In a Dusty Heaven

It turned out to be the best thing I’d done in recent times. On a spur of the moment decision I’d joined the Ernakulam Public Library (EPL). Of late I’ve been smothered by a feeling of deep inertia, actually less inertia and more of being unproductive. I was spending more time finding out what the world was doing rather than doing something myself and I had nobody else to blame for this. The final straw was when I realized with mounting horror that my reading and writing were taking a backseat to my sojourns into social media. Authors I followed on Twitter were tweeting while they were relaxing on their breaks after publishing mammoth tomes and here I was, frantically trying to keep up with all that was being spewed out and trying to pen a few words in between. Ironically the same social media provided a way out when I saw the page of the Ernakulam Public Library on Facebook ! Seeing it as a chance given by the Gods, I didn’t think twice and enrolled.

It has been an amazing experience. The EPL is not a state of the art library with either the latest software or snazzy premises, but I feel a deep sense of belonging there. The librarians are taciturn but surprisingly helpful. After completing the formalities, to my utter delight I was issued two old-style library cards. Not a sign of plastic on them, just two chunky cardboard cards. I almost broke into a tiny dance, such was my happiness! But the thought of giving the unfortunate librarian a coronary kept my inner wild-child in check.

The books were waiting for me. Oh! I’ve never been so happy to see dust. There was quite a lot of it, but it had taken residence on such great books that it was forgivable. It was a total mind shift for me and I felt I was back in college. The biggest advantage was that there was very little pulp fiction. I have nothing against this genre and in fact I’m a huge fan. But I have a tendency to veer towards these and in the process I end up ignoring some amazing writers. Michael Ondaatje is one such person who has suffered my disinterest. I’ve wanted to read his words but there’s always been something more adrenaline pumping which has distracted me. In this library, Ondaatje got the better of me and I borrowed a beautiful work of his called ‘Anil’s Ghost’. Along with Ondaatje, I got a copy of Nandita Puri’s short stories. There were some absolute gems residing on those tall wooden shelves; I was particularly entranced by old copies of the condensed versions of novels that Reader’s Digest used to bring out. Thick hardbound books with satin-smooth yellowed pages and the most beautiful fonts. However I’m one of those people who keeps the best part of the meal for last, so I’ve decided to keep salivating over them and prolong the anticipation as much as I can 🙂

Pic COurtesy:Charles Hackney ; flickr
Pic COurtesy:Charles Hackney ; flickr

After completing the enjoyable process of borrowing books, I ventured into the Reference section, which was on another floor of the building. For a moment I thought I’d travelled back in time, such was the sense of nostalgia that swamped me when I entered. The room looked exactly like the ones I’ve seen in the University library in my college days. A long wooden table took pride of place with faded red plastic chairs around it. The shelves were overflowing with books with a liberal amount of dust on them. I thanked all my guardian angels for not making me allergic to dust or else I would certainly have sneezed my nose off ! The electrical switches were older than me.

I was quite the eager beaver and went zooming off to investigate the lovely treasure. There were several bespectacled youngsters sprinkled around the table, with their heads buried in highly technical sounding tomes who looked like they had the weight of the universe on their fragile shoulders. They made me feel quite guilty about having a huge smile on my face. But the sense of being surrounded by millions of words from so many great authors was quite intoxicating.

T.S Eliot has never been a friend of mine. I prefer to think of authors whose works I enjoy as my friends and Mr. Eliot has always been slightly too serious for me. But when I saw a huge book nestling on the shelf containing a collection of his letters, my curiosity was aroused. So I tottered to the table with Mr.Eliot for company and I didn’t lift my head from the book for the next hour. When I surfaced for air most of the students had vanished. I tried to slide back into the book, but a combination of the peaceful atmosphere, the quiet murmur of the librarian answering queries and the gentle hum of the antiquated ceiling fan saw my eyes drooping. I valiantly tried to keep them open but I realized it was a losing battle when I went cross-eyed due to my efforts.

I bid adieu to that oasis, with a promise that I would be back soon. It had been quite liberating to be in a place without any distractions or intrusions and where I felt the silent approbation of so many gifted voices. I’ve always been a huge fan of libraries and book shops but there’s something about the Ernakulam Public Library which has made it my firm favourite.


20 thoughts on “In a Dusty Heaven

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  1. I had been the proud “duster” many a times in the college and university library. And what gems I discovered under the dust!!! The most outstanding of all was Tagore’s Gitanjali. I have read my impression on my blog and would love to know if you have read too. Readers Digest – especially the old editions – sigh. It is a bliss. I have some v old dating to fifties and cherish those.


      1. Gitanjali sadly, loses half the impact when translated. You have to have someone read the original renditions in Bengali. Then, you can go through the translated work and feel it 🙂


  2. Wow, I am actually reading a post after a loonngg time, and I am happy that I have read one that’s so well written! The allure of old books swept me away to my school days in the dusty library that were packed with little hidden gems! Thank you for this wonderful post, both your photos and your write ups are equally good!! 🙂


  3. Wonderful! It’s like getting off the highway, where it’s all about getting from one place to another as fast as possible, and actually taking a look around. I’m reading a book now that was published more than 30 years ago. It’s as if it’s been waiting for me all this time. Plenty of books have been waiting a lot longer, but I have to stop speeding down the highway and let them find me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wow! you sound like Alice in Wonderland 🙂 Your post took me to my school days, when I enrolled myself into the District Library of my hometown. It was not a big one but had a decent collection of the books I wanted to read and I remember looking forward to my Sunday visits. 🙂 And yes, they issued those chunky cardboard cards. 🙂
    And after reading your post, I, too, am inspired to enroll myself in the District Library of my city….hopefully I will do it soon! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww MAdhu ! How lovely to be compared to Alice 🙂
      You should enrol in the District Library. We are fast losing touch with that kind of old world charm. All those works of writers arrayed all around is a precious feeling, of being cocooned in a soft blanket of words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I was in a pretty similar thing a few months back. Got myself enrolled at the british council Library here in Delhi … Spend hours now going through reference sections and reading on poems I once read and re-read…


    1. Himanju23, the picture I’ve used in the post is only a representational one since we are not allowed to take picts inside the library 🙂
      If you would like to read some books by authors of yesteryears, why don’t you check out Leon Uris, Irving Wallace, Irving Stone and Harper Lee. They are amazing


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