Monday, 7 October 2013

TANGIBLE AND LOVABLE



While the war of ebooks versus physical copies continues unabated, here's a short story that reflects upon the issue in an entertaining, yet emotional light


As I sit beside my window, with Anna Karenina resting on my lap, the sunrays bake me in their scorching heat. Within moments, I turn away to glance at my bookshelves. Just five years back, the shelves, which now cry for want of space, scarcely harboured not more than twenty books. But that was five years back. Much has changed. Transmogrified, like quite.

As I steadfastedly behold my own envious collection of gem-like books, my legacy, I descend into a reverie. The past comes alive on the celluloid of my life.
 
“Stop straining and paining your lovely eyes under the glaring light of that ugly gadget.”
I barely managed to hold on to my ‘gadget’ and rescue it from shattering to pieces at the staccato crispness and wrath that the words exuded.
Even if he wouldn’t have berated me in that hackneyed fashion, I would have known that he’s here by his paradigm cardamom scent. Grandpa’s here and he is referring to my kindle. I guess I just didn’t whisper those words to myself. I blurted them out loud enough to be heard by grandpa!

“Yes, grandpa is here and now put that crap away. Grandpa has brought you some real books. Paperback and hardcover.” he proclaims with an exacerbating emphasis on real.

“Tangible and lovable”, joining him as he repeats his catchphrase verbatim, for the nth time, I make a futile attempt to sound elated, while in reality I moan in half anguish and half chagrin, concocted with mortification and agony. His parlance, on the contrary, is adorned with pride at one level and laced with genuine loath at another.

I was in the middle of reading Strike @ 36 by Aparna Pednekar on Google Play. The fledgling novelist’s story was gaining momentum and the arrival of “the relentless foe of e-books” was the last on the list of things I wished for, at least then.

Since the day I started reading eBooks, I’ve been a witness to his intense detestation for the same. Now, its gravity and longevity is also proved.
Neither cannons, nor pinpricks, nor caresses could bring us to a consensus.
Our love for each other was unconditional, but when it came to books, we had dramatically agreed to disagree.

He would justify his stand by crying aloud that one day my Smartphone or kindle would be destroyed rendering me insane at the loss of the gems that books are.

“What if your paperbacks are terminated by termites?” I retort, surprised and glad at the unpremeditated rhetoric.


“I hope you know that, and I’m telling you because I am a well-wisher; you aren’t able to touch the pages, smell the book, you’ll lose all your aesthetic sense.” At this point, he’s almost yelling at me.
“For god’s sake, eBooks are NOT conspiring against your paperback and hardcover breeds. Only they are more convenient, and occupy some digital space on my kindle, weighing hardly 500 grams. I can have a long discourse on the environmental damage that I am preventing this way. It’s all rational.” I retorted rather blatantly.

Remember, using a pencil to mark down heart-rending dialougues??
He cursed the creators, called them idiots and blockheads, but not willing to prolong this skirmish, retreats to murmuring. An archetypal puerile versus senile war ends.

When we went on vacations that month, he was jubilant when I lost signal amid the hills, which forestall my further downloading. It was annoying, though, because I possessed just as ardent a soul of a compulsive bibliophile as him.


During our commute to the hotel, he expressed his discomfort about not being able to read books in distractions, while I relished my audio book aggravating his consternation.


Suddenly the crass cacophony of a crow breaks my reverie. The past retreats away into the blinding sunrays. I can sense the perambulation of lachrymal fluid originating from my eyes, peregrinating from the cheeks to the book in my hand. I try to smile, but manage to do so only faintly. I close my eyes and embrace the book, hugging the gem to my heart, despite the murky dust it has gathered and savouring the cardamom scent, but only after glancing at the library shelf, my only legacy.

I can hear a faint echo of the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” followed by the lugubrious words of grandpa, “Tangible and Lovable. . .”

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