Library: A Young Reader's Longing

My eleven year old niece-K, is cutely unique for her age. She has taken the exact copy of her six feet plus dad's gene code for height and is already the tallest woman in the family (and trust me, we are no pygmies either!). In that tall being, resides a heart that is surreally pure and untainted by the glitz and glamour of the times we live in, and most impressively her hormones appear so much at peace, unlike those of a lot of eleven year old kids who seem to be in such a hurry to reach the teenage and let loose. However, the feature that most strikes me about her is her fondness for reading. That she is an avid reader--is a cliche and perhaps an under-statement. From the longest time now, I have seen her sitting in some corner of the house, or even right in the center of a bustling party, lost in a book, pouring over it, oblivious of everything around her. 

There is a neighborhood book store in the plush neighborhood of Gurgaon, India, where she lives. From when she could answer herself, whenever I have asked her if I could buy her something, she has walked me over to the book store to pick up a book for her. Needless to say that over the years, I have seen her writing very well too. She writes poetically and seems to have her heart in it. I know she is someone I absolutely love watching grow.

She has been visiting me in the States every year for three years in a row now. Even otherwise, her family travels quite extensively, and at her small age, she can, if she wanted, boast that she has traveled in more countries than the number of candles on her cake.  It thus surprises me not much, when I see that nothing surprises her  here in the U.S. Almost all the gadgets, the toys etc, she has seen them all, or read about them enough to feel a sense of familiarity. And then it touched me, the other day, when I casually asked her what is it about the U.S. that she liked most, 
and she said, "The libraries." 

As a background, let me quickly state, that every time, the moment she lands in the U.S., we take her to the library, and stock up on her books, exhausting all our twenty books quota on every card we have. Of course, we make that trip soon again, a couple of days or a week later to exchange and re-stock---for our kid who devours, not reads, the books! She even carries a cross body pouch at all times, fitted with a book (the way we adults carry our IDs or wallets). Upon being asked why, she said "Sometimes the waiting lines for where we are going can be so a book comes handy!)  

Coming back to her answer, indeed it is so true that even in the shining phase of India, not much has been done to develop an infrastructure for a library system in India. Last I googled, I did find contact information for some self-proclaimed private libraries (but these places did not have web-addresses), and the one line descriptions of them, made them seem more like shops than reading centers or agencies that loaned reading material. I am currently investigating into these 'listed' private libraries. More of this to come in the following blogs. 

She is visiting me in the States now, and the buzz of the 'Kindle' reader (by amazon), appeared to catch up with the family. I am one of the last people on the earth to ever be seen with gadgets, catching a whiff here and touching a texture there are still my way of learning and exploring the world. Yet, I have to say that Little-Big K's reason for buying a Kindle is one of the most original and convincing ones I have come across till date. She said, " I don't like it when mum throws away my old books, because of storage space. I like to read my books again and again. So with Kindle I can go back to my books easily."  If you are a book-reader, you will immediately identify with that sentiment. Every one of us has a book or few, that we like to go back to, just like that. I have two of those myself. So, it is only fair that for an eleven year old kid on a reading roll, she has stacks of books she calls 'comfort books'. Not to forget to mention that having a library close by, is keeping those comfort books within your reach, forever.  


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