I have grown up in a family where mother is an ardent reader, while father is just a newspaper reader. Being elder son, I am closer to my mother, and therefore I think that it’s from her that I have my genes that express penchant for reading books on range of subjects. Apart from her subtle influence, her timely and vocal interventions, while growing up, with the quote: Books are a man’s best friend, also made me explore the world of books right from the beginning. She was well aware of my reticence and recluse out of my shy persona, and perhaps because of that reason, she encouraged me to be friends with books instead.
Despite being introduced to the quote in the early years of childhood and in cordial relationship with them ever since, I took about 28 years, many relationships and their eventual fall to realise the profound message, in that quote, by my own. I have realised that no other relationship is as sustainable as that of modern human with the books. Those who burn, pulp or censor the books, also read them before indulging in these outrageous activities. They too perhaps love the books, which is why they read the particular book, before pulping it due to disagreement, and take them very seriously. The relation of the humans and the books, therefore, goes much deeper than imagined. Even though, I used the phrase “modern human”, I am regretting it already, since I now realise that the relation goes much before the modern/current human thought started to evolve, i.e. even before the invention of printing press; else how do you explain religions?
If only one example of the profound impact of books on the humans is to be given, the rise and rise of all the religions, all of which are centred around one or more books, is the epitome. The Eastern religious and associated philosophical thoughts, though existed orally to begin with, but eventually libraries such as viharas were established for housing books preserving those works of literature in letters. Nevertheless, despite oral traditions of Eastern saints and philosophers, a book is a book, whether orally available or in a glorious ensemble of letters of a script of a language. The Western religious and associated philosophical thoughts have always been centred on single text and its various offshoots and interpretations. From Old Testament to Quran, and from Vedas to Buddhacarita, the impact that such books or texts still have on the human struggle, psyche, politics, geography and society is indeed profound and telling of the relationship of humans with the books. This also tells how the books have driven and altered the struggle of man from time to time, and how they have kept it ‘essentially same’ over the intellectual evolution of humans.
I have often stressed that perseverance is the hallmark of ‘true’ relationships, be it true love or true friendship or true marriage. The human relation with books has shown consistent perseverance over many millennia, so much so that despite all kind of censorship, pulping or burning, books continue to be read and lauded; and why not? It is easier to be friends with them, fall in love with them and always want them to be by your side under all circumstances of life, even if they disagree with us or we disagree with them, or are repulsive to our thoughts, or annoy us or let us down at some moments or we let them down at some moments; but they are there for us. Always. Never leaving us. It is mostly us who leave them – out of human frivolity, but they don’t.
[I will publish this in two parts. This is first part. The second part will start from where I left in first part]