‘Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre’.
The instant message box popped up on my screen. It was the summer of 2006. And I had just completed a year and 2 months in my first job at Hyderabad. And frankly, I could not take it anymore. That was exactly why I had already planned an exit from the city, and asked for a transfer to Gurgaon, nearer to home. And the Boss had agreed too. ‘Just handover your role to this guy who is moving in from Bangalore, and then you can go.’ I was happy. Bangalore guy had arrived 2 months ago, and had royally ditched me. Opted for another role, because it included a free trip to London. Selfish fellow. And so I was stuck here for some more time, till they found my replacement. The message was from him.
‘Huh?’ I wrote, with no idea whatsoever of what he meant.
‘The book I told you about?’
Oh yes. The book he told me about. That one time we actually spoke. We weren’t more than acquaintances really, even though he had been sitting right in front of me for a whole month almost. I wasn’t too interested in talking to him. One because he ditched me. And two because I was asked to find him a non-shared port on the floor after he ditched me. A port on the floor of a BPO, where a higher ‘seat utilisation’ ratio gets you additional bonus. Who did they think I was, Mother Teresa?
So I refused to get him a seat, and he was temporarily made to sit right in front of me. Apart from a few smiles and ‘hellos’ , we never talked.
But apparently, Bangalore guy had been eavesdropping on my conversations in general, because one fine day he looked from over the barrier and spoke.
‘What’s your OHR? Will send you something you’ll like’
‘ Uh, ok. 302012323’
In a few minutes , I had in my mailbox a forward with links to a lot of e-books. All fiction. Ah, guy was a quality eavesdropper.
‘Thanks’, I said, and smiled a rare smile at him, ‘so you are into books too huh?’
‘Well, I am to some extent, but I’m choosy about what I read. I only read books which have really strong recommendations from reliable sources.’
‘Oh. Interesting. Which would be your favorite book then?’
‘Well, I like Salinger’s books. You know, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ kinds?
‘Of course, who doesn’t!’ I said, ego fully hurt. I hadn’t read the book though. And I didn’t know that Salinger was the author, eep. But why tell that? I was the self-proclaimed voracious reader after all. So I kept my mouth shut.
‘Yeah, and there was this other book, which was more like a modern day ‘Catcher in the Rye’, by another author, I forget his name though’
‘Oh, which one?’ I said, with no idea what he could be talking about. Dude, I hadn’t even read the original version, would I know the modern version. Hmph. Show off!
‘Damn! It’s just not coming to me! It’s named after the protagonist himself!’
‘Oh, let me know when you remember.’ I didn’t really want to continue to conversation, lest he threw a few more names of unknown authors and books at me.
I don’t think we spoke after that. A couple of days later, Bangalore guy was moved to yet another makeshift port. And I totally forgot about him.
‘Oh yes, the book you told me about’
‘Very crude language, almost abusive at times, but brilliantly written!’
‘I am googling him now, does have good reviews. Will check it out!’
So here I was, pretty impressed. A guy who reads, I thought. And impressive sounding books at that. I mean seriously, first Salinger, and now modern day Salinger? How cool was he! Interesting enough to keep talking to? Most definitely yes!
What I didn’t know then was that, the two books he mentioned in our first conversation, and in the subsequent chat, were probably 2 of the 10 (Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but the number wouldn’t exceed a 2 digit figure for sure) books he had ever read. But what did happen was this ended up being just the beginning of hundreds of chats that were to follow. Chats which led to tea breaks, which led to walks around the office campus, which led to meeting up on weekends, and movies, and eating out. Which led to us getting married exactly a year later.
All’s well that ends well, and this one story did end very well. The Dude still won’t read a fiction book unless I force him to. And I still haven’t managed to complete ‘Catcher in the Rye’. But the book will always remain a favorite for other reasons.
And so will Salinger. Because Catcher in the Rye or not, he managed to change my life in a big way. And I can’t thank him enough for that.
P.S. I wanted to do this post when I came to know of J.D.Salinger passing away, but somehow it got delayed till now. May he Rest in Peace.