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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nostalgia: The Golden Habit of Book Reading!

The late sixties to the late eighties—the golden period for us as far as the habit of reading book is concerned. For my father the period started from around the early forties. Rightfully, my father and we children were termed as ‘book worms’ by family and friends. We used to coil up wherever and whenever possible with books—books of various nature ranging from detective novels to heavy non-fiction in mostly English, Assamese and Bengali. We can hardly forget those golden moments of reading—on a fresh morning in the veranda armchair or reclining on the sofa in the drawing room or half inclined on the pillow in the bedroom or on winter nights after supper inside the warm quilt with the table lamp burning. On Sundays my mother had a hard time getting us on to the table after serving lunch. My father had the usual habit of trying to finish a book on a single sitting and we also tried to imitate him on various occasions. Thanks to my father’s childhood we favoured English classics a lot and were desperate to procure those from all possible sources apart from the huge home reserve of classics built up over time.

My father was in the civil service and it was transferable. Therefore we were used to move from town to town every two or three years. Coming to a new town our prime focus was to locate the public library. Normally my father took us two brothers there and we were never happy with two membership cards insisting on four and getting them due to his support. Almost at every weekend we brothers used to walk up to the library, returning the read books and searching all nooks and corners for newer ones. Back home we used to display our treasure of books enticingly enough knowing that father would soon hover over them. He would select and pick one and retire to his favourite place to devour. We would contend ourselves with the rest for the time being with our sisters also joining in now.

Those days it was not easy to buy books even though the price was much lesser, because earnings were also very less, and our father, being an honest officer, had only his meagre salary to take care of everything. So we tried to save out of our daily pocket money to save enough to buy books later; we used to cajole and beg ‘able’ family guests to take a trip with us to the book-store and once there we were bolder to get our demands through; on our birthdays or any special festive occasions we used to request, depending on opportunities, the likely visitors to gift us only books.

There was such a ‘book-reading bond’ with our scholarly father that whenever we managed to buy a book we used to show it first to him and if he preferred to devour it immediately we let him to do so waiting for our turn with a happy and joyful heart. Even my farmer grandfather and half-literate grandmother were avid readers too. When they visited us they would normally join us reading books at every opportunity. During the time when grandmother came to live with us a crisis of sorts was building up. She was devouring books at an alarming rate and we were running out of our stock of books. Since that time we brothers got employed outside the visits to the public library became far and less. So often we would discuss the problem with our mother how to solve it!

I remember one particular book-store in a particular town. Not having enough savings at the time and enticed by a whole new series of exciting books I went over there with my bicycle quite often. I would always ask the owner for a particular book and try to demonstrate by leafing over that I really intended to buy it. As the owner got busier with other customers I would proceed to the corner of the counter and read the book then and there. I would finish it in about two hours if I was lucky and would return the book with a smile. I repeated the exercise many times and the kind owner never showed any suspicion. Maybe he knew and was amused or maybe he did not suspect genuinely.


Now your mobiles, iPhones, tabs, laptops or desktops and the 24-hour television channels hardly give you enough time to read books. Whatever little or more you may read now it is invariably on the electronic screens. Many of you may have already left the habit irreparably behind. Personally I would buy a book with all pristine excitement planning to read it coiling up in my favourite corner, but would not succeed for days on end. However, it is such a beautiful experience that everyone would like to come back to it now or later, I’m sure. Members of the present young generation should first try to realize what they are missing out on before getting hooked again to their gadgets. For me the nostalgia is just overpowering. 
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