There is something obscenely calm about working from home in a situation like mine. There is a feeling of fear and uncertainty that all of us tacitly have but there is absolutely nothing to be done and hence, the balance shifts and the mind tries to get beyond things that seem decidedly bleak. Under those circumstances, today started well. I was very sure that all my work would be done post-midnight and only concentrated on doing the things that I have been a little tardy about. Like reading, taking out the trash, and getting the beautiful Spülmittel for our kitchen. Since I was sure we are all in the doldrums of the coronavirus, making calls all around seems like the order of the day. Make no mistake, communication channels keep people going in times like these. Making coffee and talking to a friend who are cross with me for not attending a get-together, I realised it was already past noon. There is something slippery about time after 8:30 am. It creeps up on you and beyond that time only calms down around 3 pm. Is that where our body-clock myths come from? I am not sure but it is good to have a guess.
I sense that working from 3 pm is not always ideal and did the most calming thing of all: clean the kitchen floor. Ever since I have been cooking at home (which helps not going out), the hard to get rid of stains on the floor multiply. I watch it with pitiful disdain; I have not qualms that it is still a stain but the circumstance of it is a loving one. I scrubbed the floor till I was satisfied with the scrubbing. It was not gleaming but for someone who does not mind a little bit of graininess in things, it was nothing short of spectacular. And then came the bit with the trash. Sorting trash is where one feels like an adult; it is the same kind of pleasure one finds in a hotel room alone on one’s first Work Trip. It is one of the cool distance you maintain with the surroundings; the trash—one that you created—finds its way to the sorting giant trash bins and suddenly everything seems fresher. That is what it takes for one to feel the dull and monotonous joys of adulthood.
Since then I have been reading Camus. The Plague intrigues me with the way it begins. In a way, all good French novels have the very strange narrator who is always there; it is not only unsettling but also odd in its complicity. The amateur historian has the same kind of haughty position as the narrator of Madame Bovary — the narrator was there. It was point so labored over that in his first class of Flaubert, my professor in college spent explaining the way it changes everything. Of the complicity of reading and the reader who is now as present as the narrator who is also recording it.
Since then Sheldon Pollock‘s work has been the “main course of the day”. That is an incredibly good introduction that he has in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. I am going to leave one good quote here from the book:
We can perceive this with unusual clarity in India as the Sahitya Akademi, at the moment of its founding, struggled with the dilemma presented by the very concept of Indian literature: “The main idea behind the program,” the Akademi declared in its First Annual Report, “is to build up gradually a consciousness that Indian Literature is one, though written in many languages. One of the limitations under which our writers work is that a writer in one Indian language has hardly any means of knowing the work that is being done in other Indian languages.” In other words, none of those writers actually producing Indian literature knew that there was a singular Indian literature. It is the nation-state alone that knows, if only obscurely; or more accurately, it knows, if only tacitly, that it must produce what it is empowered to embody and defend. In this the nation acts exactly like literary history, and even like literary discourse itself, more broadly conceived.Pollock 10