Those of you who know me would know I love books. And those who have visited my house would know that I love being surrounded by them. Some of you may have read one of my earlier posts, “Books, oh books” about my fascination for books.
I love books, and I very often buy them. I have always had this “other love” in my life. Books. My wife reached this conclusion pretty early on in our married life and she would point this out to me with unfailing regularity, the moment she saw me returning home with a bagful of books. Till she realized that I was a compulsive buyer of books. And incorrigible. She sighed, and reconciled, God bless her. I have written earlier regarding my love for books and that I could not afford to buy books. I would borrow them from friends, from circulating libraries and from school or college libraries. And when I started earning, my salary liberated me- as it were- and I plunged into buying books.
Lest you think that I am a book-worm, let me tell you, I am not. I confess here, publicly, that I have read not even half of my collection. But show me a book-lover who has read all in his, and I will show you a liar!
This used to trouble me a bit. Not a bit actually, but hugely! Till an enlightened book-lover friend of mine told me: “I buy when I can, I read when I can”. And that took off from my conscience the load of guilt accumulated over the years! And now I have this stance: “Sure I have not read this book, but what the hell, I like what this book is about and I will read it one day”. And I often do. Many a time I have pulled out and read to the finish a book a bought five or six years ago. And I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
There are many books which I have not read cover-to-cover. Some half-way, some two-thirds. So what if I do not complete them, I know when to turn to these books depending on what I seek. You do not need to unload on your body the entire bottle of perfume to know what it is all about!
There is another aspect which a book-lover may encounter. Feeling guilty about exiting a book-store without making a purchase. I did. I would enter the bookshop, browse for hours and would feel “obliged” to buy a book or two. I felt guilty leaving without giving the store any business, and to part company with books I would come back to again-and-again in the hours spent at the shop. How could I not give any business to the shop and more importantly, how I could leave behind my objects of desire. So there I was queueing-up at the cash counter, pulling out my wallet and saying thank you to the cashier as he packed the purchases into a polythene bag.
Till someone- another book lover- told me that it was ok. It was alright to leave without buying a book. I put this maxim to practice. It was difficult the first few times, but then I got used to it. And it has been a breeze since then. I breeze into a book shop, exchange a few pleasantries with the book seller, browse and breeze out. Simple!
I had written in the earlier post:
“Books brought you into a mystical communion with writers past and present. Books whose writers were not mere pen-pushers but confidants sharing life’s secrets and mysteries. A book was an entire package of life’s treasures and all its sensual goodness…..”
Now that I think more, having books are like having great thinkers as friends. Great friends are those with whom you can spend hours with, turn to them in times of need, ask them for appropriate advice when needed. Great friends are non-demanding, they just stand around and let you be as you do your own thing. Friends with ages of wisdom, tons of good wishes, and- more importantly- always at hand. I wonder if you have realized that you may have a large circle of friends, you may consider them as great friends- which they indeed are- but you rarely turn to any of them at random in times of specific need. For example, if you have some issues with your better half, you may ask a select few. And these select few are different when you are besieged with problems at work, or with your finances, or with multiple such distinct issues clouding your life. Such is the case with books. All great friends, as I have just described, but each fulfilling a different need. Provided of course you know what to seek in a particular book, just like you know what to talk to a close friend about.
There is a small difference though. How many great friends you think you have? 4? 7? Ok, maybe 9! I would be surprised to hear a figure in double digits even with the most socially active people. And if you do think you have a large number of great friends, my humble recommendation is maybe you should start redefining for yourself what you mean by a great friend. On the other hand, you may have a large collection of books and each could be your great friend, in the manner listed above.
…..to be continued….