I never bought books. I either begged or borrowed them from others. My mother was against buying them. She scoffed at me when I bought Emma Donoghue’s Room using a prize coupon I had. She told me – after you read, it is just a stack of papers sewn together with a colorful cover. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t against reading books, she was against buying them. According to her, during college days she used to cut out serialized Kannada novels from magazines and make them into books.
I asked my friend the other day which book he was reading. He said he was busy with work and struggling to complete a book which he had started reading months back. It is true for many others. Including me. People are reading less. And I don’t blame them. Reading a book is a big commitment unlike watching videos on YouTube or Netflix.
My school library had limited books. An old couple living next door gave me their membership card of an old-snake-infested-public-library. It was perfect. I used to borrow three books and return it in three days. And the cycle repeated. Now I get happy if I could finish one percent of a book in one day.
Reading a book is one of those selfish acts. It isn’t useful for anybody but yourself. I hate to open a book and start reading in a public place. Reading is personal for me. I do it when I know that I have a good amount of time just for myself and when nobody needs me.
I have friend who hates reading on Kindle. He loves the feel of book in his hands. And he loves to own all the copies of books he reads. I, like my mother, have started to see books like a glorified stack of papers. I do own copies of books I love. But I feel Kindle is far more convenient.
I remember visualizing Captain Nemo’s adventures while reading Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It was evening and I was sitting outside my house when I read its last page. It was like saying goodbye to a dear old friend. How can I go about life after this? – I wondered. The real world did not hold any value. I remember the anticipation of something bad that was going to happen when Hassan turns back to Amir and tells “For you a thousand times over” in The Kite runner. The picture of Wuthering Heights standing lonely in the moors, never fails to evoke the emptiness I felt when I read the book for the first time.
When the cover art of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, I spent a whole week analyzing it. I scrutinized every detail with a hope of finding some clues. I researched online and spent hours reading how the world was seeing it. When I was reading a Harry Potter I was detached from everything around me. Food, sleep, life were distractions. I was on life support and the book was keeping me alive. And every time I finish one, a state of daze, melancholy, meaninglessness prevails for days.
The world was waiting for the final Harry potter book. And I was plotting how to read it when it releases. Because as I told earlier buying the book was out of question. Our school library would definitely not buy new books anytime soon. And my public library needed not only new books but new everything. I had no friends from whom I could borrow. I heard a new library was coming up nearby. I visited and it looked pretty good. This was my best bet. After all the hassle of extra paper work to get the student discount and multiple sessions to convince my mother, I finally became its member. And when the final book released, my library purchased it! I booked it right away. After months of waiting I finally got the call from the librarian – “Sir, you can collect your book”. I bunked class for the first time in my life and collected it. Rushed home. I was preparing for my final exams. So I waited for my parents to go to sleep. I opened the book. Read everything from the cover to the copy writing information. Reached this dedication page.
“…and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.” The words stuck in my throat. For the first time in my life my eyes became wet and I was not sad. I caressed the words with my fingers. I did stick with Harry until the very end. From thousands of miles away, she touched my heart through those written words. Oh J.K. Rowling! You genius sorceress.