An Evening With Friends

Ahlan, marhaba, welcome, velkommen, Bienvenue et al…these are all greetings in various languages to welcome a dear friend back to the sultanate, who came for just one evening with his delegation.

So khushamdeed, suswagatam etc etc! Good to have caught up, despite your hectic schedule and despite being inundated by the sea of your well wishers. As Walt Whitman had written, and it appears as if he had written specially for me: “I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.”

Incidentally, I am a firm believer of the age-old adage that books and friends should be few but good, and it was therefore really good to be with good friends last evening, and a few of those good ones were the chosen few to have received the signed copy of a good book – remember the much promised resolve to collate the 125 articles into a book?

Well, it happened and now, in some homes like ours, the book adorns the shelf kept in the bathroom and the pages are leafed through in an attempt to while away the time, when the time is required to be whiled away!

For the not-so-good-friends who will not be getting a copy, it does not really matter for they would anyway have said not-so-good things like “tcccchah” or perhaps “Bah” or maybe “Isch” or “Ick” and though Wodehouse would not be a part of their repertoire, he would definitely have said that the book has “aroused the professional enthusiasm of Hackenschmidt and drawn guttural congratulations from Zbysco.”

In case you were not aware, both Hackenschmidt and Zbysco were wrestlers or strong men, who would have found the TT book a bit below their literary standards and would have said “Tchah.” So that, as they say is that, or perhaps, that as they say is tchah.

Last week when the entire world was hiding under the covers and only peeping out to see the havoc created by the wrath of Friday the 13th, and expected people to quiver and shake out of fear of the paraskevidekatriaphobia, two brave men in Muscat said “What ho” and also “tra la la la la” and went about doing what they were doing, as they had obviously broken the bloody jinx years ago.

Happy anniversary M&M and here’s wishing that the music continues as you all have successfully whipped the triskaidekaphobia. The other couple, the missus and yours faithfully (M&V) has successfully managed to go past the 34 years mark, and have now turned the phobia to a mania and we continue to toot-toot and beep-beep the horns and the trumpets.

And the trumpets now need to be blown and the red carpet should be rolled out for Ms Harper Lee. As Hermione Hoby of The Observer has written, “Harper Lee is perhaps the only writer for whom the phrase “one-hit wonder” has always been used in veneration rather than denigration.”

To Kill a Mockingbird was a book that we read in school and my daughters read when they were in school and it has become one of the most popular books of all time.

For some of you who need your memory jogged, or for the even fewer who have never read it, the novel takes place in a small town in Alabama where Atticus Finch, a white lawyer, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of rape.

The book was an instant bestseller and Ms Lee became a literary phenomenon, and now you know why our German shepherd is called Atticus! And now let the drum rolls begin, because it has just been announced that the 88 year old author will publish a second novel this summer. Go Set a Watchman will be released on July 15 and is actually a prequel to the earlier novel. Lee, in all her humility, feels that it is “a pretty decent effort”.

Yes, and I feel the same about the TT! Meanwhile, the literary world has been hit by this tsunami and five months before it actually comes out, the book is already at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, and To Kill a Mockingbird – its canonical predecessor in the number two spot.

Bravo Ms. Lee…we shall watch the ‘Watchman’ watch you laugh all the way to the bank. Yesterday happened to be the 90th birthday of one of the finest men that I know. Chacha for us, but Robby Uncle or R K Atal for the world, is the epitome of joie de vivre.

Wishing you good health and happiness and may you remain as young and energetic. We did celebrate with him and the family and perhaps got a bit carried away “not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, but on the viewless wings of poesy” and we shall do an encore on his 100th.

And before I sign off, a few random thoughts:

Do you know that there are some people who are so clever that sometimes they don’t understand a single word of what they say? Ask me, I know quite a few of them!

Do you know that I can at best please one person per day? Today doesn’t seem to be your day, and tomorrow isn’t looking very good either!

Do you know that with babies and delegations arriving, the alternate Wednesday treat gets presented to you on Thursday?

Till next fortnight less one day… .