Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Speaking about oneself is one of the greatest pleasures. One of the greatest self indulgences one may say half deprecatingly. A high pitched love for words, sentences etc. and a frenzied reading habit develop in my kind of people exceptionally early and leave them hopefully or , if one would say hopelessly dependant upon them. What starts as a desultory way of reading, sometime romance, sometime poetry, sometime thriller, sometime racy trash, sometime really serious things, through the churning of time evolve in to something which gather around it elements of little wisdom, little knowledge. People like us usually remain content with whatever pebbles we are able to collect from the shores of what Newton described as ocean of knowledge and wisdom. Let us only be watchful that we are not turning away from those shores.

Familiarity with alphabets or words or reading and writing or even excellence in them hardly ensure against the deviation from the path of reason and logic. The powerful weapon provided by books still remains the most powerful and basic. The astonishing development in electronics is continually providing us with startlingly smarter and smarter way of acquiring knowledge. But the books are very personal. Read if you wish. Do not read if you do not. Closing or opening a book it is all up to you. Written words, in the history of human civilisation, quietly and steadily has contributed so much that no other development can come any close to this. I am no Lord Chesterfield’s son whose father could boast that he had given his son the best education that money could buy. We had very little money but a disproportionately large assortment of books scattered around an unimpressive modest house filled with an electrical impulse for reading. It was very different from what is called education for which none of us had any eagerness. Of course, plenty of urge was there to fetch a degree and a steady job. That was all about education, acquiring some comprehension of formal patterns that come along with formal education. This cannot be described as enthusiasm or respect.

In the thirties and forties of past century Bengali middle class families produced such youths. Tagore blazed the trail and during last ten years of his life he even asked the upcoming generation to defy him as an icon. We can once again try to understand Abhik in his "Rabibar". He was fearless that a change could sweep him aside. Books are books, inert by themselves.

But the electronic media channels have completely opened up itself to the upsurge of retrogression. Books are books. They cannot be changed. They can only be burnt. They can be lost for awhile only to reappear afresh from the ashes. Books cannot be effectively made vehicles of reaction and retrogression however much a section of writers long to make themselves commodities in the market place. In the existing economy all of us have to become commodity willingly or unwillingly. There is no escape from this. The struggle that a writer wages before being swallowed by market economy driven by big money and even after being swallowed register the marks of his artistic honesty, sensitiveness and greatness. Books and writings retain enduring marks of this struggle. This is one of the greatest points why books are different.

This is the backdrop. Greatness or great things do not pop up in a void. There is a void created by a dying culture The behemoth of electronic media is thriving upon this and feeding their huge clientele on a steady diet of foolish entertainment of mindless sex, of heaps of naked bodies wrestling with each other, gory violence, ridiculous obscurantism and all that.

This business of sex is very interesting.

These frenzied efforts to market sex have led to an insane fear of losing sex. The increasing ascendancy of sex prophets in media is a clear indication of this. There is nothing shameful or fearful about sex. Citing examples from only Kamasutra has become very ordinary and monotonous. Better read Kadambari of Bana Bhatta or Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhavam and learn from the simmering warm sex of Mahashweta or Mahadeva’s coital pleasure with Parvati how passionately sex was described about a thousand years back.

Since book reading is not a guided tour conducted by a dolled up dud on the TV screen, you are left with full liberty to play with and fondle your imagination with any number of colours and tunes you wish. Books offer you this since it has inherent respect for every human soul. And it is a book that created Don Quixote by Cervantes, the unmatchable joke from the fantasy world of a book worm. In fact only books can do this. Over indulgence and dependence upon gadgets may lead one to a darkened world without books.

The pleasure and benefits derived from the ever evolving gadgets are ephemeral. Technology is being used more to push back and vulgarise all progressive cultural efforts. The first book I read with complete attention in my childhood was Ramayana by Krittivasa -- all the seven cantos stopping only for food and sleep. I am grateful to my book-loving parents till this ripe old age.

Image courtesy Internet: Dali's Don Quixote


Anonymous said...

Go old man river!!!
I couldn't agree more with you on the importance of books. you write well. And in this space you remind us of the most basic yet so easily forgotten of all premises.

Poonam Tanmayo said...

I enjoyed reading your post on books and relate to it very much.

In my family too we're all readers because the parents were readers and like you share, there were books toppling out of every possible place in the house. Books on every possible topic unfolding amazing worlds of thought n vision.
Plus we were members of the local library which is an almost a defunct tradition today.
A generation later, my son too is a voracious reader and so it continues the magic of the written word.

What I love about the written word is that in the end its all up to your own imagination.
10 people can read the same thing but their mental canvas will paint very different pictures.
In a film its all given on a platter n that's it.
But in a book things are always open ended no matter how intricately described.

Tim Buck said...

What a wonderful evocation of the joy of reading and meditation on the importance of books! There is much wisdom and sober reflection in this piece.

Why are we slaves to so much gadgetry? Because the market tells us to be. The market is god. How does one escape the mesmerism? By spending time with those authors (with their books) who never harkened to markets; rather, they pushed their souls into ever fresh realities. The market is a feeble, wretched hypnotist against the strength of such imagination.

Few read quality literature these days, but only quality literature will survive.

P. B.Das said...

Dear anonymous, Poonam,Tim buck
thank you very much for valable appreciation of my blog.I am highly rewarded in my efforts.One more thing, books cannot afford to accomodate glamorous ads to interrupt and irritate you. From cover design to last word in last page everything is intimate part of the book.

P. B.Das said...

Dear anonymous, Poonam,Tim buck
thank you very much for valuable appreciation of my blog.I am highly rewarded in my efforts.One more thing, books cannot afford to accomodate glamorous ads to interrupt and irritate you. From cover design to last word in last page everything is intimate part of the book.