Yodakin book shop in Delhi fits into alternate spaces, that tug us, pull us, force us to live our fantasies
The one time I visited Yodakin, it was a fantastic night, a buildup to collective fantasies. About 300 odd square feet of space that was certainly low on elbowroom but so high on spark that I stayed on. It wasn’t my favourite topic. Under the banner of the Pleasure Project all sorts of things were being thrown around-what are your fantasies, what turns you on, what do you think of when you are turned on? A sultry, dusky Bengali woman, with a red bindi, sticking her tongue out, half angry goddess, half a teasing seductress was staring at me.
The words below said, “Can safe sex be sexy?”
I was terribly uncomfortable. I am a prude. My pulse quickened, my hand were going up my cheeks often. I tried to cover a part of my body, bring my arms closer. All bodily responses that came with feeling vulnerable and exposed. There was gorgeous erotica all around and we were all being encouraged to put our fantasies into a fantasy box. When the box came to me, I was red in the face. I nodded my head and wanted the man to skip me. He did, but in passing did whisper, “We all have one, don’t think too hard”. Strangely, I didn’t have to.
Another time my maverick teacher Jerry Pinto was reading from his book Em and the Big Hoom. I was a late comer and unlike his class when we could walk in and out anytime, here at Yodakin I was left at the verandah. I had never been consigned to the outdoors at any event. I was always prim and proper. There were many others around me. As the minutes passed I sat on the staircase, vacated by a handsome young man and in return held his rucksack while Jerry kept at it.
Yet, another time a friend and I had had our fill at Yeti, we lazily walked up to Yodakin. I came back with a dog eared book on the artist Krishen Khanna, the book spoke to me and even though it was stained on the cover and I have never been a student of art, the chaos that his figures were going through was so evident.
Every time I went to Yodakin I was driven to a side I didn’t know about myself. I lost myself a little but discovered a world that has now been called ‘alternate’ by so many. It wasn’t exposure. It was the sheer pleasure of being there and a different kind of pleasure that comes from reading something that’s a classic, that throws off sparks and creates this steady glow in the head.
For long I have been a person who would never give away security for freedom. I would fit my needs to my wants. I hate running to eventually stand still. It wasn’t where my joy was. I was and perhaps still am the obsessive, maniacal, and a control freak, driven to life by burdens, responsibilities and obligations.
Recently a friend forwarded me an article about travelling young, I felt anger. The soul of the story was squeezed out in these few lines.
“As we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. In fact, in many cases it is really good. It means you’re influencing people, leaving a legacy.”
The piece went on to talk about how you should travel young, how travel would help you taste the fullness of life.
How it would make you a person of culture, adventure, compassion and maybe passion. There aren’t many times I have felt that, but I do remember the times I have tasted the fullness of life in every way. It has moved me.
The killing fields of Cambodia broke my heart, my husband and I came back with books and brochures from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, we poured over them for days, the survivors of the Pol Pot regime counting their respective hells would spark many a conversations in the days ahead. Exposure to art and music on our other travels brought the magic of Kandisnky, Klimt and Monet closer. The Kandinsky has remained imprinted in my head, long after it adorns another wall. I have now bought myself a print of the Klimt Kiss which depicts a man bending down to press his lips on the cheek of a lover, her closed eyes and slight tight-lipped smile hint at rapture. I was later to read that the two people in the painting are the artist and his girlfriend at the time (he had several) and it’s set on a lake, the climbing reeds and flowers around the woman’s foot are the only hint. Now my culinary knowledge is perhaps as innocent as my sexual knowledge but food on my travels has often set the tone and mood for so many conversations.
Why am I telling you about all this?
The truth is every trip has left an impression, expanded me a little bit.
But we are all in a city, chasing something that perhaps never existed in the first place-security, self-worth, women, and men. Technology hasn’t expanded our experiences, rather restricted them. We mistake connecting for communication. We play the songs we know. We hear what we have heard. We are rarely obsessed by passions. We're busy, driven, to the exclusion of everything else, by hard work and the accumulation of wealth. As we take on new roles, responsibilities in our life, it is imperative to make moments, live memories, travel and taste the fullness of life, not as well-planned, marked outings, not to destinations we know, not to restaurants we frequent, but the alternate spaces, that tug us, that pull us, that force us to live our fantasies. They might be where the excitement you have been looking for is.
(The writer is a Senior Editor with CNN-IBN.)