Monday, April 30, 2012

The Note

You are in a library. You amble around the racks. You are not really looking for anything. It’s just that you are not sure what else you could be doing. So you browse through the books. Then you stumble upon The Jungle Book. You’ve never read that book. You open a page at random, and find a note. First you don’t give much heed to it. It’s a note after all. Oftentimes people leave notes in books. But the one you discover is a double folded page length note. You decide to take a look at it. It’s addressed to anyone who cares so much as to take a look at it. It is an invitation of sorts. Your curiosity is piqued. 

It informs of a curious kind of book. It explains that a book exists that requires not one, but two readers to read it. As in, a single reader can’t read it. It’s not a magical book or something, but its structure is such that no matter how much a single reader tries, nothing makes sense to him unless another joins. With two people reading it, the book transforms into a web of meaning, something so ultimately satisfying that no other book will be able to surpass its pleasures. The note doesn’t explain the architecture of the book or how it functions. But it is quite matter-of-fact in its description. As if there’s nothing strange about the existence of such a book. The note then cordially invites you to join in the reading of this strange book. It is signed by a girl. Not the book but the possibility of contact has thrilled you. 

Because the note is signed and not dated, it is difficult to know when it was written. But it mentions that if you are interested in the offer, you must respond by writing a similar note affirming your interest and must provide your contact details. You should then place your reply at exactly the same place in the book where you had found the note. You do the needful and replace the book on the rack. 

You are doubtful at first. It may happen that someone issues the book, finds your note in there, and throws it into a dustbin. End of story. There’s no possibility of further contact with the mystery girl. Or worse still, maybe the girl – if at all it’s a girl’s doing – who has left the note in the first place had done so more than a year back and having received no reply she got tired of waiting and forgot about it completely. If it has to go wrong, there are a thousand ways it can. But there’s no harm in trying. 

You decide to check how many people have issued The Jungle Book. It’s only a natural reflex. But you quickly discard that idea. Let it be a mystery. You walk out of the library, unaware that for the rest of your life you’ll never be able to look at The Jungle Book without thinking of lost possibilities.