Quick! Plug your ears with the nearest iPod and/or dive out of the window because in about three seconds or less, I’m going to pull a Bianca Castafiore and shriiiiieeeeeeek.
Don’t panic. This is not because I’ve suddenly acquired culture and decided to emulate the Milanese nightingale from the Tin tin comics (though my voice is far superior to hers. Bianca Castafiore only shatters glass when she sings whereas I can give a cockroach a heart attack from 50 paces and kill it on the spot). In fact, you can rest easy because I’ve resisted inflicting culture on people ever since, at the age of 11, my attempts at Beethoven’s Für Elise drove my piano teacher to a nunnery from which she never returned.
So I didn’t shriek to culturally improve you. I shrieked because I’m facing the worst dilemma of my existence. Should I get out of the armchair in which I spend every minute I can spare curled up with a book, and begin trotting up and down the building staircase to strengthen my lower limbs? Or should I abandon every single thing in the world that’s not a book (including this column), dive into that armchair and read as though it’s the last thing I’ll ever do on this earth?
It’s confusing because, on the one hand, no one — not even Mamata Banerjee — knows if the Nano (the people’s car and I am definitely a people) will ever emerge to give overworked and underpaid people like me the chance to never walk again in our lives. Which means that I may have to get out of the armchair and strengthen my lower limbs for a lifetime of hard walking. Sob.
And on the other hand, according to Aaj Tak — a most reliable source when it comes to aliens, ghosts and other such other-worldly phenomena — the world will disappear into a black hole on September 10 when physicists begin testing some theory that nobody but physicists understand, and smash particles against each other at the speed of light. Which means I’d better finish all the books I have by then, or my ghost will forever haunt the earth-shaped hole, moaning about paisa vasool.
It’s a difficult situation to resolve, but I did manage a compromise. This week, I curled up in my armchair with What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, author of the excellent The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood among others. What I Talk About… is a memoir by the writer who regularly participates in marathons and triathlons, and is as much about what motivates him to write as it is about what motivates him to run.
Not everyone is interested in long-distance running, he says, but he makes it sound so good — though the trauma and pain is also recorded in detail — that, assuming we survive the black hole tomorrow, I may actually stop being an armchair runner and hit the street instead.