There is no better way to enjoy your Sunday than in the company of the Asian Age’s occasionally bizarre column, Bibliofile, which asks the most unlikely people questions about their reading habits. Thanks to a sub-editor gone amok, this week had even more than usual to offer their readers (sorry, can’t link to it because the Age doesn’t put this section up on the Web).
The first suspicion that June Maliah (she’s defined as a “model-cum-actress”, one of those wonderful phrases so reminiscent of “sofa-cum-bed”) may have been grievously misunderstood emerged fairly early on, when she listed “Minal Kundera” (brother to Mrinal Sen? One wonders) among her favourite novelists. The other two were Radhika Jha and a mysterious Mark East. The sub helpfully broadened Dickens’ canvas by insisting that the book Maliah would make compulsory reading was A Tale of Cities, and added another character to Tagore’s Shesher Kobita in the shape of one Amit Sen (Amit Ray I remember, Amit Sen…no). Then the tantalising Mark East popped up again–this time as the author of the book Ms Maliah wanted never to end, a little squib called Love in the Time (Times, according to the helpful sub) of Cholera. Ah, said the Babu, enlightened, Gabriel Garcia Mark East, the Western counterpart to that equally well-known author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But this one was a stumper: Maliah’s favourite “school or college text” was listed cryptically as J Nair. Friends dredged up memories of math textbooks written by R Nairs and literary guides by A Nairs to no avail. Then we said “J Nair” aloud several times, and it dawned on us–surely this was the character made famous by Charlotte Barun De, of the famous Barun De sisters?