Friday, October 21, 2011

On the Subject of Libraries

I read this piece by Annie Zaidi about students in Aligarh Muslim University not being allowed to borrow books from the library. That spins off memories of my college days. The college has a well-stocked library, rows and rows of books, which were all kept under lock and key. I would look at the titles and salivate. I knew there was precious knowledge inside them. I ached to read good prose then. But we were only allowed to borrow text books. Damn! I think of all those lost opportunities that would have developed a better me. (I am not implying I am un-developed, please, critics give me a break!)

Another library I frequent - of which I am a life member - closes for a half day leave on Saturdays, which is the only day on which I can go there to borrow books. A shame, as this library is also well stocked with books donated by worthy people. The American Centre library is shifting to Bandra-Kurla-Complex, which will make it more difficult to reach. Imagine travelling through the killing traffic. I would choke from the automobile emissions, if not rot the night in this inaccessible place. (For out of towners: there's no transport in this area after 7 p.m.) Gah! I think people in India - at least, those who have some authority - are afraid to let us read. They don't want us to develop our minds, keeping us stunted for ever. In school, the meagre library we had was also under lock and key. "Boys and girls will tear the pages, desecrate knowledge," was the argument trotted out.

At this stage I will denounce those people who handle their books with extra care. As if it is glass. They would rather see their books under lock and key rather than read them. For God's sake books are meant to be read not to be worshipped. Children will handle them roughly, which doesn't mean we should deprive them of books.

What's with us and libraries? Why aren't we allowed to read? Why this phobia? Please, please explain, someone!

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

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