My life inextricably is woven around food and books. Sometimes, one leads to the other.
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to dine at Guppy by Ai. Slowly and surely, I was won over by their clean yet complex flavours. You may have been brought up on sushi, but I distinctly remember the first time I had authentic sushi, the first time I took that hallowed sip of sake and the first time I was thrilled to see the bundle of enoki mushrooms floating in my clear soup.
This gastronomic experience drove me towards their culture, their books and in short, their world. I had even dropped by The Japan Foundation one Saturday afternoon and watched, transfixed, at short Japanese films. The web got more complex and I delved deeper. And then, I stumbled upon Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. Needless to add, the title roped me in, but boy, what a treat.
I was spellbound by the way the author wove words, one sentence into another, which at first seems simple, but the end result is so fascinating that it seems otherworldly. Her innate sense to tap the reader’s hidden emotions and stirrings was uncanny. A book connected with love and loss, of udon noodles and exquisite dumplings, about being alone in the world with no relative or parent or sibling to depend upon, to face death in the family and to find solace; the story hit me where it hurts the most.
So when I stumbled upon BYOB Delhi (Bring Your Own Book) chapter’s session on Japanese Literature, my heart whooped with joy. Every participant was asked to email a picture of the book they would be talking about in the session. Even though I had read other books by Japanese authors, I picked Kitchen.
Needless to add, a major part of the session was dominated by readers yapping endlessly about Haruki Murakami. Had I read Kafka on the Shore two months earlier, I too would’ve tossed my two bits in the discussion. But listening to other readers share passionately about books left me in a trance. Sometimes, work leaves us in transparent cubicles where we lead our lives silently, without any real physical interaction with strangers. And to be sitting in a room of book lovers, divine!
I left the session with weak knees, vowing to myself to pick up more books by Japanese authors, to understand their temperament, their difficult history, their delicious cuisine and ever changing coordinates of society.
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