A friend shared this beautiful quote with me, which I promptly shared with my book loving daughter, as well as my book loving friend:
“There is space on everyone’s bookshelf for book you have outgrown but can’t give away. They hold your youth between their pages, like flowers pressed on a half-forgotten summer’s day.”
I left my country for love with simply the clothes on my back and just a couple of books that I could not leave behind. And then, I brought back books after each trip home. I think hard on which books made the first trip with me, but unfortunately I don’t remember. They are mixed in with all the books that I have accumulated over the years. I wish I could remember.
However, I have brought back books that transported me to their worlds temporarily during half forgotten summer days in my youth. Books like Adorsho Hindu Hotel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay holds my youth within its page. Tenida Shomogro by Narayan Gangopadhyay holds my youth like pressed flowers within its pages. There are too many to name – Chander pahar, any book written by Nabonita Debsen, Shirshendu Bandopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, Ashapurna Debi. Along with these stalwarts of Bengali literature reside one and only Jane Austen, Gerald Durrell, Somerset Maugham, Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton….
Memories of devouring the pages of Adorsho Hindu Hotel is always a soft place where I land when I think back on my reading memories. I remember our cool first floor room darkened by thick curtains to keep the angry sun out during summer afternoons, and I, half inclined on our bed, reading about Hajari Thakur, a cook in a cheap roadside restaurant in rural Bengal – a man invisible to society due to his poverty, slowly becoming visible because of his humility, work ethic and integrity. It is a story of the success of ‘everyman’ without compromising his ethics. Weaved within the story is the fabric of humanity, complete with love, greed, exploitation and opportunities. The story pulls at my heart string to this day when I think about it. And when I think about the book, I think about my mother. They are synonymous because in my mind’s eye she is always present next to me when I am reading this book. She reads her own book as I read mine. I see this scene vividly when I close my eyes.