Forgotten pleasures

  • Pallavi Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Oct 13, 2014 10:35 IST

Firstly, a confession: I too have been at fault and stand guilty as charged.

The online bug has bitten me too and sometimes it is quite a while before I venture into a bookshop to buy a book. It is just so easy to browse the net, be spoilt for a choice of portals, receive free advice regarding the latest offerings in various genres, read blurbs, excerpts and reviews, all the while sipping on a cup of coffee, curled up by my favourite window by the garden, at home! It doesn't take more than a few clicks to fill my cart with the books I want to buy, seek out any available discounts, choose between credit card payment or VPP (value payable post) and then simply log out, with a promise of home delivery within 48 hours. I just saved myself an excruciating journey amid chaotic traffic and testosterone-charged drivers, needless waits at the mall parking, unnecessary pushing and shoving in the lifts and of course, precious fuel.

But alas! What happened to the wonderful experience of standing outside a bookshop, peering at the new arrivals displayed delectably in the window and then walking in, to first and foremost, savour the woody fragrance of paper and ink and then pick out titles, ruffle the pages and sift through each at leisure? I always have this irresistible urge to bury my nose in a freshly minted edition to inhale the crisp, just off the printing press aroma and have done so, surreptitiously, many a time.

The sight of the sheer number of books, the towering shelves and the immense variety, results in a heady mix of anticipation, eagerness and excitement. The desire to immediately buy a new book is second only to the unrivalled pleasure of reading it, and I have to admit to saving up books to read. It's a silly little fear I harbour of being bereft of a good book, so I hoard them like something precious that may soon be in short supply.

I remember the library periods in school, which were too few to begin with. At the ring of the bell, we would rush into the dark, lofty room and pick out new books for that week. Some of us, a little beyond our years with all that reading, would attempt to borrow books from the adult section but were always admonished by the hawk-eyed librarian and she would, tongue in cheek, tell us to wait a few years before having a go at 'Lolita' or 'The Scarlet Letter'.

At times, I actually fear that bookshops will slowly die out, one by one, their owners having to give in, albeit reluctantly, to more lucrative options. The few remaining will be preserved as relics in museums where they will be showcased to groups of wide-eyed children, born in a world of internet, tablets, iPads and revolutionary technology. Before that becomes a terrifying reality, I for one, definitely intend to consciously make the extra effort to visit libraries and bookshops, and not to give in to convenient online shopping too often. In my little way, I hope to contribute towards the perpetuation of this delightful pastime.

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