August 15th, 2018

The Sacred Bull.

Towards the end of my academic life, I stumbled upon this unbelievable treasure trove of a bookshop in the famous Liberty market of Lahore. Some people had taken up this sprawling basement and literally dumped tonnes and tonnes of books in the place without making any effort towards segregating books at all. As a result, what you had on your hands was what can only be called a cocktail party of books. All kinds of books were to be found mingling with all kinds of strange books, and there was no definite way of knowing where to go find a book on any given subject. What’s more, the books took the cocktail party analogy quite literally, and went around mingling all over the place as is, apparently, the etiquette in such parties.

It could have been frustrating if one had dived in to pick up a particular cover and dive back out, because finding a given book could take forever, and there was always a likelihood that the book might not be there at all; because whatever else this shop was, it was not your conventional bookshop. The people selling these books seemed to have little or no interest in their wares, and as a result the pricing was also quite arbitrary. The impression I got was that they went about with some random pricing stickers and put them on whatever book was nearest to them. As a consequence, there were gems priced lower than stones, and stones priced as stones. The best part was that nothing was priced as a gem.

If, however, one had just sauntered in to browse through some titles with no specific book or genre in mind, one could enjoy quite a game of treasure hunt. It was during one of these expeditions that I had picked up a book called ‘The Sacred Bull’ (in hardcover no less) for a total of Pkr 125, which is only slightly more than SR 5 today and was just short of SR 10 back then. In other words, it was free. Perhaps, that had something to do with the fact that I never really did get around to properly reading reading it, because economists suggest that people attach more value to things when they feel they have paid a fortune for them. Give them the most precious things for free, like water, air, love, friends and happiness, and they are likely to take them for-granted.  The suggestion does not apply entirely to me, because I think the only thing I love more than a precious book is a free book. My failure to actually finish the book might be attributed to my abject failure to read any of the gibberish that is peddled under the head of management books. Often I get the feeling that either the writers of these books have not the slightest idea how the real world works, or they think their readers have not the slightest idea how the real world works. On the rare occasions when these books do not border on the fantastic, they seem to be repackaging well-known and well-understood facts as revolutionary new findings. I find these books a spectacular waste of time, and therefore, often choose to invest my precious time in fiction. So much for the real world.

The long and short of it, nonetheless, is that I never did really read the book, but I did browse through it, and what little I read of it has stayed with me since. Stripped to basics, it drew on the example of sacred cows in India to come up with the term. In India, cows are sacred and worshiped as such, which gives them a free pass on pretty much everywhere. Should a cow be found in the middle of the road, it is not to be nudged away, instead people must make way around it, or wait for it to give way. The book’s writer went on to say that sometimes we humans treat a perceived road block much the same way, and allow a monster of our own making to hinder our progress, derail our carriage, deny our potential, the whole shebang. He called this monster, The Sacred Bull.

This blog post is me taking my sacred bull by the horns. Again.


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