Books are a sort of window on the world. If you love books, one fine morning you will find that you have become "a citizen of the world". Just like music, knowledge also knows no bounds and borders. It is through books that one really gets to know about a wide range of things considered by the intellectuals of a world in flux. At another remove, they always shape our vision and mission in such a way that we generally tend to glorify them in our journey through life. It is books that have played a pivotal role in people's education, culture and creativity down the ages.
I first peeped into the beckoning world of books when I was admitted to a village primary school 41 years ago. I will remain ever grateful to the respected teachers of the school, who first taught me how to read and write.
Attracted by the entrancing aroma of new books, I used to move from one page to another with sheer delight. Truly, it was through reading Rabindranath Tagore's "Sahaj Path" (Easy Lesson) that I had the first flavour of Bengali literature. Like all my classmates, my unbridled childish imagination too ran wild while enjoying the regular reading sessions in the classroom. Incidentally, I had read not a single book beyond the syllabus then. Not burdened with too many books, I played and frolicked and enjoyed myself in those halcyon days of early childhood.
The number of textbooks gradually increased at the secondary and higher secondary levels. When I was in class VII or VIII, I first borrowed a Bengali storybook from the school library. Though I read it with keen interest, I have forgotten its name, theme and author. I read Sunil Ganguly's "Dui Basanta" (Two Springs) when I was in class IX. But it was in class XI that I first borrowed Leo Tolstoy's famous English novel, "War and Peace" from the school library. But failing to grasp anything of the first few pages, I returned it, wishing to try it again. The time to do so is yet to come.
However, my love for books grew deeper after I passed the higher secondary examination. And I started reading a wide variety of books for pleasure. While doing my BA (English) and MA (English) courses at the University of Kalyani, I came into contact with the respected teachers of the English department, who whetted my appetite and thirst for reading books. And when I was doing my Bachelor of Training (BT) course, I was advised to extensively read and acquire knowledge on different subjects to become an ideal teacher.
As long as I was a student, my reading was mostly limited to the syllabus- oriented books, and I had to read them for examinations. But when I became a teacher twenty-one years back, I realised that I would have to go on reading not only for myself but also for my dear students. Francis Bacon said: "Reading maketh a full man".
I am in the habit of visiting different bookstores especially at College Street and Park Street in Kolkata. I do have the time to "stand and stare" at the wide display of books on the pavement. I wish I could buy all the books. I buy books, old and new, for my personal collection. I generally prefer the old chosen ones because they are cheaper and touched and read by many.
I also visit different book fairs held here and there throughout the year. But I always look forward to visiting the International Kolkata Book Fair to celebrate our love for books. Looking at the sea of book lovers and the enchanting bookstalls, I get myself charged with everything positive and beautiful. I hop from stall to stall, read books and buy some of them. Has anybody yet been bankrupt through buying books?
A voracious reader, I frequent the National Library, Kolkata, the British Council Library, Kolkata and Chakdaha Sukanta Smriti Pathagar, Nadia. Apart from having some food for thought, I especially enjoy the serenely beautiful sight of several bookworms reading books with rapt attention. This habit of reading bound volumes needs to be retained at a time when many people prefer to read books on their laptops, Ipads or smartphones.
Books are our best companions. They are an everlasting source of joy, inspiration and knowledge. A close relative or a bosom friend may leave you in the lurch. But whether the weather is fine or not, a book remains with you all the time because it only gives but demands nothing in return.
If you love books, you can reliably negotiate life's fitful twists and turns. As for myself, I spend quality time with myself in my small study for hours every day. Besides, whenever I am in "pensive mood" or on tenterhooks for reasons known or unknown, I go to my books and get relieved. I cannot do without books. Interestingly, when I am down with a fever, I read books to supplement the medicines prescribed. And I read books on the train.
I am grateful to books (and of course to my teachers) for what I am today. I have special interests in language, literature and philosophy. I have read a variety of books such as Rabindranath Tagore's "Jibansmriti" (Memories of Life) and "Shesher Kobita" (Poetry of an Ending), MK Gandhi's "The story of my experiments with truth", ER Braithwaite's "To Sir, With Love", Swami Vivekananda's "My India, the India Eternal", W Somerset Maugham's "Up at the Villa", Ruskin Bond's "The Night Train at Deoli and Other Stories", APJ Abdul Kalam's "Wings of Fire", Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending", VS Naipaul's "A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling", Maitrayee Devi's "Na Hannate" (That Which cannot be killed), Mircha Eliad's "La Nuit Bengali" (Night in Bengal), Jawaharlal Nehru's "The Discovery of India", Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", etc. Thus I have created a world within a world, which is illuminated by many such authors, poets and thinkers. In fact, there is no limit to learning. But there is a limit to one's lifetime.
I would like to read as many books as possible in the days to come. Like you, I also think that we must walk for books, work for books, live for books. If I am ever asked to choose between a bag of gold coins and a bag of tomes, I must invariably tick and take the latter. Let's read books and grow rich.
The writer is a teacher of English
based in Kolkata
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