23 Jan 2010


Last night, I had a conversation with a friend during which I was reminded of… the sacrosanctity of books.

When I was growing up, one of my greatest joys was to discover (when I learnt to read) a bookshelf (actually, a series of shelves) my dad had built against one of the walls of the house. It was not started from the floor, but maybe above waist height to an average adult… so to access it, I had to drag a small bench that my grandfather used and stand on it.

That ‘library’ still brings fond memories. In there, I discovered new worlds, from legends of the American Indian to Nos Ponemos En Camino (a Spanish text used in schools about 30 years ago).

I discovered my dad’s collection of Louis L’Amour westerns, J T Edson novels, Mills & Boon romances that my aunt and mom read, comics enjoyed by my grandfather, lots of Enid Blyton books, French and Spanish books, religious books like the Quran, New Testament, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, The Ramayana etc.

I read most of them. As long as they had words in them I could understand, I read. Even when I did not know the words, my dad or Papa (grandfather) or mom would tell me the pronunciation and explain what it meant. I would bury my head for hours and not even be aware of the world around me… A not-so-fond memory was one where I was so immersed that mom was able to approach me with a wet towel and let me have a mighty blow for failing to do my chores. (^_~)

I usually fell asleep with a book on the bed next to me, a habit which I must say, I still have. I also have a pen next to me, and since I write with fountain pens (with jet black ink), when I fall asleep with it open, I ruined many a good sheet of my mom’s. (°;°)

When I read, I rested the books face down, which put pressure on the spine, which can ruin them. My parents (dad was alive then) forbade me to do that. I was taught to use bookmarks. Neither could I fold the page back and make ‘dog ears’. I was also forbidden to write in margins or use highlighter pens, instead making notes on separate paper. It’s a habit I have to this day even though my university coursework does include wider margins for notes. Writing in my texts is actually recommended!

Neither was I allowed to put my feet on books or walk upon them… it may not be ‘normal’ for families, but my dad and mom always told me that books were a source of knowledge, and one should respect them. So I never walked on books that fell over, but instead picked them up and replaced them where they belonged.

I guess I still have most of those values in me, where books are still sacrosanct and to be respected.