Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Jan 2019 10:33:16



By Biraj Dixit

It is good to be ‘well-read’ or ‘read’ at the least. Of course, one gains enormous knowledge from reading. One knows what was, is and could be going around in the world; and can also develop insight on what the case should be. But most importantly, a little astuteness in reading can also guard one against reaching the illogical notion that others might not be well-read. Reading can surely help people save face while hurling utter lies. People with great imagination gain real information and a consequent reality-check through reading.

There are tonnes of examples that can underscore the utter necessity of reading before letting imaginations go wild. Recently, head of a state – a mighty big state – imagined that all the stories of climate change were but imagination. A little reading would have enormously helped the gentleman and the world, indeed. (Though some are hardened non-readers who in face of tsunamis, cyclones and unprecedented snowfall can continue to read nothing.)
Very recently, the same gentleman thought that in a war-torn country libraries were least essential. Enormous errors of information apart, the very logic that a war-torn country only needs missiles and soldiers to rebuild itself, stems from not referring to history books at all. For his great country’s history itself is replete with examples of how many writers, philosophers and their books contributed to churning of the thought of polity that made their great nation. For those who dream of making that nation “great again”, should read enough to understand why it is considered great in the first place. They would then understand the role of libraries in life of a nation. A spanish proverb states that books are hindrances to persisting stupidity. One more reason why one must read, have books and have libraries.

After centuries of civilization and people writing on stones and banana leaves to papyrus and paper, people not reading seems like a criminal neglect of one’s own legacy. Books, they say, carry collective wisdom of generations. But to all those who find wisdom too tall a task, can just benefit by learning some matter-of-fact principles of human existence that books so well propound. Books are living examples of the fact that since the time scribes scribbled, events, accounts, adventures and misadventures were all noted down; that facts find very little hiding place; that history has this ugly habit of ‘never saying goodbye’ and the truth has a way of always coming out of deepest of all graves. If not for wisdom, for self-preservation, one must read.

Particularly, in this day and age of information overload, when whatever one says or does or says and not do is on the internet in no time, should one often refer to information and gain from the wisdom of books that illustrate the absolute necessity of not saying that which one does not mean.

For long, mankind has been ruled by strange beliefs. One such thriving belief is attributed to legendary Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany Paul Joseph Goebbels. His philosophy, in effect, states, ‘A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth’. And so thousand times it has to travel, going through tweets and retweets, till it becomes the truth.

A story goes, that once a lie travelled in a countryside. Admiring its charming appearance, sugary words and easy manners, people followed it. It kept on telling stories, people told and retold those and thus lie’s virtues spread. Everyone was happy until the lie realised that it had to reach its destination and asked people to guide it. But by that time, people, so charmed by the grace and wit of lies, had themselves given up on the art of truth and helped him only in lies. So it wandered and wandered and found no destination, until it came across a disheveled-looking, haggard man, who was a librarian by profession. “Help me,” he said. “How I wish I could, but I have followed you for long and have myself forgotten the path. But I can take you to the library, where all find what they are looking for.”

So, he escorted the lie to the library. There, he met books, all eye-openers. Aghast in face of some truth, the lie was too tired to battle it out. Some said that the lie was the truth, some said that the truth was lying, some felt the truth had some truth in it while some thought truth was too uncomfortable and lie could be relied upon. But lie was supposed to reach its destination and it asked books to guide it. Books checked their records and stated that unlike the truth, lie never had a definite place but was supposed to reside only in the back of people’s mind as doubt. But if it could travel more and more, it might as well be hailed as the truth. Not so strong-limbed, the lie fell of exhaustion. Its subsequent death was hailed as martyrdom. People wept and mourned and went back to work. But the open books soon spread their fragrance and children came to have a look at them and out came the truth and played with its wisdom. The library that had buried the lie had poured life into the truth - a stronger-armed, solid, unsurmountable truth.

Not just war-torn nations, even nations that inflict wars need libraries to show them how to bury lies that give birth to wars and how to let truth triumph so that peace can survive. But these are tales of big nations and their bigger leaders. They may falter. But there is no escape for common people. Reading books is essential so that people can cultivate a culture out of it. A culture where the habit of reading, books and libraries are handed down from one generation to another.

Of course, their children will gain knowledge and insight by reading, but parents must also consider other probabilities. (Pardon my weird imagination) What if some day their child becomes a head of a state and decides on building walls and on trade tariffs and on global warming?  He/she should be well-read enough so that truth triumphs and world can become ‘great again.’