This post has been contributed by Vibha Kamat. Vibha runs the MCubed Library (http://mcubedlibrary.com/home.php) in Mumbai, along with her partners Vaishali Shinde and Sonal Bimal.
Nandita came regularly to our library. Such a delight to see someone come and hang out there. I saw her lost in a book many times. She came to the movies we screened and participated in the discussions. So one day I asked if she wanted to be a member at our library. She looked surprised and answered with a question : “What does your library offer me that fancy bookstores don’t?” As I started to blurt out “…but – ” she clarified further : “They are even air-conditioned”.
I was speechless. I muttered something, I think, about the library not trying to compete with a bookstore, apples and oranges ; it sounded ineffective, even to my own ears.But that “but” stayed with me. And as I sit down to write, it makes me think. My friends and I run a library in Bandra. Why?
I think of all the children who come to the library to flop down on our cushions and flip through whatever they have picked off the shelves. And the parents who diligently bring these kids , happy that there is, at last, a library in the vicinity. Some of these parents don’t read themselves, but are keen that their children do. Other parents, readers themselves, take the chaise-longue (comfy, blue, inviting) – and never move!
Then anyone who’s 13 and above makes a beeline for the grown-ups’ section. There’s the teenage-new age version of the Magic Faraway Tree, – remember Enid Blyton’s Moonface, Silky, the Slippery-slip, the Lands that appeared in its highest branches? …Only here, indoors, there’s a sturdy little ladder that takes you to the most fascinating of lands – through the books you have picked on your way up to the loft. Books on various subjects, that catch your fancy….look around, take your pick. (cushions, lights, fans supplied).
And what about those members who regularly come and tell us which books they are longing to read? We make haste and buy them – then call and tell the aforementioned member, who is on our doorstep even before we hang up. Okay, almost.
But I still felt I had not found an answer to her question.
A library, I wanted to start a library. And she had just asked me why.
As my mind walked through the roomy room, I knew. I knew what a library offers you that a bookstore doesn’t.
It’s like your sister’s baby : you get to play with, kiss and make much of the fat dumpling, you take her out to the park, you listen to her stories and laugh and cry with her, you are her travelling buddy in her imaginary world and at the end of the day, you hand her back to her mother. Lovely…
A library offers you books that you like, lets you take them home and when you bring them back, it takes care of them for you.
A library keeps the dust off the pages, covers your books and gets new ones for you when the old copy is worn or torn. The entire collection is yours to read – and share. When you bring back a book, all fired up with what you’ve read, you may just run into another member of the library, who could not stand it. “Whattt?? You couldn’t…” Time for discussion, passionate disagreement, happy endorsement, new suggestions, leading you down the road not taken.
Sometimes, in this busy, noisy, ever-connected life, you need a place to escape. An island of peace. Home? Not really – the fruitwalla has rung the doorbell, is telling you it is his “boni ka time”. The loo? Not anymore.Your mobile is precariously poised on the flush tank. Then? Shangri-la? – you ask, disbelieving.
It’s the library – no mobiles here, the books need quiet. Calm. And so do you.
And lastly – remember we spoke about that baby? Well, the analogy still holds : when you fall in love with the baby, sorry book, and you can’t bear to give her back to her mother, oops, to the library, – ah, that’s when you need to get one of your own.
Then you go to that bookstore Nandita was talking about.
For everything else, come to the library.