Archive for category Books

My Happy Place

Our library.

Yes, library! All these years it was bookshelves scattered all over the place with just a dream of having a dedicated space for a library. And now, we finally have one – one small room with wall to wall bookshelves to hold the woven pages that we’ve collected and cherished over the years.

While we were looking for a place to move into as we relocated to Boston, we walked through house after house, rejecting most of them because of not feeling a sense of home while there, among other factors. And this particular house was no exception; there were quite a few reasons to disregard the positives and keep on looking. But all that changed as we walked into that one room. As soon as our eyes caught a glimpse of what it comprised and what it could potentially be, we knew this was home.

A home with a library!

I make it a point to spend some time in there every day. It’s time devoted to practicing meditation of sorts… I sit there, calm and quiet, not being bothered by what happened or what is to come; I sit there as if time has stopped to let me take advantage of the beauty in the stillness and silence that surrounds; I sit there, lost in a million spattered thoughts, yet at the same time with a clear mind, one that’s free of it all… It’s time devoted to experiencing the poetic depth of solitude.

It’s my time in my happy place.

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Have you …?

Have you ever walked into a bookstore and felt at home?

Have you ever picked and chose random books – some based on their brilliant covers, some for their witty title, some since it carries your favorite author’s name, some…just ‘cause – and sat right there on the floor at the bookstore to aimlessly open and read a few pages here and a few pages there? Have you then put back all those accidental picks because they are full priced and you won’t pay anything but a good bargain?

Have you experienced that high when one of the books that you’ve been eyeing during your previous few trips to the store finally comes on sale? Have you then promptly grabbed one of the prints out of the shelf, guaranteeing yourself a copy even if every person in the store somehow conspired to buy that exact book thus making its expiry inevitable before it’s time for you to check out? Have you ensured not to be concerned about that little metaphorical thought bubble that then certainly appears to enlighten you of such a thing called rational thinking?

Have you wandered through the New Arrivals section to find the shelves empty to your dismay? Have you undergone those heavy seconds after spotting an unfilled New Arrivals section? Have you wondered whether the void that’s now so prevalent there is due to not having any new releases that particular week/day/month or due to the staff rearranging things around? Have you loitered about the area to see if you can find a reassuring, and not a dispiriting, answer? Have you then breathed that sigh of relief and grinned wide when you noticed an employee pushing a big cart of books, heading towards you? Have you subsequently gone on to speculate, in your mind, what the world would be if there were no new books written going forward? Have you, after that, sensed that immense gratitude for not having to face or being forced into such a dire situation?

Have you succumbed into buying a handful of books and stepped out of a bookstore with the most-loved-during-this-spree books in tow?

Have you ever walked out of a bookstore and savored that rush of anticipation of your next expedition into that magical world of words, even though you left the store only moments earlier?

Have you…?

I have!

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Thank you, J K Rowling!

My fondness for Harry Potter series is no secret. Granted, I hopped on the bandwagon much later than many others I know, but that surely didn’t take away from the love I have for the books. And as much as I whine about how the movies aren’t at par with the books, I enjoy watching them nevertheless. For the past three years, I’ve read all the books in the series once a year (mostly during the Dec-Jan time) and then caught up with all the movies right after. And the last time I did it, the partner joined me in watching the movies.

It was fun. To have him join in on the adventure. To see him as restless as I was when we stopped at crucial points for various reasons. To feel my excitement double as I realized his appreciation. To watch his questioning eyes as he failed to understand little details, the ones only the readers of the book would’ve been able to catch, here and there. He had a ton of questions all through the journey. And I did my best filling in the gaps for him.

Yet, somehow, I didn’t think that was enough. Because, you see, when he reads or watches something his brain cells apprehend more than my little mind does. He observes. He thinks. And he finds the deeper meaning behind every word. And, as greedy as I am, I wanted to see this tale of witches and wizards unfold through his attentive eyes. I wanted listen to him share his experiences as he read through one book after another. I wanted to spend hours together pondering on the interesting discussions I was sure he would bring up. I wanted him to read the books.

So, time and time again, I put forth that option to him. But he rejected it, always with a smile, explaining that, need be, I could connect the dots for him and that he didn’t think reading the books now (after seeing all the movies) would be as much fun since he knew how the story unfolded. I disagreed.

 It bothered me. It’s not that he doesn’t read – he is an ardent reader and he enjoys the world of fiction as much as anyone else. Whenever you give him a choice of reading a book vs. watching the movie version of the same, he’ll choose to do the former first because he agrees that the words bound together in a tale provide levels of details, which are, most of the times, left out in the latter. Yet, when it came to this series he chose to stay away. Primarily because he was content with all that the movies had to offer. And then there was me, who helped him put together missing pieces.

Still, I persisted. I nagged him every chance I got. Every time he would ask me for book suggestion I would point him to this series. And he would find a reason or two to dismiss my recommendation and move on to the next in line. This went on for months. Until one fine day, weeks ago, he gave in. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know why. I didn’t care. I was on cloud nine. He asked me where the book was; I pointed him towards the shelf in the living room. He picked up the first one and took a seat next to me on the couch. For some time there I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was blinded by tears of joy (ok, a little exaggeration that one, but what I was feeling back then was close to this, ok?). Guilt took over for a little while – I told him that I could recommend some other book, that he didn’t have to read this just because of my constant hassling. He quickly dismissed it and I was more than happy to move on (What? I wasn’t going to give him another chance out. I gave him one; that shows how generous I am).

The journey has begun. It’s been weeks since that evening. And a lot of reading is being done. Every day after dinner, we curl up with the comforters and get lost in the land of books for hours together. He has read two books so far and is almost done with the third. I am beyond myself every time I see him impatiently wait for that time of the day when he gets to read. Every other night, for a while before falling asleep, we talk about Harry Potter. A discussion or two have already cropped up and I enjoyed listening to his insights on those occasions. And then there are his remarks, which are amusing in their own way –

“Albus is so careless!” “How can Albus not know this and that?” “I like Voldemort!” “I can identify most with Fred and George.” “Look, Sirius Black’s name has appeared for the first time” “But this wasn’t in the movie…” “Question – who/what/when/how/why…” (my response always being ‘read along and you will find out’), “Dobby is here” “Albus is so wise, there’re so many life lessons to learn from what he has to say” “If I were Quirrell and Voldemort shared my body, I would make him listen to meditation music and calm him down a bit. It would work, don’t you think?” etc.

Immense joy, this is it! A great amount of fun, this is it! Love, this is it!

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Prayer

Dark chilly night. Hymn of rain falling flows in the background. The music of Tibetan meditation chants fills the air with peace. A book in hand, I settle on the couch with a comforter to keep me warm and cozy. What do I do? you ask. I point to the book lying on the coffee table. You pick it up and sit next to me; I rest my legs on yours. The fragrance of lilies diffuses all around us. As if the books are instruments, our hands play with its strings, the pages – turning them one after another, creating a melody. My heart melts little by little as you read through the chapter animatedly. Love, everywhere. Some moments are stolen by the silent, smiling glances we exchange. Bliss.

In that hour, every blink, every word, every thought, every sigh, every breath – all of it becomes a prayer.

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Time to stock up…

…so, I need recommendations.

The partner wanted a book to read during his upcoming journey. I ran around the house, picked the ones off my recommendation list and put the pile in front of him to choose. “But I asked you for a light, fun read. No heavy subjects, please” he declared. The only light reads I could come up with from my library were Harry Potter, a collection of Wodehouse’s works and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy.

Harry Potter – the partner wants to read the whole series together and he doesn’t suppose now is the right time for that. The one with the collection of Wodehouse’s works – the partner is a big Wodehouse fan (who isn’t?), but this one I have is a big book, not suitable to lug around during travel. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy – the partner has already read. There, everything was ruled out. I was back to square one – racking my brain trying to find something suitable. And I came up with nothing.

The partner settled to downloading an e-book (one of Wodehouse’s, but of course!). I started to grouse that I did so much work to handpick the books in front of him; he pointed out the fun I had during the process and stated that I shouldn’t be complaining. I agreed and retreated. And that was that.

Ever since this episode, though, the fact that I have no light, fun read handy has been bothering me. So, go on, please send in your recommendations for books in that category. I want to go to the bookstore next time with a list in hand focusing on this genre. Thank you!

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The Invisible Pages

You walk into the quaint little bookshop with a smile so big that anyone looking at you might follow you in just to see what you are so euphoric about. Who knows, that might just be what they need to discover the wonderland that gives you so much joy! You open the door; the chimes ring, as the owner welcomes you in, and a cool breeze that carries the fragrance that reminds you of nothing but books whizzes by.  You step in, feeling the warmth of words all around.

For a second there, you are stumped looking at the edifice in front of you… you don’t know where to start. There is a pull from every shelf, every stack, every book. You open the list of ‘to-read’ you always carry with you and make a call on where to start. But soon after you begin browsing, the list finds its original place back in your purse and you get immersed in a world has been part of your heart and soul for as long as you’ve known.

You make sure you spend enough time with every book that catches your fancy.

A beautiful cover art attracts you and you silently bet with yourself that the story would be just as stunning. You blindly pick another book and read the synopsis on the back cover; it engrosses you and now there’s no letting go. A familiar name on the binding crosses your sight and you know you must have it because you’re sure it holds inside words woven so brilliantly that you can’t go wrong by picking it. And then you spot a book that you know is out of your comfort zone; you reach for it still, for you remember the time you’d dared yourself to read something different, something new.

A book with a familiar title sways, calling for you to notice it; you take one look and you know the reason behind the closeness you feel towards it. Perhaps it’s one of those books that comes highly recommended by someone whose preferences match yours. Or maybe it reminds you of a friend; the said friend might be oceans apart, but the memories come rushing with one turn of a page. Perhaps it is something someone dear has been wanting for a long time and you can’t wait to share your discovery. Or maybe it’s the one – it is the book that you’ve been looking for all along, but just didn’t realize it, until now.

Like this, you browse around, isle after isle, and finally walk towards the billing counter carrying a stack of treasure. You pay for it all, as the owner starts a conversation about the books that he’s read from your stack. You smile, thank him, and just as you are about to walk out, you spot something…

In the dusty uppermost shelf, sits a volume of Khalil Gibran’s works. You ask the owner if you can see it. He brings a ladder, gets the book off the shelf, and hands it over to you. You’ve seen this before… you’ve read some poems in it every now and then… you know you own a copy of it. Nonetheless, as you run your fingers through the pages and skim through the table of contents, you know you want this one too. There’s no logic as to why. Why would you want something that you know you already have? Your mind argues with your heart. But, at this price, you know it’s a steal. You could gift it to someone, you tell yourself, and buy this too.

As you walk out, you look back and see all that you’re leaving behind. Just as each book in your hand has a story behind why it was chosen, the ones that were left behind hold a tale of why they didn’t make it today. The choices of tomorrow might be different; they might eventually find a way into your home, but for now, they lie calmly on the shelves that hold them close and give them the love they deserve.

You go home, eager to put your collection in place. As you go through them again, you smile as you recall the reasons why and how these found a way into your heart. You are engulfed by the bond that you’ve already developed, which, now, spreads its roots deeper.

Each one of these books has a story that is printed on its pages, but what about those invisible pages that are bound around? These invisible pages are only yours to read. These invisible pages are written with words that are in your memory. These invisible pages hold a love story that is your own. And every time you come across one of these books in the future, these invisible pages let you read the words that they hold hidden from the rest of the world.

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The end of an era

Back when I was in school the library used to be my second home. Say, I was done with classes for the day and had time to spare, or I was working on an assignment / project, or I was studying for a test, or I just wanted to rest for a while – there was only one place I would go to – the library. My home away from home; my sanctuary.

Then came the time to graduate and to move to a new place, new job. The first few months here, I spent most of the time at work trying to get used to it all. And once I was settled in comfortably, I found myself with so much spare time in the evenings and started missing the library back in school. As I was debating whether or not to go visit the public library nearby, the distant dream of one day having a good collection of books of my own started knocking on my heart’s door more frequently. Now, I could afford to spend on books that weren’t textbooks and I thought why not.

And that’s when I became a regular at the Borders store near work.

Since then, so much time I’ve spent in the company of books there! And how attached I’ve gotten to that place because it holds so many memories – of the time I took my sister there and she picked book after book all the while telling me it would be the last, but still couldn’t stop; of those weekends I studying for the test while K sat next to me and passed time with a good book in hand; of the evenings K spent preparing for interviews while I sat there lost in a world that the story took me to; of those days when we would meet there after work, sit upstairs at the store and just watch people walk by down in the streets – people rushing home after work, tourists stopping here and there to take in what the city has to offer, kids chasing pigeons, couples, hand in hand, smiling for photos; and of all those afternoons and evenings that I have spent there alone – wandering around different sections of the store, browsing a page or two of a book here and there, sitting near the window and reading a novel, digging through coupons to buy the books I want – good times!

I’ve made Borders a part of my life only in the past few years and I was heartbroken when I heard the news of all stores across the country closing. What must they be feeling – the ones who’ve seen the franchise grow alongside them; the ones who’ve spent time with their children and then their grandchildren in the stores seeing the generations after theirs grow just as fond of the written words as they are; the ones who’ve made it part of their routine to go to the bookstore to meet friends or family to spend time every now and then to appreciate the world of books, be it in the form of discussing favorite reads or recommending good books or buying a bestseller; and most of all, the ones who’ve spent years  working for the company, the devoted employees.

This post might sound like an exaggeration to many, but to me it’s just the way I feel – deeply sad to know that one of my safe havens would be no more in a matter of months. Of course there are other bookstores around and I am sure I will come to like those too, but that’s a different thing altogether. For now all I know is that I’ll miss the comfort that comes from being in a place that always brings a smile, the memories that are written all over the walls, the familiar faces that I get to see every time I walk into those doors, and those isles that I’ve strolled through so many times or those shelves that I’ve skimmed through week after week.

Borders – you’ll be missed immensely by me and so many others. Thank you for all these years of service. My best wishes to all your employees.

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