Majority of us associate libraries with our school and college days. I remember entering the school library with my classmates during our compulsory ‘library period’. During graduation and after, it was commonplace to see the university library filled to capacity just before semester examinations. A place of ‘study’ more than ‘reading’.
Recently, I crossed the Maharashtra Mitra Mandal Public Library, wittily called Mcubed library, in Bandra. Quiet and snug, it is perched amid a canopy of trees. Unpretentious and commonplace. I was immediately drawn towards it. I went straight to the registration desk, and took membership for a quarter of the year.
The quarter is coming to a close. I have spent a couple of hours there, every week. And here’s what I discovered.
At the outset, I found that the very act of sitting in a library is meditative. The consistent sound of the fan. The way its blades form shadows rhythmically, as I sit turning one page to another. The comfort of the big green cushion that I rest my back against. The fuzzy fragrance of the pages of over a thousand books. The conscious realization of time ticking by. A contrast to robotic participation in the cycle of day to night and night to day.
There are days when I am the only reader in the big room, tucked away among the pale yellow book stacks. But only physically. At an experiential level, I cannot ignore the energy of the stories calling out to me to immerse myself in their world. Hear the dialogues as the characters converse, understand their times and circumstances, feel their dreams, and respond unconsciously with a smile or a frown.
I also find my thoughts playing imaginative gymnastics as I jump from one book to another. Seldom do I focus on one book for its entire length and breadth. I discover that I can be a reader who enjoys taking sips as much as long swallows.
Colours don’t pop up in the environment. There is no quacking sound of a digital box. No visual stimulation. The only colours are the colours of my imagination, what the mind’s eye wishes to see. The landscapes that I weave while reading have unparalleled beauty, leaving me with a sense of happiness that lingers on. In such a pure sensory experience, sometimes, I am lucky to find my soul stirred. Without raising a sweat, I discover creative energies that I didn’t know existed.
Sometimes I look outside the windows, and enjoy the sound of wind in the trees. Even when I am not reading, sitting in that quiet space gives me time to ‘think.’ To ponder. Not necessarily on important decisions or situations that demand attention. Because not every thought needs to have a meaning. Sometimes, meaninglessness is okay.
At other times, I also feel like taking a nap! In the peaceful environment devoid of external stimuli, I realise that I need more sleep. Outside the oasis of the library, we constantly engage in a range of activities that can leave us more exhausted than we realise. I am more mindful towards my body now.
At 8 pm, when it’s time to close, I hear my inner voice say, ‘Well, until another day….’ Yes, until another day when I go on a captivating journey. Stories of the queer baobab trees of Madagascar and the man who ran a 100 km in a single day, await me.
Now I know that the joy of immersing yourself in a library is timeless, whatever be your age and stage in life. I will renew my membership. What about you?
This article was published at The Tribune.