When I first moved to India in 1999, one of my first tasks was finding a library in the neighbourhood I was to move into. I was fresh out of school and obviously had my mom along to take care of the mundane tasks like actually finding me a place to live. Now, having got me my first library membership at the rip-old age of three, my mom kind of understood the urgency of this task. Though, not when she was standing in line to get me a gas connection and I was calling her to check if I should sign-up for a 5 book or 7 book per week membership. So it was, that I had many happy years with this library. I browsed and inhaled, made friends with the librarians, hid among the shelves when I was down and took extra books to celebrate my post exam weekends.
Six years down the line; I got engaged, followed it up by getting married and moving to a new state. I was running a home, commuting to work with my husband and working 12 hours a day. So basically, I couldn’t get near a library. I did join one near my house but it was shut on Sundays, my only day off, and being bookless scared the **** of me. Naturally, I started buying books by the boatload. Sunday mornings were spent sipping coffee and browsing books at the new concept cafe-bookstores around the city. I enjoyed the ritual and ‘it’ become our thing (the husband and I).
Three years later, we finally moved back to my husband’s home-city, had a baby and started a business. And that’s when we ran short of money, flexibility and space. Babies and new businesses are exciting, but they basically leave you no time or money for anything else. I was rereading old books, borrowing from my huge extended family and even got my mom to send a whole bunch of my old books from my childhood home to India. It wasn’t enough by far, but I didn’t know what to do. Then one beautiful evening, the baby and I were taking a shortcut through my old neighbourhood (which is quite close to our office) and I saw my old love, the library. There it was, faithfully waiting for me with open doors (no air-conditioning till today).
Excitement bubbled through me as I crossed the sacred threshold, while trying to explain my relationship with this place to my not-yet-two-year-old daughter. She obviously understood the sentiment because almost six years on, visiting that place every Saturday after work is now our ritual (my daughter and I). We have a snowy ice-cream cone at the small chaat store next door and then spend a happy hour stocking up for our week. We browse, read, share, giggle, argue and then walk out carrying enough books to build a small tower. Then, we visit the green grocer in the next building, do our fruit shopping for the week before finally walking down to the nearest coffee shop, ordering hi-tea and sitting back to enjoy our loot.
It’s been a true full circle and I’m happy to pass on this tradition to my little girl. We still go to book shops to browse, buy gifts (most of them sell other stuff too, though I believe in books being the best gifts ever) and add to our library at home, though at a snail’s pace compared to before. Despite this beautiful story (beautiful to me), there are a few more real reasons why I’ll continue using my library membership as long as I can and that I’ll share in my next post. Till then, what about the rest of you? Do you have a library membership? Do you use it? Or do you buy books at a store or online?
Stay Happy Everyday