This post won an IndiSurprize at the HP Take Flight with Colour Contest
Imagination is such a wonderful thing isn’t it? We all use it in our own unique ways. I use most of mine to give colour, form and shape to characters, places, and scenes described in books.
I was very fortunate to be
smothered surrounded by all sorts of books growing up (and I still am—that is, both growing up and surrounded by books ), which gave ample scope for my imagination. Even today, whenever I read something—even something as dry as a research paper that I am copy-editing—the B&W words on the paper immediately transform into an image matching the description, but shaped my imagination. This whole process is so instinctive and automatic that all I have to do is to pick up something and start reading for the B&W words to coalesce in my mind to form 3D images in full colour. This image could be static or moving; as I continue reading, the images flicker, change, or transform keeping pace with the narrative.
I find it easier to conjure up images of some words and narratives than others. Predictably, familiar contexts and settings, particularly those that I have experienced, are easy to imagine and visualise, but unfamiliar ones present a challenge. But, hey, that’s what a colourful imagination is for, right?
Sometimes, my imagination has been “tested” when I have actually visited the places or settings that I have read about. But these have not been many, since the bulk of the setting and contexts of my reading material in English has been in places that I have not visited, particularly the UK. This changed in September 2008 when I got a chance to study and stay in London for a year. This opportunity also helped me realise one of my biggest dreams—to experience literary London and England.
I didn’t have to wait long for that first experience. I had been in London for only 2–3 days, when in the course of exploring my neighbourhood, I came across Harley Street. Time stopped still and a literary world till then only confined in black and white words came alive in full 3D colour—the world of P.G. Wodehouse in general and one character in particular. I immediately started looking out for 6b Harley Street, the clinic of Sir Richard Glossop. For those who are not familiar with P.G. Wodehouse (are there such people?), Sir Glossop— who appears in both the Jeeves/Wooster and Blandings series—is an eminent brain specialist.
Harley Street was only the first of many such “discoveries and sightings” from English literature during my stay in London and my travels around England. It was thrilling to see a place, a description, a landmark from a story, a poem, an essay, a novel, and even history books come alive in front of my eyes. Black and white words and illustrations, as well as renowned paintings got transformed into “flesh and blood” or “concrete/brick/stone structures”, as the case may be, in front of my eyes. Some of the more memorable ”discoveries and sightings” were:
- Seeing the road in Hampstead Heath, the setting for the opening pages of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White.
- Walking down Baker’s Street for the first time and looking out for 221B, Baker Street. I found it all right; it is now a museum devoted to Sherlock Holmes.
- Seeing the commemorative blue plaque for the location of Scotland Yard. I guess no descriptions are needed here.
- Standing on St.Mary-on-the-Hill in Tintern and seeing the Wye Valley and the ruins of Tintern Abbey spread out before me and trying to remember Wordsworth’s poem written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.
- Visiting Constable Country in the Suffolk region of England and seeing the glorious settings of John Constable’s paintings.
- Walking down Charing Cross Road and trying to locate Marks and Co. of 84 Charing Cross Road.
- And before I forget, the “glorious” grey, wet, English weather described by just about everyone.
There were many more places seen and experienced during that year in London. Living out my literary imaginations was a dream come true. Not only did my imaginations of literary works find an echo in reality or, in some cases were far removed from it, it only whetted my appetite to seek out and visit places from books. I have just finished reading Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series set in Edinburgh, as well as Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul. These two places are on the top of my list of places to visit for literary reasons.
I know that it may not be possible to visit all the places on my ever-growing list, but there is no harm in dreaming, is there? For, as William Butler Yeats (one of my favourite poets) said, ”… in dreams and imaginations lie realities”.
With apologies to Yeats, I would like to modify it to say, “In dreams and imaginations lie realities and all the colours of life.”