Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Books of Christmas Past

J.R.R Tolkien da morto by bluinfaccia under CC BY 2.0

They're more than just bound sheets of paper; they're the living, breathing imaginations of countless writers and poets who've changed the way we look at ourselves and our world. Mythical lands, fantastic,outlandish characters and despicable villains are never too far away in children's books while torrid  love affairs, racing plots and assassination threats by shadowy organizations abound in novels for the adults.

When I was a kid, the library was the place I was always looked forward to visiting. Our school library was in a part of the main building that overlooked a small tributary of a rather unpleasant river. The library received little sunlight even during the harsh Indian summers and had a dank and musty overture; reminiscent of a medieval dungeon. But probably the appeal lay in the almost hidden away little room, a little to the left as we made our way into the library. It was filled with history books about historical figures; about C.Rajagopalachari, Gandhi and Nehru; it had wonderful, colorful atlases and large globes with faded colors that revealed distant and unheard of  lands (Reykjavik, anyone?), but most importantly you could have a moment's solitude with the ancient wooden shelves that housed these tomes of knowledge: a sort of private moment between a novice; thirsting for enlightenment and a sensei mastered in the ways of the world. The moment lingers in my memory even today as I remember flipping through the yellowing pages; its distinct aging fragrance wafting in the still air. I couldn't completely grasp the gist of what was written in many of the books, but I was content to know that one day that I would be able to take these down from their high shelves and settle down into a chair and immerse in them.

" could have a moment's solitude with the ancient wooden shelves that housed these tomes of knowledge."
As children we read Applegate's Animorphs series and some of us, including myself, got our hands on the Everworld series. I was (and still am) a voracious reader and I remember reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit back in the eight and eleventh grade respectively. It is of course a guilty pleasure to admit that I share Christopher Tolkien's birthday and am an alumnus from the institution where his father- the incomparable and illustrious J.R.R Tolkien, held a professorial role in the School of English Studies. I can say with great conviction that my appreciation and command of the English language was guided by the invisible hands of these and many more great authors. The hours spent in the library at BRV during my formative years was without doubt crucial in developing my love and respect for books and their authors.

Of course, I'm still reading now, but my taste in books has changed markedly; the choices reflect my (ir)religious and political inclinations. I also read slower than usual; mulling over the words of the author, sometimes wondering if he used just those words for a purpose. So what kind of books do I read now?
That's for another post- The Books of Christmas Present.

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