A small dinner conversation took me down the memory lane, to my school days, to the half-day Saturdays when we had the library period.
I have never had an active library membership in my adult years, my engineering college’s library was the place of last resort for me, for Google had long taken over my information needs. The B School library was slightly better off, with some genuinely good books and fast internet surfing enticed me in at times. But these places were purely academic in nature, devoid of any content to do with literature whatsoever.
The only real library I had been to was in School, a whitewashed hall with book racks all over the place with the librarian on one edge of it. We’d quietly enter the hall and sit on the metallic fold-able chairs, awaiting for her to open the doors to the treasures they hidden behind them. One could pick a single book from the specific shelves which were opened according to the librarians whim, and fill in the yellow library card with one’s name, class and the date of return. The card was to be then returned to her, and the book was yours for a week.
It was quite interesting for me to fill in those library cards, looking at the past issuers names and their old due dates. What specially excited me were the times when a book had not been read for a few years; such thrill that I paid attention to a title which people forgot. But I was never consciously searching for such books, my favorites were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven. The adventures with these British kids filled me with so much joy, chasing thieves, camping out in the meadows, exploring old forts, in short everything I wished to do and did with them!
Picking a book for a week, and returning home to immediately start reading it were obvious things for me. To accompany this hunger for fiction was my grumbling stomach, and maggi was the perfect snack for those Saturday noons. Trust me, Enid Blyton‘s more fun with maggi by its side!
As I grew older, I explored a bit more, and peeked into those shelves which were never opened. Surprisingly, these out-of-bound books were not really so, one had to just ask for the key. With this, the reading matured, but there was always the constant library card to be filled, sometimes astonishing me that I was probably the youngest in the library card’s history to read sci-fi by Crichton when I was just 14.
Flipkart came along, and Goodreads is a good support but I long for those yellow library cards, telling me precious little details about the readers before me.
PS – The books were often old and I derived a weird pleasure in smelling the old pages, as they do!