A celebration of books and their creators

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Apr 2018 10:09:53






WHEN the world celebrates the World Book Day tomorrow, that is April 23, it will not just celebrate books. It will celebrate authors, writers, poets, the people who make books possible, those ancient people who first thought of the idea of book. These celebrations, thus, have a special importance for all of us without exception. We cannot imagine our lives without books.

More than sixty years ago, on a sunny day, my father handed me a handful of books and asked me to walk to a public library near a Nagpur slum and give those books to the librarian to become a part of the library’s collection. Clutching those few books in both hands folded at chest, I remember walking into the ramshackle library and handing those over the oldish librarian whose face now I don’t remember. “Why are you giving these books away?”, he had asked. Not knowing exactly what to say, I remember mumbling almost inaudibly that our family wanted all children to read those books.

Back home, I told Father how terribly happy I felt after donating those books to the kids about whom I knew nothing. Since that day so many years ago, it has become a standard practice for me to keep giving books away to the people who I feel can benefit from reading. Countless books have passed from hands in these years. Yet, there is a silent and nagging realisation that there still are countless lakhs of children who never get any book to read. So bad is the condition in countless Indian homes that the kids don’t get to see even their text books since they don’t go to school at all.

This realisation causes a serious heart-ache. For, now also we have countless families that do not send their kids to schools and so those kids -- and naturally their families -- remain deprived of books. On the World Book Day, my heart will bleed for all such people!

But then, there is another area of serious heart-ache for me. In this area, there also are millions of kids from well-to-do families where reading books is not part of the family-culture. On numberless occasions, I have asked such families why they don’t nurse the culture of reading. And on each such occasion, I have got a response either of a blank look in their eyes or a sense of defiance that reading is of no use.

Unfortunate are such people who really do not know or understand the importance of having books and reading those. This segment about which I am now talking has enough money to buy books, or at least buy a library’s membership for regular reading. The people in this segment also have enough time -- which they waste either in front of the Idiot Box symbolising themselves or their cellphones that give them access to many undesirable domains. All of them are privy to good education in decent schools. Yet, we often see and sense that they have never nursed a culture of reading.

This shocks me no end. For, if I have not bought and read a book say in one week, I feel terribly insulted by own insensibility. Let me declare from the rooftop that I was a confirmed duffer in school and college. Though I read a lot of books at home, I did badly in examinations in schools and college. My parents were not overly worried, however. They knew that a time would certainly come when my consistent reading would stand me in good stead. They were proved right. My profession took me to all places around the globe and exposed me to the best -- and the worst -- of people and conditions. On most such occasions, I found myself emerging quite successfully just because my reading was the foundation I stood on.

As the world will celebrate the World Book Day tomorrow, that is April 23, I will join the festival of books and their authors and poets and designers and also publishers. But more importantly, I will love to join all those who cherish and relish books -- all those who know they know nothing and so they must read. For, I have always been a little boy who knows nothing. And, having been egged on by my parents, I started reading seriously decades ago. I am still reading, realising that I have to go a terribly long distance even to start claiming that I have known that I don’t know much.