Every good thing in life has a price tag. My new job close to home, which is as close to a boon as any Mumbaikar can get, has a price tag too. No traveling time has translated to no reading time. And my love for reading is only slightly less than my hatred for traveling. No, I’m not really complaining, but I miss my books. I miss that frenetic reading I did on BEST buses during my six months at the Bandra job. I miss being the object of awe and admiration when I would post a new book review every other day on social networking sites. Now I am like anyone else; I struggle to finish a book and occasionally, stare wistfully at my blog, which begs for a new post.
I was, thus, learning to fit into my new mantle of assistant editorship of not one but two magazines and crawling through the pages of Orhan Pamuk’s much-venerated work, My Name is Red, when my old colleague and friend, Veda asked me to review her mom’s new book. I was more than honoured, because I’ve admired Saaz’s work before, and it was her book review blog that inspired me to start writing my own reviews. I said yes, albeit warily, because I wasn’t sure when I’d find the time to read it; much less, review it.
The book arrived a few days later, and out of the parcel came a happy-coloured cover with Saaz’s distinctive artwork on it. Titled, The Songbird on My Shoulder, the book had a slightly naughty subtitle: Confessions of an Unrepentant Madam. I was drawn in. The fun testimonials on the back cover by Saaz’s friends and family, the terse little introduction and the fact that it was a compilation, which did not need me to read in sequence, drew me further in. It was a welcome break from Pamuk’s need-to-ponder-upon prose.
Before I knew it, I had breezed through the book, even as the incessant wheels of domesticity and profession whirred. I wishfully flipped through the pages, taking in snippets from Saaz’s life, enjoying the randomness of it all. Here was a 30-something Saaz writing a poignant poem that betrayed her youth, and here was a 50-something Saaz reminiscing about a quaint little episode from her life, her perspectives firmly in place. Here I was laughing one moment at her toilet humour, and here I was weeping at her emotional journey into (step) motherhood. Here I was marveling at the depth of her 3-line poems, and here I was identifying strongly with her experiences as a woman, a writer, a wife and a mother.
Saaz is an easy writer to read, without her being flippant. She’s witty without being comical, deep without being pretentious and articulate without being verbose. The Songbird on my Shoulder is a compilation of articles and poetry she has written over the years, of things published and unpublished, of matters great and small. It is a pretty picture of a life lived full and well. Her life; but you will very easily see many scenes and shades from your life in it too.