I love books. Not text books, but books in general. I never liked studying but I love reading. And they have been some of the best companions to me. Books bring various things with them. They can hold stories, knowledge, ideas and memories. They also hold in them the keys to unlocking the imagination, and the gateways to fantastic worlds.
Books also hold tactile experiences like weight, size, feel of the paper, texture and so on. I hate reading books online-I want to HOLD the book. (I do read many things online, but I prefer not to.) I also love the smells that attach themselves to books. I love the smell of old books. You close your eyes and it is like a whole life passes by in your mind’s eye. The smell of new books always holds that promise of something new and exciting. Old ones have that dusty, musty scent. I love old bookshops and libraries. New ones are so crisp and fresh. Different papers have different scents, too. Sometimes I smell a book that has
lived near a lake or sea and can smell that in it. Or a book that survived a fire -- there's a unique charred aroma. I love scents, and, books are a very tactile experience, very sensual, if I may say so.
And I try and get my hands on old books whenever I can. There are quite a few places in and around where I live that cater to this fetish; mostly second hand stores and bargain basement types that I trawl through and invariably always get a valuable gem that I would quite honestly pay much more to get my hands on.
For example, through some of my treasure hunting, I now have a first edition copy of The Godfather. And 2 James Bond novels autographed by Ian Fleming himself :) both of course also first editions.
But more than even the monetary value of these books, there are some books I pick up either intentionally or accidentally, that offer me an insight into the lives of the previous owners. Most of these books are used right? So the previous owners sometimes leave things lying in the books as bookmarks or keepsakes and forget about them. These little things survive the years and end up in a complete stranger’s hands. It’s like finding a message in a bottle washed up by the ocean. At once strange and familiar and exciting! For it is full of possibilities. These are my time-capsules.
There is something incredibly romantic about it all, if you actually sit and think about it. These knick-knacks come in various forms. I have found items ranging from simple grocery lists, to photographs, to visiting cards and greeting cards, to letters to stamps and sometimes even currency notes. And not all of them were Indian. The everyday items are the most interesting ones. It reminds us of the days gone by and something like a grocery list or a shopping list or a laundry list(yes, those too make it to the books) can take me on a trip down memory lane, if its within my memory, or offer me a glimpse into the times existing then.
Most of us am sure would have had some experience with this.
Those of us with elder siblings in the same school get hand me down textbooks.
Or some of us might have borrowed seniors’ books. Sometimes these have priceless scribbling, sketches in them that keep you entertained in an otherwise boring class and perhaps beyond. Maybe you have even contributed to some yourself!
Do you ever feel like leaving things in library books or books you are getting rid of, just so that some future person can wonder where this weird Polaroid, note, sketch etc came from? Or have you ever found something like I have?