The news of A P J Abdul Kalam’s demise shocked all those who adored him. As a regular user of low-weight calipers for my survival, I am also a admirer of Kalam. During his last visit to Tamil Nadu on July 18 this year, Kalam gave a message to his ever-loving students to read good books at least an hour daily. His love for reading was a endless process that lifted him to the highest level. His message made me recollect memories about an extraordinary lover of books. It is a fact that the emergence of paper and printing paved the way for gaining knowledge. A lover of books has an endless desire to read various types of books, be it on stories or one that contains just information.
But we have to remember that one becomes a lover of books only by sustaining one’s reading habit. One undeniable factor here is to practise reading books faster. Once we attain this skill, it will stay with us forever. During my childhood, my father advised me to follow the practice. That is, even if we are not able to read and understand vernacular or foreign English-language books, we should not abandon the effort. If we try to read continuously, certainly we can achieve a level of reading skill and eventually will be able to read complex books as well quite easily. I can say that I followed my father’s word.
In the 80s when computer appliances and e-mail facilities came into practice, a perception emerged that soon there would be a ‘paperless society’. It was then believed that in the future, children would be relieved from carrying the load of books to schools and gain knowledge with the help of computers. This was a something shocking to many book lovers. But, surprisingly, though electronic services attained high-tech levels, the utility of printed materials also gained currency. We must realise that as long as lovers of books are there, reading the printed version of books will never end.
Whenever I hear about book exhibitions, book collections or sales I remember that. Once, a college student shared her experience of knowing a different kind of lover of books she had met. She said that she had heard of mothers who delivered up to 12 children and brought them all up well. But in her college library, she met a mother with thousands of children. A mother who considered the library books as her own offsprings. Every action of the library in-charge showed her extreme love for books.
In two big halls, more than 15,000 books were arranged in metal racks in line with classification numbers. Journals were displayed separately in an orderly fashion. Every morning when the person reached the library, she would give an affectionate glance around the collection. If there was any change of location of any book in the collection, she could spot that. If students had misplacement books purposefully, her eyes quite naturally located these books. If she happened to see anyone damaging books, it was simply not possible not only to control her shouting, but also the tears that would roll down from her eyes.
Astonished by the library head’s devotion, this student would enquire at times as to how it was possible to have such an extraordinary love for books. From the answers she received, the student came to know about some of the backstory. It was the librarian’s love for books that made her select the profession. As a librarian, collecting recommendations for the required books from the faculty members, arranging meetings for approval, calling quotations and placing orders for books were completed by her as if it was a mechanical routine. After receiving the books, checking their pages, providing subject numbers and arranging them along with other books became an affectionate business for her. Al though the books belonged to her library, she felt proud as the mother of those books. Though she was not able to read all the books in that library fully, the messages from the books were easily recorded in her mind. The college student proudly narrated her experience and she even today feels happy for having met a wonderful ‘mother of thousands’.