Books , books and ..books, that is the earliest memory of my home. Books in the attic, books on the shelves, books on the table and…………….books all over the floor. this is partly because of the love for books but more so because of the inherent laziness to organize and being too preoccupied with reading that you don’t give the necessary time and effort to earn some real bucks and to put in some real effort to create a library to care for the books you love so much.
my father subscribed for kalki, kumudam, kalkandu, kalaimagal, deepam, manjari, kannan , ambulimama and thughluq, not to mention the deepawali malar published by kalki, sudesamitran, ananda vikatan etc. to top up this reading was the books from libraries, Connemara Pubic Library, and the district library simply called the “mukku library” roughly translated as ” nukkad ” or “corner“.
I never realized till much later in life that majority of our countrymen did not have the luxury of a “street corner library” . Only when I did my BLIS degree at Madras University did I learn that just five of our states have legislation to provide libraries to general public. Another thing I learnt was about the father of library science in India, Shri SR Ranganathan who I believe is distantly related to us.
At the outset, let me make it clear, this post is not to glorify the readers, (though it sounds so) but to understand them, to understand ourselves. Book readers are not superior beings for I have met many people who are much smarter, much more intelligent and much more wiser than some of the voracious readers I have met.
having said that, some of my favourite quotes on books are:-
A book is a garden,an orchard, a storehouse,a party, a company by the way,a counselor, a multitude of counselors . – Henry Ward Beecher
No man can be friendless when he has God and the companionship of good books. – Anonymous
A good Bookshelf is …
A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civilised countries in a thousand years set in the best order the results of their learning and wisdom.
The men themselves were hidden and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought they did not uncover to their bosom friend is written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.
– RW Emerson
so said some wise men..
In the run up to republic Day camp, we go through a series of camps to train the cadets. I shared a room with a rajasthani friend of mine, who had a knack for making money, was good at organizing, but was generally not guilty of reading. after a long day, seeing me curled up on the bed with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a book in the other (evidently he had never ever seen a spectacle like that ) he spontaneously remarked ,”sir, aapke lie to book snack ka kaam karta hai” Well, so be it.. book is a snack, book is food, book is drink and it can do any good or harm that food and drink can do.
but once a reader, always a reader and for good or bad you cannot stay away from books. A curse or a blessing I know not.
I would love to die with a book in one hand and a glass in the other, with MS Subbulakshmi’s ‘kurai onrum illai” streaming in….. oh! what a lovely way to go ! ya, a book shelf within reach, with a choice collection of kahil gibran, paulo coelho, spinoza and our own shankara and ramanuja.
and a pen and notepad at hand to record the ‘death poem’ of the Japanese, should the maker care to make you his instrument…..
“Like dew drops
on a lotus leaf
I vanish. “
My earliest memory of my interaction with books was not a pleasant one. It was a typical Sunday ; I remember because the magazines , the newspaper man had delivered were “kumudam and kalkandu. Those were the days when week days were marked by the weekly magazines you received and the beginning of the month by the monthly periodicals and a fortnight was marked by.. yes you guessed it by fortnightlies like thughluq. I was in 2nd standard,( folks, I was in first standard when four year old and in second standard when I was four and half years) . I saw my brother reading “kumudam’ and promptly I snatched it from him and I pretended to read. He quietly picked up the other magazine and started reading and I had to snatch that too. My father who was watching all this , gave a sound whacking, “enna asigai paaru” . yes, I was jealous , but not because i did not possess the book; i was jealous because he could read and I could not. Today I believe i would love such envy in my kid, or any kid for that matter. I don’t remember when I actually started reading , first the jokes, which were a aplenty in tamil magazines and later stories… But the first motive to read was through what we call a negative emotion, ‘plain envy’….