“Have you read that book I gave you as Christmas present?”
He suddenly popped up in a Messenger window that afternoon and asked me that question.
Having procrastinating since that morning, I very much welcomed this chance to busy myself.
My hands hurriedly typed answer:
“Nope. Haven’t even started yet. Am quite busy these days.” An easy automatic lie.
“Besides, I’m still on the first chapters of Midnight Children. Which I think is far more interesting.”
I knew exactly this excuse would hurt his feeling a bit, knowing how sensitive he is.
“But, tell me, why? Don’t you like that book?”
It was so him. Stubborn and tends to keep on insisting others to do things like the way he told them to do. Probably because of his upbringing as the last kid in his family.
“It’s not like that. It’s just that I already started reading Midnight Children before you gave me that Persian novel.”
My fingers just couldn’t stop typing letters. “Oh and furthermore ...” Then I stopped.
I was curious.
What if I told him that I found it very silly to give someone a novel – written by some author who was hardly familiar in literary world – which story was set in the earliest stage of Iran’s Islamic revolution, as a CHRISTMAS present?
Would he be mad at me?
Hmm, I didn’t think so.
“Yes? What’re you’re trying to say?”
Oh, be careful in responding this tricky situation, my mind warned me. Otherwise, he’d keep on asking you whether you already read that novel or not for these coming months. Each and everytime he sees you online in Messenger.
“Furthermore, I have these books which I already bought years before and until today still sit in my bookshelf, in their original wrapping.”
“I think it’s fair enough if I finished them all first, and then read yours.” Another lie.
I don’t know whether these books have feelings and care which one amongst them would get the chance to be read first. I just hoped he’d buy this rationale.
“Oh, ok. I see.”
“Just let me know when you finally read it, and whether you like it or not. Will you?”
Hah?! I couldn’t believe it! He trusted that answer. Thankfully, so I could stop lying to him, at least for that moment.
“Of course. I will.” This was, of course, not a lie.
* * *
What you’ve just read was a reenactment of a chat that happened one afternoon, almost three years ago.
And from that said afternoon until this very moment, I bought dozens other titles. Most of them are, obviously, fictions, and was written by European or American author. I did make some exceptions, though.
They are Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and “Embroideries”, some kind of semi-autobiographies that dealt mostly with women’s rights, (Western/liberal) democracy vs. sharia/Islamic rules, and Iran vs. the rest of the world; Arundhati Roy’s first and only novel, “The Gods of Small Things” that shocked me with it’s brutal honesty; also Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” which touched my soft spots.
Because honestly, before these, I never really had the slightest interest in reading stories about Persian and Arab countries. They’re just not written for me. (Note: Roy, as I believe you all know, is an Indian author).
As for now, if you’re still curious what I have done to that strangest Christmas present ever, well, it is now buried deep behind other thick novels in my bookshelves, its pages became yellowish and dusty. Perhaps I should just pass it on to others years ago, as a gift. Don’t you think?