Some of the most pleasurable memories I have are of the days when my mum and I used to walk down Cuffe Parade to Metsons library. It was a sacred ritual for us. We would go in the early evening, usually in the beginning of the week, carrying a big bag of books that we would be returning. It’s almost impossible to describe what I felt every time I entered that tiny library filled with books from top to bottom. A rush of happiness seems like too simple a phrase to describe it but that’s what it was. In fact even writing this is making me smile and bringing me that same rush. A tingle in my palms that would only go away once I started pulling out books, reading the back covers or skimming through the contents to decide if they were worth borrowing.
To get Mohan the librarian to take out some of his hidden stock of new books for his most voracious readers like us, was a particularly important and exciting part of the ritual. I think every Indian has that bargaining gene that manifests itself in the oddest of places. My mum never bargained with the vegetable vendor but she and I sure did bargain with Mohan about how many books we could borrow. Always trying to convince him to let us take more books than what was allowed. I must say here that we were almost always successful thanks to my fervent pleading and cajoling. I was all of 14 at the time and 14 year olds are exceedingly good at wearing down resistance. They practice constantly with their parents.
Whenever we left the library, our bags that would be bulging with books never felt heavy. In fact we felt so light and joyous, almost like we were floating. Once we got home I couldn’t wait for dinner to be over so that I could go to my bedroom to start the next part of the ritual, which was choosing what book to read first. The pleasure of having that stack of books on my nightstand and the anticipation of a new story was incomparable.
There’s nothing like the deep calm that comes over you when your mind is deeply engaged in the words in front of you. It’s an unparalleled feeling. I am now 55 and the feeling hasn’t changed one bit. The medium might have changed over time but the feeling definitely hasn’t. In fact nowadays that feeling, that rush, is there almost throughout the day. My kindle makes me feel like I live in a book store. What a truly blissful place to live. All the world’s books just a touch away!
I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined something so beautiful. I know ‘beautiful’ might not be the word you think of, but to me it’s just that. Beautiful that I have a library of books with me every single moment of every single day. It’s like a wish that I made on a mythical wishing chair came true. It almost seems like someone read the collective consciousness of all readers across the universe and decided to make our dreams come true. I know some people say that they love reading but can only read the printed book. They say they could never read on the kindle because they like and need the feel of paper. For me, the shift has been seamless. Never a moment of doubt or uncertainty. Because to me the medium is not as important as the story. I read because I love the words. I love the way a story consumes me. I love the way it becomes my story, the way it takes over my life for those few days or moments.
Books are the sole reason that I have never ever felt bored or lonely. In life’s most trying moments they have been my escape and my lifeline. As a little girl of 8, my way of dealing with the pain of anti rabies injections was a visit to the bookstore right after. Ever since then, books have always healed me. Straightened a world that might be tilting.
From all the many gifts that my mother gave me, this is the one that connects me the most to her. She gave a shy introverted little girl a gift of such unique meaning…a gift of a lifelong friend. A vanquisher of loneliness forever. A friend that would stand the test of time and who would be by her daughter’s side even when she couldn’t be. One who could always make everything better and who would be a refuge during any storm.
I couldn’t have asked for more.