Tag Archives: love for books

Libraries – Haven for Books

The earliest memory: A small local place, lined wall-to-wall with books and the word used to describe it by my mother: Library. The word rolled effortlessly from my tongue. I was five and taken to a library for the first time. It was a different world. I was enthralled by it; however I thought I could keep the books with myself. Then I realized that at some point I had to return them, after reading, which was fine.

Awareness further kicked in – I could borrow more books without having to pay anything more and that was awesome information. It began with comics, and then novels – the trashy kinds – the Harold Robbins, the Jackie Collins (yes I have read them all), the Sidney Sheldons and the Perry Mason mysteries. The charm of a local roadside library is something else when you are growing up. The known uncle/aunty who lend books and do not demand a fine if you delay returning them because they know you. The comfort in that knowing however little, is still worth something.

The school library was another place where I found comfort and joy. Being harassed by bullies in school, books were the only means of escape and I always felt far superior to them knowing they could never invade this world. My school librarian at that time, introduced me to Agatha Christie, to Jane Austen and believe it or not, my very first copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was quite scandalous to be read by a thirteen year old but I did read it. The librarian passed on earlier this year, but left so many memories for so many bullied children in school and gave them comfort when none was found – through her words and through books.

The dusty corners of libraries, the high ceiling (sometimes), the knowing that a spot will always be reserved for you no matter what (no one really sits in libraries and reads, very few at the least) are spaces that I am most familiar with. Sometimes I wish they would serve alcohol in libraries, as it would be perfect with a book, not to forget food.

I remember becoming a British Library Member when I was in college as well. I opted for a family membership – 25 books and 4 DVDs at one time. I would go there once a month and it was enough. I was introduced to several British Writers at this time. From Iris Murdoch to Evelyn Waugh to David Mitchell to Virginia Woolf, I got to see the world differently. The plush seating and knowing that nothing could bother me here – the feeling of knowing that no one could call from home or get in touch with me was liberating. Libraries provide that as well – liberation from people and things and make you discover new ideas. All the time. The sanctuary of the written word so to say.

The American Library happened with a friend, who is very dear to me and she loves reading as well. At four hundred rupees a year, they allow you to borrow four books at any given time and two periodicals for a period of three weeks. Libraries make you feel comfortable. They are there for you and in them sometimes you find friends – who share the love of reading and passion for books.

For me, libraries will always hold a special place in my heart, despite the books I buy or what I receive from publishers. The process of finding of a book through the shelves and a smile that instantly appears on your face when you find it. No one else can derive that pleasure better than a library.

As Jorge Luis Borges, rightly said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of a library”.

So Much to Read…

Yes! There is a lot to read and everytime I tell myself, “So little time”. I try and I try and I try. I have given up on television (well almost except for my DVD Movies with my boy). I read when I travel. I read when I wake up. I read when I eat breakfast. In short, I try and read everytime I get the chance to. Does reading alienate you from everything and everyone else? I have often asked that question and always got only one answer: No it does not and the greed to read is only what a fellow-reader will understand, isn’t it?

I mean look at it this way, we hardly have enough time left on this planet (with all the prophecies and not to forget what we have done to ourselves), then might as well spend that time reading, isn’t it? Why bother to waste that precious time on something so trivial like writing a blog post or watching “Julie and Julia”(which by the way I loved. It was one of the few films that I was cosying up to my boyfriend while watching) or doing laundry or looking at the clouds pass by.

I go back in time sometimes. When I was fifteen and I thought I had all the time in the world to read. I used to sit on the Worli promenade (ofcourse skipping school and college) and indulge in – you guessed! Reading! The first time I read, “Wuthering Heights” was beside the sea and that was the first time I fell in love with Heathcliff. I would spend hours at the local coffee shop and read and read till a good-looking man would enter and I would swoon over him for a while and get back to reading. The first time a boy broke my heart, I was reading, “Middlemarch” by George Eliot. When I got my first job, I celebrated by buying Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy” – which by the way I yet have to complete. I know this post is just a ramble, however there are so many memories connected to books.

My first adult novel, “Madame Bovary” was given to me by my aunt and even she was not aware of its contents, considering she had never heard of it or was ever a reader. Not good for her. The two books my mother introduced me to when I turned seventeen were, “The Fountainhead” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. In my family, my mum, my sis and I are the only readers. Sadly enough, my family does not believe in what books do for the mind. Its sad to know that my 10-year old cousin is not aware of his fairy tales or who Enid Blyton is, but he knows the plot of the next soap-opera to be aired on television. I wish more people would read. I wish people understand what its like to hold a book in their hands and smell the pages and cherish and get lost in a different world…Yes! I am lost and I love it!!

Haruki Murakami and Sputnik Sweeheart

So I was all of 21 when I first read, “Sputnik Sweetheart” by Murakami and yes like any other 21 year-old who reads of love, I was blown away. Literally. My mind was in pieces and my heart was trying hard to decipher the writing on the wall. I came out to my folks when I was nineteen, but I guess my coming out was realized to myself when I finished reading, “Sputnik Sweetheart” and not because of the same-sex love overtones in the book. It went at a level deeper than that and I knew it. This post is dedicated to my favourite writer in the whole wide word: Haruki Murakami and his writing.

Sputnik Sweetheart was an eye-opener in almost every sense of the word – the writing was simple and yet tugged at the heart and mind strings to a very large extent. I remember savouring the book, wanting to drown myself in the words and was so apprehensive that it would get over soon. After all it was only 224 pages long and honestly I wanted it to go on and on.

What is the book about you ask? Well, its about Sumire – a 21 year old aspiring writer who is not lesbian and yet somewhere down the line falls in love with another woman. The narrator is Sumire’s friend who loves her. Sumire’s love is Miu who does not love her, at least not the way Sumire does and there starts the disappearance of Sumire and its consequences. It seems a simple story. It is not. Here are some quotes from it. My favourite ones:

“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.”

“The answer is dreams. Dreaming on and on. Entering the world of dreams and never coming out. Living in dreams for the rest of time.”

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”

“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”

See what I mean! Its unrequited love all the way and may be that’s why I love it so much. I do not know how to end this post. All I know is that for me, Sputnik Sweetheart will always hold that special place in my heart.

Mad Mad Love

I do not know when or why I fell in love with books, however I did and now there is no turning back. It is like time. I can never look back and what has passed has come to passed and there is nothing I can do to undo it. I look at the number of books I own (close to 4000) and I am appalled. I really am. As to how less these books are. As to how I can add to my collection. As to how the house needs more shelves and the lack of space thereof. Books are strewn all over the place. In the living room. In the bedroom. In my mother’s room. In the kitchen also I think. Under the bed. On the shelves of course. Just about everywhere.

The love for books is something which cannot be explained and yet I attempt to. The thought of picking up a new book. The idea of smelling it. The pure magical experience of imagining a book and its characters and the setting as you read it. What other hobby or what other passion could take you to a different land without getting up from your arm-chair?

Books have also played a critical role in my life. There have been times I have not met men for a date since they were not readers. I wanted my very own Roark and if I was in a wild mood, then I needed a Heathcliff. Sometimes I wanted to become Catherine and others I was satisfied in being Oliver Twist, just to know what it would be like to be an orphan. I wanted to be loved like Miu from Sputnik Sweeheart (happens to be my favourite book). I wanted to experience an adventure like the one in Treasure Island. I want Edward McCullen to hold me in his arms and sing me a lullaby. Enough of the ranting already. My point is this: Why aren’t there more readers in my country?

Well that has also changed, thanks to the likes of Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat (shudder shiver!). I wonder how people read them. Yes I admit. I am a literary snob (though I have had my share of Shobha De and Jackie Collins as well). I remember the time I was introduced to reading. I was 5 and was gifted an Enid Blyton by my mother. I have not stopped reading since then. My neices and nephews are 6 and 5 years old and they do not know of Enid Blyton. They never will. I hope they do. I tried to introduce them to her magical world but in vain. They did not try reading what I had gifted. I was sad and then somewhere down the line I let them be.

I am so glad that my man reads. He reads a lot and may be would like to read even more. Just that he does not get the time. My mother reads and so does my sister. I think we are a very different species. The species who reads. I know of so many of my friends who read and I love them for it. I love you my books. This is one love that will never end.

As Virginia Woolf says,  

The true reason remains the inscrutable one – we get pleasure from reading. It is a complex pleasure and a difficult pleasure; it varies from age to age and from book to book. But that pleasure is enough. Indeed that pleasure is so great that one cannot doubt that without it the world would be a far different and a far inferior place from what it is. Reading has changed the world and continues to change it. When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick – the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this – we have loved reading.