He’s banking on his words
In my younger days, I knew exactly where my last bank note was. Let me explain. It is the end of the month, and with my salary having been spent on books, cigarettes and some food, there is pressure on my finances. And this is before deficit financing – or credit cards – had become a popular option. At some point in the last week of the month, I would throw my arms up in despair and ask, “Where on earth has my money gone?”
And the answer would suggest itself, the key word being “earth”. For in my dictionary, on the page where the word “earth” appeared, would be a 100 rupee note or a 500 rupee note, thoughtfully placed there on pay day.
Every now and then newspapers carry stories about the stuff that is sometimes mined from someone’s stomach after an operation: nails, watches, rings, a subscription to Time magazine – the list is often fascinating, if sometimes a tad nauseous. If I were to perform a similar exercise on my books, the result would be just as fascinating, I fancy. Recently I found a letter in
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde wishing me luck in my new job as sports editor. It was from Sunil Gavaskar. Between another set of pages was an electricity bill from the year France won the football World Cup.
Receipts, bills, movie tickets, aircraft boarding passes, letters from friends asking for endorsement of something or other (usually the other) tend to nestle between the pages of books. No wonder they say books are a man’s best friend. Or at least man’s best non-barking friend.
But you can overdo things. We once spent nearly half a family vacation looking for my son’s birth certificate until it was discovered sleeping sweetly in a coffee table book about the artist Michelangelo.
The favourite family fantasy is a letter from a lawyer or head of a trust suddenly discovered among – ironically enough – The Letters of George Orwell informing us that a distant relative had passed on leaving us a few million dollars, three cottages on the coast of France and a rare collection of Shakespeare’s first folios. To be collected at our convenience, of course. For it might take years for the letter to be discovered.
But the days of money on “earth” are over, thanks in the main to better financial management. Still, who wouldn’t like to find it in a book?
In recent years, I have taken to giving books to friends as a gift, with a bank note inside. And when they tell me how much they enjoyed the book, I know they haven’t read it. For there is no talk of money.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.