider, too inextricably involved in the bird-watching activity to notice appearances. There is a thin line between interest and obsession and once you cross it, that's where the magic happens. Hilarity is fun (and, no that's not redundant.) There's no joy like a bunch of people being eccentric together. 

Harry Potter will always be my biggest book obsession. I even wrote a post, way back when, on Tabula Rasa about how I love the series most for all the memories it gave me. I called it Nargles, Wrackspurts and Blibbering Humdingers, and I'm sorry, but I will judge you if you don't know what those are. I've been unfortunate enough to not be friends with any book-maniacs since the Harry Potter days. I joined a book club which introduced me to some, who I am very thankful for, but it was Tabula Rasa that really brought this sense of belonging and opened up a world of exceptionally crazy fun for me. Find yours, seriously. 

For an outsider, writing a blog solely about books for four continuous years may seem a little weird, which it is. But I get this sheer joy from knowing that across the world, somewhere in Sweden or Mexico, someone I know from the blog has bought a book I recommended, is now opening it, breathing in its crisp fresh scent, and taking care not to crack the spine as they settle down to read it. It may be across oceans, in this case, but fun is often all about sharing a good experience with someone. And knowing what you're doing is pointless or silly or very inconspicuous in the unconquerable big picture shouldn't stop you from having the time of your life.

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