Book value

In Grateful Remembrance of Educational Institutions Called Lending Libraries

As a young boy in Calcutta, I went to two schools. The first was La Martinière where I learned many things, most of which I have long forgotten.

The second school was the Oxford Lending Library, an addition to the Oxford Book and Stationery Shop on Park Street. I was taken to the library by my older sister Vasu when I was seven and made me a member which allowed me to borrow a different book every day for the payment of Rs 5 per month , a nice sum then but which, with hindsight, was money well spent.

Because contrary to what I learned in formal school and which I quickly forgot, what I learned in informal school is something that has stayed with me all my life, the pleasure of reading.

Like all delicious things – the taste of ice cream on a hot day, the scent of a flower, the blue of the sky – reading remains a pleasure that is both spontaneous and lasting.

And as I grew, my reading grew with me. He went from Enid Blyton and Billy Bunter to Agatha Christie and the westerns of Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour, from Alexandre Dumas to Conan Doyle and Herman Melville.

I discovered a curious elasticity of the appetite for reading. The more it was fed, the more it grew. Driven by this seemingly insatiable craving for the printed word, I devoured books with the zest of a verbal glutton, finding new flavors that further sharpened my desire for the magical recipes conjured up by the simple ingredients of paper and wood. ink.

Some time before my teenage years, the Oxford lending library closed for good. But by then it had ingrained in me a lifelong addiction to the stolen feast of another’s words.

I don’t know if, apart from clubs and cultural centers, there are still lending libraries. There are none in Gurgaon where I live. Like reading books in general, they may have been replaced by television and the other allurements of digital technology.

But I’m glad that, when I was a kid, a lending library taught me the best thing about reading: even when you returned what you read, you had to keep it on the bulky shelves of the mind. This is the true meaning of book value.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.