Taking a Cue

Day Fifteen: WordPress Writing 101, September 25, 2015

A Cue from readers:
Well I choose to try this prompt instead:)

A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Describe a life-changing experience with a book.
Where do you like to read?
Describe a favorite bookstore, library, or setting with books.

When I enter a room or someone’s house, or even a wait at the dentist’s or the optician’s, while others fiddle with their smartphones, I look for a book ! Anything will do. Even an outdated magazine or a brochure, (for at waiting rooms that’s what you find anyway) and I am calm! Here is a confession: I am more compatible with books than with humans!

On a more serious note, now that I have proved my credentials as an established bookworm and an incurable one at that, let me give you a glimpse of a favourite reading place that I used to haunt in my youth. I was living in a quiet city in the south of India and pursuing a teaching course. I was also preparing for an all-India exam that would qualify me for a scholarship for research and get a certificate to teach at college level. I was just out of University, head full of ideas of lofty academics and gearing up to enter the exciting world of teaching, or so I thought. Read more about this enigmatic statement here!

Trivandrum, (actual name: Thiruvananthapuram, which for obvious reasons the British in colonial India could not pronounce! ) the capital city of Kerala, a state in the southern most tip of India was those days a quiet city known for its old world charm, cultural festivals and intellectual climate. While I prepared for exams I also looked for a good library that could satisfy my non-academic reading cravings. And that is how I chanced upon the British Council Library, next to the YMCA building that was just a lane inside one of the  main roads of the city.

As compared to the musty libraries with dusty shelves in the college and University where I currently was, this was like a breath of fresh air! Perhaps those bigger and older libraries had more ‘useful’ reading matter, but I was looking for interesting stuff to read and broaden the horizons of my mind, beyond the merely academic. Of course academics too was on my mind. I was planning to do research on the ‘great Romantic poets’ within an Indian context and where better to hunt for material on them than in a library run by the British Council. I wasn’t disappointed, for I had an access to books by foreign publishers that in those days of the 90s decade, would have been too expensive to buy. Computers were still rare birds and the Internet was unknown. So libraries were the place where book lovers went, as did researchers and aspiring scholars.

I still remember with fondness, the modern building with neat spacious interiors, wide tables to sit and read or write, a well-lit common room where people were at tables silently jotting down stuff or browsing. I would go late mornings and haunt the library till closing time! Time just flew and the peaceful environs with their rich treasures was to me like some exotic magic land waiting to enrich my responsive mind. Still remember reading Ian McEvan’s “The Child in Time”and a book on poetic imagination, called “The Truth of Imagination” that for me epitomises the kind of books I found there.

It was a different world in there and it set a standard for what to expect from other libraries that I visited later on. Once inside, the normal world would fade away, time would lose its relevance and when I stepped out, usually at closing time, the outside world would hit me with the ferocity of the usual reality check! But then, since for some time at least I had dipped into a realm of my own, it didn’t matter!

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS


5 thoughts on “Taking a Cue

  1. You’ve reminded me of the many hours I spent in libraries when I was younger. It’s amazing to look back even a decade or so and remember how hard it was then to find obscure books (and songs for that matter).

    Liked by 2 people

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