Here are the first few lines from "The Strange Case of Billy Biswas" which I mentioned the post before last. Even the prospect of merely typing out well written lines is somehow extremely pleasurable:
There is a song among the bhils of the Satpura Hills that goes somewhat like this:
I came a thousand miles to see your face, O mountain,
A thousand miles did I come to see your face.
It is an odd song, playful and melancholy by turns, like the wind in a saal forest on a quiet afternoon. For reasons that I have not understood it is sung both at births and also at the time of funerals. As far as I know, it has nothing to do with the story of Billy Biswas, except that, of late wherever i think of the one the thought of the other also comes to me.
As I grow old, I realize that the most futile cry of man is his impossible wish to be understood. The attempt to understand is probably even more futile. If in spite of this I propose to relate Billy's story, it is not so much because I claim to have understood him as it is on account of a deep and unrelieved sense of wonder that in the middle of the twentieth century, in the heart of Delhi's smart society, there should have lived a man of such extraordinary obsessions. I could be wrong. Perhaps his obsessions were not so extraordinary, after all, even if the garb in which they appeared was. Perhaps, as he once said, before the eye of each one of us, sooner or later, at one time of life or another, a phantom appears. Some, awed, pray for it to withdraw. Others, ostrich like, bury their heads in sand. There are those, however, who can do naught but grapple with such faceless tempters and chase them to the very ends of the earth. These last, he might have added, run the most terrible of perils that man is capable of.
What happened to Billy was, perhaps, inevitable, as inevitable as the star-constellations in which he came so absolutely to believe. Looking back, however, it is not so much the final resolution of his life that interests me as I am intrigued by what preyed upon him during the course of it. If life's meaning lies not in the glossy surfaces of our pretensions but in those dark mossy labyrinths of the soul that languish forever, hidden from the dazzling light of the sun, then I do not know of any man who sought it more doggedly and, having received a signal, abandoned himself so recklessly to its call. In brief, I know of no other man who so desperately pursued the tenuous thread of existense to its bitter end, no matter what trails of golry or shattered hearts he left behind in his turbulent wake.