RIP The Greatest


(This is a mildly expanded version of an article carried by Rediff on June 6. Lead image courtesy The Ringer. I’ve appended a reading list of books on Ali, and boxing compilations that include great essays on Ali. If you come across great reads on boxing/Ali, please ping via comments)

MY FATHER picked his way through literature the way David Livingstone explored Africa, through a series of serendipitous lurches that took him towards his destination more by accident than deliberate design.

Availability and affordability dictated his choices. Thus, every other Saturday, he went from work direct to Moore Market, an ancient quadrangular British-era building in Madras where you could buy anything from parakeets to perfumes. And secondhand books, from the over 100 stalls that lined one entire wing.

Through a series of complex calculations — how much for Scissors cigarettes for the next fortnight, how many times would he have to pick up the peer-group tab for tea and vadas, etc — he arrived at how much he could spend on his favorite indulgence. Through careful selection and ferocious bargaining, he came away with a bagful of books, some mapping to established interests, the rest purchased because ‘they looked interesting, and were cheap.’ Continue reading