Buried amongst the Books

I love visiting the Bookstore. Some people like shopping, some like to fish. Me? I love visiting the bookstore.

Everytime I’m out with friends or family, window shopping at a mall, I invariably find myself wandering away from them, roaming in search of a vendor of books.

It is a strange sight, the bookstore in a mall. Surrounded by dazzling shops filled with excited customers gawking at the brands, the bookstore is a place of tranquility. Through the glass I can see a handful of people, barely moving, staring at the objects in their hands, spellbound by it’s magic.

I step through the gate and into the store. It’s a small place, hardly lager than my backyard. But within those few square-feet of space, there exist hundreds and thousands of worlds. Some are small and commonplace, like the town of Malgudi, while others are humongous, filled with extraordinary beings of Middle Earth. Some are bright, sunny places of hope and love, while some are dark and twisted alleyways of disputed moral consciousness. All of them cramped beautifully into those few square-feet.

I stand there surrounded by centuries of wisdom. From Aristotle and Homer to Einstein and Hawking; from the achievements of leaders who built nations to those who put them to torch; from men who rose to fame and fortune to those countless thousands who died nameless in a pointless war; from the art of growing a vegetable garden to learning a new language in thirty days – it’s all there, and it’s overwhelming.

But the real reason I love going to the bookstore is the company. The company of the greatest minds in the history of humankind. Here I get to be with Shelley and Keats and Byron. I get to be lost in the worlds of Tolstoy and Chekhov and go on adventures with Tolkien and Rowling. The ten year old girl standing across the aisle is as much engaged in their company as the mother holding her hand, and that’s the beauty of the bookstore – it has so much for everyone.

In the past couple of decades, the way we process, store and transmit ideas has changed drastically. Electronic media has taken the world of communication by the storm. Attention deficit is the new world order. And in a society such as India, reading is the most neglected of all artforms. No one reads here anymore. The Indian youth (almost a tenth of the world’s population) is largely unaware of the joy of reading. We are strangers to the Merchant of Venice as much to the Man Eater of Malgudi. That I think is a travesty as vile as any other.

I still believe though, that the written word is not dead. That it will never be dead. The fact that I’m writing this and you are reading this is proof enough. It will find a new outlet, a new crack through which to seep into the minds and souls of the coming generations, for that is the nature of ideas. Visiting the bookstore is my first step towards that utopia. I’m not the first, and I will most certainly not be the last.

So the next time you pass a bookstore, stop and enter. Step into history and  future at the same time. Pick up a book – any book – and get to live another life from another time, all while you are riding that bus to your office. The next time you pass a bookstore, stop and enter.
And ask them if they will let my family bury me there – because that’s my ultimate dream, to be literally buried amongst the Books.

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Image courtesy: http://goo.gl/ag9kop

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