OFF THE SHELVES

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OFF THE SHELVES

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 | Maitreyee Hazra

I have a recurring thought. At times this horrible thought strikes me that in a few years from now we will see homes without books. Books – paperbacks and hard covers that smell a certain way and have pressed flowers between pages – will become things of the past. I have myself read some great stories on my gifted Kindle, and listening to an audio book these days, but my preference remains books I can hold. Leisure time is when I can lie down resting my back on two pillows, one on the top of another, and read a book holding it in both my hands. I wonder if other avid readers like me worry that perhaps soon these glossy, matt, thick, thin, colorful or plain books will become extinct. Not only story books, that I have always loved, but text books may also disappear. Online classes have already caught on. Even kids in nursery do ‘online classes’. Possibly in the future complete study material will shift to soft formats and live on some cloud, not the desk at home. It does have its benefits – saving more trees being one.

My family used to call me a bookworm in my childhood. Because of my passion for reading story books – often way into the night until my mother screamed for the lights to be switched off. Our home had a huge collection of books, mostly fiction, both old and new. Books that were from my parents’ childhood, that older siblings bought, that aunts gifted us when we visited them in the summer and comics from my younger brother. Books were a part of culture in our home and discarding a book, however old it was, could not even be thought of. There were books of all great story tellers, encyclopedias, collection of Rabindra Nath Tagore, all the great Indian mythologies and books on nation building we had to wait to be older to read. Some of those with time had turned yellowish yet they were regularly dusted and rearranged in book shelves. All of us were very proud of our family collection. On every birthday I used to receive books from my parents or sisters as gifts wrapped in paper I still remember the excitement of opening those wrappers with a sense of urgency to find new writers and stories hidden inside.

Not just books, monthly magazines for every age group used to be very common in every household. Our parents used to subscribe monthly magazines for us as well as for themselves and we eagerly waited for the same.

My brother was a great fan of Chacha Chowdhary and Tinkle. I had seen the happiness in his eyes every time he received a new one. He used to read the whole comic at a go and then read and re-read the same the rest of the month till he received his new copy.

Someone recently shared a PDF of Chacha Chowdhary collections. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it either.

(The writer is a retired bank officer and the views expressed in the article are her own.

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