A bunch of us at Writing in India recently started a discussion on libraries. And I couldn�t restrain myself and launched off an e-mail with fond memories of the Alameda County library I was a member of in Fremont. Am re- writing some of the contents of the e-mail here.
US was boring , till I discovered the local county library at Fremont. In truth it was a library that quite literally saved my mind from wandering into the garden of insanity. Boredom is a constant companion and I have always sensed that its only book and words who can adequately take a broom and knock boredom from making home in me. Knowing my love for books my BIL took me to the library and got me a membership there. For the year and hf I lived in the US, that library was my lifeline.
The library was only a 20 minutes walk away from our apartment complex (yes, I meant walk! God was on my side in the land of cars). The membership was free and there was no limit on the number of books you could take. I would wander the shelves for hours and browse through books on varied topics. Gardening, quilting, home d�cor, poetry, psychology, spirituality, were some books I browsed through but fiction my greatest weakness, was my favourite corner. Strangely it was in the US that I discovered some fabulous Indian writers and their work:- RK Narayan, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I also started reading Faulkner, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and other such fabulous writers. The one story library was replete with magazines of all kinds. They also had a fascinating collection of old English and Hindi movies. Singing in the Rain, Casablance, The Sting, Pather Panchali, Aparajita:- all movies I discovered there.
To wander amongst those long rows of books, smelling the musty odour books give off, touching them as though they were little children too be cared for, spending hours in the library with my head bent over a interesting book, writing by the window that overlooked a cheery garden, returning home arms full with books- those truly are among my best memories of the US .My previous experiences in India were a one year stint with the BCL, which was a 2-hour a-way journey from home and then a two month frolicking time at TISS's library while I did the social volunteerism course there. I miss being a member of a library in India. There are so far and few of them in India. Or rather I must say most are far from usual residential areas. With commuting being a nightmare in most cities today it leaves most people with a feeling of laziness. Unless u have a vehicle to drop and pick you up, changing two mediums of transport and spending at least an hour each way seems like such a task! And so, I invariably end up buying books. But it does not match the pleasure of visiting a library and feeling like I am with old friends.
The more I muse the more I grumble about the lack of libraries. Each locality must have at least one library. Cultivating the reading habit amongst children is given much importance to. But buying books is an expensive affair. Don�t we need good libraries to sustain and encourage that reading habit?