About two and a half years ago, when my tenth standard boards just got over I had one of the best opportunities in my life. Just after my exams ended I had a lot of time to kill. I read books, sketched for an entire day, lazed around, binge watched Grey’s Anatomy and still had a lot of time to be bored and go grumble about how I had nothing to do to my mother. That is when my mother suggested that I should get involved in something. She asked me to go and check if the library right across my house could use any help.
Before I go any further, let me tell you that this is no huge library. In fact I can bet on the fact that it is definitely the smallest one you have ever seen. As you walk down the lane where I live, you will see it tucked away safety behind a thick tree. Although, it was really small it had a rich collection of books. From Enid Blyton reading to Shantaram, it had everything for all ages of readers.
Anyway, the next time I went there to borrow a book, I asked the librarian if she needed help. For some reason I was quite nervous. Because to me, taking care of books was and still is a huge responsibility. It is like guarding the Queen’s jewellery. I tried to remember everything that my mother told me to say while I was busy drinking tea, watching Friends and pretending to listen to her. Be polite, she had said, tell the librarian that you are willing to work and… well I don’t remember the rest because I wasn’t really listening.
But as it turned out, I didn’t have to say much. As soon as I asked her if she needed any help she said something about visiting her hometown for a couple of weeks. And before I knew it she asked me if I was willing to be the librarian in her absence. Obviously, I said yes. I mean, who wouldn’t ?
When my first day at the job dawned, I couldn’t be more excited. The library opened at 3:00 pm. After getting ready, I was having tea in the hall ( I have a lot of tea, I know!). My father was right next to me on the couch watching the election news. Just before leaving, I realised that the library had a shutter. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to open the shutter myself. So I decided to drag my father along with me. My father, who was not very thrilled about leaving his comfortable couch and the mellifluous voice of Arnab Goswami, took some time to get ready. And I spent that time in the hall frantically pacing up and down. I was going to be late on the first day. Would there be people waiting outside because I was late? This obviously wasn’t a good start. Before I could continue my nervous flow of thoughts, my father came into the hall, ready to leave.
Soon I was in the library, with a register and pen in front of me. I expected it to be busy and full of people, but it was surprisingly empty. So I walked around, arranged the books and even began reading one. As the day progressed, a few people did stop by. But not as many as I expected. Nevertheless, I had a great time those two weeks.
Recently, this library was shut down because they didn’t have the money to keep it going, which made me really sad. I grew up in a house where everyone read. From the morning newspaper to Ayn Rand, nothing was off limits. It was expected of me to read and I very happily did so. Buying books was never considered a waste of money ( all of us are book hoarders :)). Reading and storytelling was habit that was always encouraged.
My two weeks in a library made be realise that, sadly not everyone grew up in a family like this. In fact, there are people I know who absolutely detest reading. Unsurprisingly, they detest it because they haven’t really tried it.
So let me ask you, when was the last time you engaged in a substantial amount of reading? If your reading is restricted to tour textbooks, then you miss out on so much. You don’t know what its like to create and play out stories in your head. You don’t know what its like to escape into a different world. You will never get the ‘Malory Towers feels’ when you move into a hostel. You will never indulge in pure bliss. And if your response is still ‘It’s just a book,’ I’ll only smile. Because you will never understand what it is.