Book Club

Book Club !
The very word stimulates my olfactory senses! Yes strange it is but the auditory or the literary senses refuse to surface .
For the memories of my earliest book club meets are a strange blend of freshly brewed filter coffee and residual smell of burnt out sesame oil.
A heady mix of fragrances of Mali poo and the Sambandhi poo – white and red coloured gajra flowers is how I recall the sweet smell.
Come to think of it even my acoustic memory of a Book Club is a blend – that of conversations in Tamil and English – both languages beyond my comprehension at that age.
I might have been five years old when one afternoon I went to Mrs Doraiswamy’s House for a book club meet with Neelam Didi, a neighbour. Strange that even though she was years older than me she needed my company. Looking back, I presume she just needed to hold a hand to walk two blocks to Mrs D’s house who lived in same defence officers’ colony as we did.
Four decades have passed since that first book club meet, yet I have vivid memories of the weather, the house and the people. The day was neither warm nor humid or cold. It must have been autumn, because I remember thick carpet of dry leaves on both the footpaths of the wide cantonment road.
Kicking dry leaves can be fun but a couple of kicks later I could sense a restrained exasperation that my action ensued on Didi’s face with every thrust. I could not help it because I could not bring myself to crush them.
Crushing dry leaves is something I still don’t do, it feels as though I am pounding out whatever life still exists in those frail remnants of what was once a life giving force of nature.
Quietly we sauntered off to Mrs D’s house, there was no urgency and I presume that it was the way of life never any rush to reach anywhere in those leisurely times.
As soon as we reached H – Block, I saw a cluster of people outside a house. Mostly women and children, teenaged children I remember. There were a dozen pairs of multi coloured, multi sized shoes and slippers neatly aligned in the ante room. Following suit as I entered the room, I was welcomed by the fragrances mentioned earlier !
That precise moment, that very memory and that amalgamation of smells is what comes back to me so far spaced out in time and place, when someone says BOOK-CLUB !

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