Remember this? A library card that was stamped with the date, on the day the book was borrowed. The popularity of the book was judged by the number of times it was borrowed.
I remember those days when I was more regular at the libraries than in the classrooms. I was allowed to borrow four books from British Library, which was located in South Mumbai. The books were heavy but it did not deter me from carrying that weight. The monthly trips to the library were quite tedious. There were no auto rickshaws in those days, hiring a taxi was out of question; there was no direct route by bus. I used to walk (a good 15 minutes) with that heavy weight from my house to Bandra stations, then a local train ride of 30 minutes from Bandra to Churchgate, and then another walk for 30 minutes to Nariman point, where the library was located. I marvel at my energy quotient at that time. Auto Rickshaws have made me lazy, I think.
The reward after this tedious journey was an entry into an air-conditioned room full of books and magazine.
Rows and rows of books, categorized according to their subject and titles, found their place on the shelf. We could search the book either by going from shelf to shelf or go through the categorized cards that had list of all the books.
Spending a day at the British library was an outing by itself. I used to spend all hours, watching documentary films, reading magazines and then borrowing books. Silence was maintained that allowed us to concentrate on reading. Many times I used to be distracted by young couples, playing footsies while reading, an uneasy distraction perhaps.
Internet had not yet made its entry into my world and I depended on books and magazines for an inspiration to write. Not that I wrote much, but it gave me immense pleasure to read at leisure and be in my own sphere.
I loved being surrounded by books. It was like sitting in the middle of boat where stories are doing their rounds. The words floated in the air, silently attached to each other by series of hyphens. Even during my travels, I looked for a library to spend few moments of peace.
I dreamt of owning a library of my own and had even started a collection, but life took too many turns, the migration to different countries made it impossible for me to carry my heavy books with me. Heart bled as I distributed my books away before moving. Most of my books have not come back, I am not sure if they are safe in their adopted homes.
Books have a life of their own, their own fragrance, and texture that cannot be compromised by e-books. The few books that are left with me are the feast for my eyes.