Arjumand Ara

Assistant Professor

It was a dull, summer afternoon. I was sitting at my office room after a long, tiring day. Suddenly I heard a knock on the door.

“May I come in, madam?”

I looked up and saw a young man standing at the door, breathing rather heavily with exertion. The beads of sweat on his forehead indicated that he had probably climbed up the stairs. But what caught my attention more than anything else was the big, black, backpack on his shoulder.

 Someone like him also came a month or so before. So, I knew what was inside. Without even asking anything about it to him, I started rummaging through my purse.

“Do I have enough money?” I asked myself silently and started to count whatever money I found inside my purse. Yes, I had barely enough.

By that time the young man had already opened his bag and took out two big encyclopedias. The smell of freshly printed books filled the room. Both the hard covered books had colorful pictures and looked equally attractive. I decided to buy one.

“But madam, you should buy both of them.  You are getting them only at one third of the original price. And the offer is only for today.” The young seller surely knew the tricks of his trade.

I started hesitating.  Buying the other one would leave me with a little amount of money- not enough for a taxi ride. I would have to ride on a bus then. Back then I was not quite used to riding buses and riding at this hour would mean a crowded bus stopping at different places to take in more passengers until there is not a single inch left empty. But the books seemed too enticing to let them go. I gave in and bought both of them.

I love to read and have been a bibliophile since my childhood. The fictions have taken me to places I never imagined to be. Books have been my constant companion in times of loneliness and depression. I admire the writers who have been to places and took pains to know about the people and places not known to us before and feel grateful to them for passing on their experiences.  Books are much more than mere objects to me. They are valuable to me and I love to buy them whenever I can. I love the smell of a new book, its cover design, and the new knowledge each page offers.

But you might ask if books are still worth buying at this modern age. Years ago, they have ceased to be the sole preservers of knowledge and wisdom. Digital books and apps have given us access to innumerable books in seconds. We hardly need to go to the library now or buy books for study purposes or recreation. Buying books to some extent has become an outdated practice. But let’s not forget about the sense of ownership that we get while buying a new book. Surely, we have access to these digital books; but we certainly don’t ‘own’ them. A ‘real’ book that comes printed in paper is something you can keep as long as you live and pass down to someone you love.

But do we have enough time to read books now? The prevalence of technology has made us too busy to sit with a good book and spend hours reading it. I know that I might not get enough time to read all the books I buy. But I don’t care and still buy them. I just love to have them around.