Tuesday, July 29, 2008

e by Matt Beaumont

A new author, a new format, and generous helpings of contemporary, Dilbertian humor. The book's called e, and it's written as a series of e-mails floating through the computers of the various characters that inhabit an advertising agency.

The story's told brilliantly and the characters etched out wonderfully through the e's, as they're called. You get to see everything from petty office politics to high-level corporate intrigue, crises, deadlines, affairs... you name it and it's there. I've never been on edge to know what would happen next in a book that's supposed to belong to the humor genre. Apart from a couple of P. G. Wodehouse classics, I've never read a humor book more than once. And very rarely have I laughed out loud at something I'm reading in a crowded Mumbai local. Clearly, this book was a harbinger of many firsts.

The Unchanged Value of Things

As a child, I remember making an 'eeks-I'm-going-to-throw-up' face at the sight of cream or 'malai' in my glass of milk. I also remember my mother trying to use every bit of malai. She collected it in a bowl by skimming it from the top of cold milk, one or two teaspoons every day, till she had enough to make butter. She would then spend a precious evening making pure ghee from that butter. When she kneaded atta, she ran the dough through the empty milk vessel, to collect the cream stuck in it. If they could have afforded it, my parents and many more people of their generation would probably have bought and used full-cream milk; my parents often talked about the taste of curd made from that milk.

Today, my generation can afford full-cream milk. We can buy a whole pack of cream from the supermarket without a second thought. But, when we see malai or ghee, we think 'saturated fat' and 'high cholesterol'. We'd much rather buy olive oil, which is much more expensive than pure ghee or cream ever was.

To a generation that valued it, it was out of reach. To a generation that can reach it, it holds negative value. Makes me wonder whether value is the inverse of what money can buy.