Some books, just like some movies, touch your life once and they touch it over and over again – at regular intervals. Pride and Prejudice is the book for me, and perhaps I will write about the movie for me someday later.
It was 2005 – class9 – when I came across the book at a friend’s place. Her mom had this classic leather bound copy of the classic, and my friend, being the type that she is, did all kinds of doodling on the pages! However, I borrowed it from her mom and tried to read it. I don’t think I could understand every bit of it, but it was love at first sight. Not just with the book, but also with everything vintage. That copy of P&P was already at least 15years old, and torn at places and the pages had turned yellow. (Can you imagine it getting any better?)
Then a few months later, just like some Providence’s call, I found the book at the Scholastic’s book fair that used to be held in school every winter. I didn’t know whether I wanted to read the book again, for the first time was not much of a success in terms of grasping the subtle British humour. Maybe it was just the little summary they write at the end of the book and the awkwardly drawn picture showing exchange of a letter that made me pay some 100 bucks and get it for myself. Just so that you know, 100 INR – 7 years ago – is something around 250 INR of 2012. And ‘in our days’, that was a good amount of money for a school child. (Didn’t I just sound like the grandmothers from all over the world with their perpetual ‘in our days’?) I won’t say I was unhappy, for I always saved for these book-fairs. And let me just digress for a moment here to shamefully confess that I visited the famous Kolkata Book Fair only after I joined college in 2006. Well, that doesn’t seem to have reduced my love for the printed letters in any way though. To tell the truth, I was a domesticated kid back then, just opposite to the chhara-goru type now!
Enough of that.
I have been reading P&P for 7 years now. At least three times a year – every year! At first I skipped lines and simply completed the story. I would read portions like when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield to visit ill Jane, and is rebuked by the Bingley sisters but the rise of color in her cheeks due to the ‘exercise’ is admired by Darcy. The Collins affair. The ‘infuriating’ proposal. The famous, the so very famous ‘letter’. The part where Darcy’s cousin flirts with Elizabeth but knows his standard in the society that separates him from the Bennets. The parts with Jane and Charlotte and Elizabeth (I hate ‘Lizzy’. Elizabeth does more justice to a girl as spirited as her. ‘Lizzy’ sounds like some kindergarten kid’s pet name). The part where Darcy does all that a man could do in my eyes in those days to get his lover’s sister saved from disgrace and trouble. The change of heart and Elizabeth confessing her love for Darcy to Jane. AND, the final clarification of the mistaken pride and prejudice. Oh, by the way, I love the line towards the end where Austen writes, and I quote, “She (Elizabeth) followed him (Darcy) with her eyes, envied everyone to whom he spoke…”. It seemed absolutely what a romantic girl like me would feel when the man she likes doesn’t know about her feelings, and more importantly, when she doesn’t know herself that she actually likes the man. I’ll mention just a few other things that I have come to admire about the book over the years – the way Elizabeth confronts Lady Catherine, Darcy asking Mr.Bennet for permission to marry his favourite daughter and the father replying with – “He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything, which he condescended to ask.” That was the father’s wit in reply to the son-in-law’s reserve! And that is perhaps the essence of P&P for me – take life with a pinch of salt, and even the worst shock might become a surprise to cherish throughout life.
The book has been more than just a book. It is something I grew up with. I played with the regular khelna-bati, Barbie doll, jigsaw puzzles as a child. And I read Nonte-Fonte, obviously Feluda, Tenida, Rijuda, Batul the Great and what not as an adolescent. But I also read this one book all throughout my growing up days, and I proudly do it still now – thrice a year. That’s my dose to stay a dreamer – and dream of a perhaps existent Mr.Darcy! ;)