CONFESSION OF A SERIAL BOOK-STEALER- part 1.
It might be a story of many book-lovers who die to read the books but can’t buy ones. They cut their expenses, they suppress their urge to go to a newly-realized multi-starrer movie, they nip in the bud their desire to spend a few bucks on a denim, they visit every possible old book store, they haggle to the book-shop owner to buy as many as possible books with the paltry budget and then they walk home with a cheerful grin taking the bag full of books on shoulder having spent all the money they have, still they find they haven’t bought enough books. The more they read, the more they feel thirsty to read more.
Rise of a serial book-stealer:
I don’t remind how I became a book-reader but I can’t forget even a word of ‘how I became a book-stealer’.
In this divine (or evil, I don’t know, and don’t bother either) cause, teachers and lecturers in my college supported to make the background. Their motto was no-bad, they tried hard to keep us away from the enchanting world of books so that we could focus on the study and could share our contribution to raise the glory of the college. But they might forget that ‘forbidden fruit caused Adam to commit sin’.
When I was studying (?) my graduation in not one of the best colleges in a not so progressive city of Maharashtra, we were allowed reading only the books related to study and we weren’t even allowed to enter the library. Only the students of master’s degrees had the direct access to the books they wanted. The species that were perusing the master’s degree couldn’t afford wasting their valuable time and energy in literature. On other hand we, poor fellows, had enough time, energy and desire but weren’t allowed to read those books. We have to tell name of the book we wanted and the peon would fetch it for us. Obviously peon was strictly warned to issue only course books. You can imagine the plight of a reader.
Then the day that transformed a shy, introvert boy into a bold book thief. It was one of the brightest mornings I had ever seen as if specially made to show me many hidden things. Early morning when my friends and I were returning from a practice match of cricket on the college ground, I peeped through window of a hard, stony wall. It was the back wall of the library and I discovered that our college library hadn’t only bulged with those boring reference books on ‘Abstract mathematics’, ‘Relativity’, ‘ Statistics’ ‘Computer science’ and money more worthless massive bundles of papers but in the hidden shelves, the library had treasured the emeralds, diamonds and pearls.
One day, I convinced our librarian to get inside the library lying that I wasn’t getting the exact book. I crossed the first compartment where scholars had drowned their intelligent heads into the books of the size almost half of their bodies. I entered the second room which was less crowded than the earlier, I passed it too. I reached the last hall of the library which was adorned by the spider-webs, dust covering every possible surface and some nests of the birds were hanging down the roof. The room was quite and a there was no light.
Amidst a layer of dust were laying the books with red covers like the soldiers in uniforms waiting for the call from battleground. I picked a book from the uppermost shelf, it was about five-six hundred pages, I dusted it off, opened the hard-bound cover page and I had to hold my breath; it was ‘Mother’ by Maxim Gorky. The book I had searched in every library I knew in the city, but couldn’t find. Now it was right there in my hand, I felt the bubbles of happiness sprouting inside me - I wanted to shout in joy, I wanted to dance, I wanted to take the book and read it at once, but I was in the library and according to the rules I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything of that sort. i opened the book and my eyes caught the letters and numbers written with a pen on the first page, there was the date when the book was last issued. The date was 19-8-1973.
After 29 years ‘Mother’ was feeling a human touch, a warm hand of a reader. I hated my college for the carelessness.
I opened several other books. There were ‘Discovery of India’, ‘Old man and the sea’, ‘Brother Karamazov’, ‘Geetanjali’ ,‘Women in Love’…….all were abandoned, untouched, unread for last 20-30 years. Some books were decaying; the pages of many books had become too weak to bear even touch.
I kept the books at their places suppressing my urge to take them home right then. i came running out of the library, met the librarian and asked her if she could sell the old books in some reduced price.
She looked at me suspiciously as if I had asked her to be my mother-in-law (her daughter was in my class). She scanned me through her spectacles for a while and told that she would ask the principal and then inform me.
I met her after a couple of days. It was a resounding no. “We can’t sell the books from the library”, she said without looking at me.
The last room of the library felt like a Nazi concentration camp. ‘It is the insult of the books’. And there, right there at that moment I decided to put my character of a sincere student at stake; I decided to be a thief, a book thief.
After three days, I sneaked inside the library during the lunch break when there was no one at the counter. The window on the right wall of the third hall of the library would open to the playground of the college. The ground was without any trace of human being. It was the moment. I took ‘Mother’, ‘Brother Karamazov’, ‘Women in Love’ and ‘Discovery of India’ and threw them out of the window one by one making the least possible noise. First three landed smoothly on the earth but the last,‘Brothers Karamazov’ bumped on a piece of metal sheet making a big ‘thud’. Before the peon could reach me, I, to cover yell of ‘Brothers Karamazov’ pulled several other books from the uppermost shelf and banged them on the floor. Before I’d convince him the peon considered that the books slipped from the shelf. He lifted the books and gave me a ‘you-idiot’ look.
“Who let you come inside?” he asked in his earned vexed voice.
“Our librarian ma’m”, I said and ran out of the library.
I stopped outside and took a deep breath.
The sky was clear except few black floating patches of clouds. The students in the campus were laughing, chattering, studying around. I was silent watching their movements and my breaths. They all seemed to be good people, with no secrets. But I had a secret- I had stolen the books. It should remain a secret. And to be frank I wasn’t feeling any repentance for my act rather I patted my back for the renascent adventure.
In next minute I was in the classroom as it was the lecture of H.O.D. of mathematics and students were supposed not to bunk at least H.O.D.’s lecture. “And hence proved the second law of Laplace’s transformation” Mr.Chaturvedi shouted breaking my reverie. I was sitting in the classroom pretending that I loved mathematics more than anything else on earth. But my mind was hovering over the playground, outside the library. The books beneath the window, in the playground must be taken to safety before anybody saw them.
Mr. Chaturvedi scrubbed another mathematical expression on the black board. The watch on my wrist showed 3.45 pm. Mr. Chaturvedi and Laplace would torture us for 30 more minutes.
A fresh, moist, bold breeze came strolling in the classroom pitying us, making mathematics a little bearable. The breeze was filled with the pleasant smell of wet soil. ‘It’s raining somewhere’ I thought. Oh my god! It’s raining just outside!!! In next couple of minutes the patter of the drops increased. I had to do something. I couldn’t afford to wait for the lecture to get over. I took my college bag and ran from the class room unaware about the consequences of my foolishness. I heard Mr. Chaturvedi muttered, ‘who’s that?’ he had seen my back vaguely.
I ran as fast as I could. At next minute I was in the playground facing ‘Mother’, ‘Brothers Karamazov’, ‘Women in love’ and ‘Discovery of India’. They weren’t as drenched as me. I lay them in bag and headed directly to the hostel whistling my favourite bollywood tune, ‘dil hain chhotasa….’ A tiny little heart….
It was a great feeling. I had freed some books from the concentration camp. The night passed amazingly with ‘women in love’ while ‘Mother’, ‘Brother Karamazov’ and ‘Discovery of India' were resting peacefully adorning my small book shelf. Though some intruding thoughts would come into the territory of mind to threaten me on the possible disasters on the next day, I surrendered myself to Maxim Gorky and the rebellious 'Mother'.
I didn’t show up in college for next three days. From the fourth day onward the days were same as before. After that the emancipation of the books had become a regular adventure until one day I was caught red handed………