Books and Me

The Hindustan Times this morning carries a very intersting oped piece written by Saumya Bhattacharya.

Mr. Bhattacharya is worried about the present generation shunning books in favour of many other mundane activities such as watching inane (and often revolting) soaps on the idiot box, spending time ‘poking’ ‘hugging’, ‘cuddling’ (and God knows what else) on Facebook and surfing the net for all kinds of trivia.  

I recall my addiction to books, which happened more than 22 years ago, when I was just getting into my teens. We lived in Indore (a city in the central province of Madhya Pradesh in India) and a small private library had opened its doors in my neighbourhood. The library was called Readers Paradise and was located in an area called 56 Shops (Chappan Dukan). It was owned by Iqbal Bhai, whom I got to know well over the course of my years as a member of his library.

Every Sunday I used to sling my bag over my shoulder and walk across to the library to borrow books. One was allowed to take out a maximum of 3 books for a week. This way I went through all of Enid Blyton (Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Findouters), Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobsey Twins, Perry Mason and gradually whatever else I could lay my hands on. Before I knew I was well and truly addicted.

As I went through college studying Mechanical Engineering and than finished a Post Graduate course in Marketing books remained my constant and faithful companions. I would now fondly recall reading Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, while taking a brief break during my preparations for the examination in the Engineering College. I would stop for an hour during hectic study sessions, pick up the book and return to complex equations refreshed.

My love affair with books continue. I can not imagine a life without books. Fortunately I can now afford to buy my diet of books and happily spend hours in bookshops in Delhi and Gurgaon, where I now live and work. A two hour commute everyday to work allows me ample time to indulge myself in my favourite pastime. I look forward to vacations and business visits to distant places primarily because the long hours at the airports and in the flights are best spent absorbed and lost in books.

I always bring back books from new cities and places, which I visit. They serve as great souvenirs.

I quite pity the Generation Next, who have no idea of what they are missing out on. I wish we had libraries and book stores like Readers Paradise in every nook and cranny of this city, which would allow a youngster to get lost in the most engaging world of books.

I can not help but marvel at my good fortune in having discovered the wonderful world of books and letters so early on. It is a world that I still inhabit and with greatest of pleasure.


PS: I visited Readers Paradise a few years ago. I sought it out and discovered that Iqbal Bhai has now expanded into a full fledged book store still called Readers Paradise in an upscale mall. I wandered in and greeted Iqbal Bhai after more than 20 years. I also thanked him most profusely for introducing me to my lifelong love. I also bought books from the store.

One thought on “Books and Me

  1. Interesting piece.

    However, I think there is more to this phenomenon of reading than meets the eye. I am a present generation reader and probably love books the way people used to love books before the advent of other means of communication. Most people of that generation are of the view that the current generation is to blame for the death of literary interest. I do not agree.

    I think there are a lot of people in the current generation who read as passionately as ever. The problem why the reach has become less and less comprehensive is to be found elsewhere.

    One of the reasons obviously is that the advent of many other means of entertainment has added to the possibility of never feeling the absence of literature. Also, the other reason I believe is that reading is a very ‘involved’ activity. Watching television or movies is more ‘passive’ and therefore easy. Given the lifestyle most of the world has today forced upon itself, it is understandable that an activity like reading is seen as something ‘ taxing’. When work hours have increased from 8 to 12, that 4 hours have killed all the passion one could ever have. The average man has given up all drems in their run for their daily bread.

    I only hope that more people discover the pleasure of literature. For those who have, am sure, will never let it go.

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