When people come to meet me in my office, many are overwhelmed by the wall-to-wall collection of books.
As I wrote in my earlier post on “Reading”: “I buy a lot of books. I think of myself as a book collector. I cannot and do not read every book I buy. I like to have them around knowing that some day the wisdom in that book will be useful and transformational. Books have served me well through the years: which other product gives you a person’s lifetime of knowledge for a few hundred rupees? It is we who have to make an investment many times greater – with our time – to absorb and learn. And in today’s world of instant-everything and tweet-sized content, a book is a true joy to behold. Ploughing through the daily social media feeds may seem exciting but most are empty – like junk food. They can provide that instant gratification but they do not provide the depth needed to enhance our learning. That is something only good books do.”
As a teenager, I used to get books from a nearby library. The school, college, and universities I attended had very good libraries. They became my favourite haunts – I was never much into sports and other activities. Spending a few hours reading was the best “timepass” for me. As I look back, books and BBC’s World Service on radio were my windows to the world.
I have been buying books for as long as I can remember. During my student days in the US, I joined a couple of book clubs that offered books at a discount. New York’s Strand Book Store became a regular haunt – and I searched for bargains. When I returned to India from the US, books filled up many boxes in the possessions I shipped back. And I have kept buying – Strand Book Stall in Mumbai and then Kitab Khana. Bookstores are where I love to spend time when I visit different cities; the serendipitous discovery of titles is a joyful experience.
With Abhishek, I make it a point to visit Kitab Khana once every two or three weeks. I have been taking him to bookstores ever since he was a kid. When we travel, we will spend many hours in a local bookstore. Each store is like entering a new world – the curation is different, the layout varies, and hence the experience is unique.
While my preference is for physical books, I also buy books to read on the Kindle app on my iPad – not every new book is available in physical form in India soon after release. Every inflection point in my life has a book behind it. When I am struggling through a difficult decision, it is a book which ends up providing me guidance on the way ahead. I like being surrounded by books, and every so often, I will pick up a book and browse through it – for the brief period that I am immersed in it, I am lost to the world and come out refreshed and brimming with ideas. I keep my notebook with me so I can capture the connections that reading helps me make.