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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

entry arrow4:43 PM | Termites Love Indian Literature

I was gone for four days and in that interim, I would later find that I had developed a termite problem. It wasn’t without precedent. My apartment has seen countless pestilences in the decade that I have been living in it — which attests to either my obstinacy or my laziness to find new digs — but this particular attack, centered on the one thing that remains precious in my life (my books) seemed to take on the specter and the tragedy of the personal. Each ruined volume feels like a shot to the heart, and the arrow tip is poisoned. Like most devastations, what appears outside belied the horror that lurked on the inside. I had taken a quick look at my books in that one particular shelf, the sight of the devastation, and everything had looked good. Nothing seemed out of order. But then I noticed two rounded trails of dirt, perfectly lined and constructed, leading from some small orifice in the tiled floor and going towards where the books were located. And I knew right then and there that something was wrong: I had seen this kind of structure before, and it wasn’t a bearer of good news. When I pulled the books out of that shelf, I discovered the squirming mass of white slivery devils, hundreds of them, bathing in caked mud, spreading all across the bottom parts of the books in that shelf. I pulled the volumes out onto the floor with the fierceness of heartbreak. Most of the books proved salvgaeable — I had intervened in time, so it seemed — but some of them were destined to go the way of the trash can. And that hurt. I am an eternal keeper of books, and the thought of throwing one away the horrors of which was something that seemed beyond my ken. The termites went most radically for the hard-bound books, which suddenly felt flimsy in my hand, their spines wet from the small accumulation of mud, and their insides a tantalising maze of tunnels, all of them signaling devastation. They had good taste, these termites. They avoided the one Robert James Waller I had, but munched with diabolical delight on Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover, Paul Theroux’s Hotel Honolulu, Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes, and Irving Stone's Jack London: Sailor on Horseback. They were about to much on my Rabbit books by John Updike. But the one book that suffered the most was Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, which I bought in a small Indian airport in 2007 when I went to Chennai for a literary conference. It is only the cellulose of these paper materials they were chomping off to oblivion. It was also my memories of where each book had been bought, or taken from, or given in. Some of us count and tell our lives by our bibliophilic tendencies to hoard. Termites are a bibliophile’s Alzheimer’s disease.

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