It is rightfully prefixed ‘common’ because despite the great advances made in medical research, we have still not been able to find means to prevent catching cold. It is called common because it afflicts mankind round the globe. Its incidence may vary, but it spares no one. I inherited it from my father who was prone to catch it three to four times every year. When he went down the first time in the year, he would take an injection of Catarrhal vaccine. That made him immune to colds for a year. I catch it at least four times every year. The cold lasts at least a week and makes my life miserable for seven days. I can tell when I will catch one. If I have two sneezes in quick succession, I know there is nothing to worry about. But just one sneeze after a period of time and I know I am heading for trouble. No amount of vitamin C tablets or mug fulls of Limsips save me. I am down with one now as I am writing this piece. I caught it yesterday. It is worse today. I keep stuffing Vicks VapoRub up my nostrils. It is soothing but not curative. Another trouble with common colds is they are highly infectious. If you sit close to someone who has it for five minutes you are sure to catch one. I think the Nobel Prize Committee should announce an award for such a person who discovers how to prevent common colds and how to get rid of them.
A book and its cover
The first name that comes to mind when talking of publishing books is that of William Caxton (1422-91). He was the pioneer in the business of publishing and his first product was The Game and The Playe of Chess. All together he produced around 100 books. Before him, writing was on scrolls of parchment which could be rolled round a rod of wood. His invention caught on like wildfire which spread across the globe. Two schools of thought emerged. One was that books should be ornamental, well-bound, with the title and name of the author calligraphed and gold dust scattered over the white on the sides. The other was that books were primarily meant to be read, not gazed at. So we had the Left Book Club, devoted to publishing Marxist literature, sold at about a shilling a book. And we had Penguin Books, devoted to publishing biographies and novels. India was quick to pick up book publishing in all its languages and dialects. The latest venture is Aleph, jointly owned by David Davidar and Ravi Singh.
It will be collaborating with Rupa Publishers. It has an ambitious programme of bringing out half-a-dozen books every month. Its first production The Book of Aleph: Volume One is a work of craftsman the like of which I have not seen before.
After having selected works by India’s top writers, it is the most beautifully produced book I have seen. I washed my hands with soap before touching it. Or better, will buy myself a pair of gloves.
From Australia with love
I’m reminded of an anecdote related to the then high commissioner of Australia. He was invited by Prate Singh Karin, chief minister of Punjab, to see the amount of afforestation he had made in his state. He was driven along the GT Road and he passed through groves of eucalyptus trees on either side. He asked his escort: “Are they indigenous?” The escort replied, “Yes, sir. Very indigenous. We got them from Australia.”
Santa was new in England when a friend asked him how he was getting on. He said he was doing well except for one thing. “When I go to a party, the hostess, she does not tell me where is the urinal.” “Ah, that’s just our English prudery. Actually she will say, ‘Do you want to wash your hands?’ and that means the same thing.” Santa made a mental note of this, and the next time he went to a party the guests standing around heard the hostess remark, “Good evening, gentlemen, do you want to wash your hands?” “No thanks you madam, I have just washed them up against the tree in your front garden.” Santa replied.
Become rich now
Son: “Father, we will soon become rich.”
Son: “Tomorrow my maths teacher will teach me to convert paise into rupees.”
(Contributed by Anirban Sen, Delhi)
The views expressed by the author are personal