For Kat

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I bought this book before a flight last January. It stood there among the bestsellers and the accolades on the cover spoke of it well. It looked like one of those books you should be able to finish within a day if you kept at it. When I started reading it however, it was not as engaging as I initially thought. I would read a few pages at night and just feel the drag of the story’s slow plot. I’d put it down, only to pick it up a week later – sometimes even longer. At times I thought it was because I had just finished an epic novel of a man who lived life on the edge. This novel, on the other hand, was about a grumpy old man who wanted to stick to a strict routine of a life. It felt like a bad choice after Shantaram. By the end of the year’s first quarter, I was still halfway and tempted to leave it unfinished. I had already finished two other novels in between. But I don’t like leaving things undone.

As I ploughed slowly into Ove’s life – the story unraveled that he was a widower. I thought to myself that at least it was another reason to finish this book – to maybe understand something that my father is going through and to be able to give this to him after I finish it. I love giving books as gifts. While a handwritten letter from me is the penultimate way I say that my gesture is deliberate, giving a book I’ve personally read and loved is the ultimate. Because when an author writes a life lesson beautifully, there is no better way to share it but to give it whole. And lessons are best given indirectly for someone to discover themselves. A book is perhaps a step less from an actual experience, but it still requires patience and an open mind. There are of course people who are not fond of reading at all – and in those cases I’d always have a headache figuring out what to buy.

The power of a book is almost completely passive. If you choose not to pick it up and read it, it can lie in its pages undiscovered for ages. That was what I realized yet again as I closed in to this book’s ending. While I never laughed to it out loud, it had brought me to tears on several occasions. The fact that it has made me write is a stronger testament to how much it proved itself worth the time. But I will not elaborate on Ove’s story for the same reason I give books as gifts.

Now why are there two copies of this book in this photo? -Just one of those serendipitous things about me and Kat – reading the same book at the same time by chance. And because between the two of us, nothing much is left to chance (we can be serial planners like that), it wasn’t by chance that we decided to finally finish this book together on this trip. Like me, she struggled through the slow pace of the story (which speaks volumes about our personalities haha). But for all the plans we’ve made and executed together, it’s the unplanned chances we got on this friendship that I’m most thankful for. Because it would have been a shame to have left things undone.

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