Notes from a Bibliophile.

My bookshelves, they are like carriers of large parts of my history. Organised in patches of memories from my life, they are reflections of my meaning systems.

When you come home, spend a few minutes looking at my shelf, taking in the titles of my books; some faded, some shiny new, and you will know all you have to about me.

You will know that I love second-hand books. And that when I am feeling sad, I go scavenging for them. I especially like the ones that have a disappearing name on its first page, the ones with things underlined (with pencil, always with pencils). My favourites are the ones with scribbles in the margins, or the ones that had been gifted with personal notes. It makes me feel intimate with the previous owner, because I now know what matters to them.

These books, they will tell you of how I have evolved, because books cannot be deleted. They will tell you that I was a Meg Cabot fan, and that I once owned a Chetan Bhagat book before I became more elitist about the literature I devoured. That I still have some books that I would never publicly mention enjoying, but bookshelves don’t lie. It’s an honesty the kindle can never provide.

Open these books and you will be privy to my thoughts. You will see little stars and smiley faces, exclamation marks and circled question marks as well as some epiphanies doodled in the margins. You will see outlines of the tears I cried while reading them and the pages that have had bookmarks in them for real long.

The bookmarks, they are a story of their own. You will see the shady but wonderful ones my sister made for me when she was a child. The quotes I turned into page markers. Plane tickets and coffee house stubs. Like the remnants of my time with them.

I like taking my books on vacation, like a companion for all places. These books, often become conversation starters, and their covers are all you need. I can write a whole series of conversations I have had when I was reading The wisdom of whores by Elizabeth Pisani. The kindles will never hold that mystery, or the joy of being so open about what it is that fascinates you at that moment.

Some books, they hold hints to my intimate moments too. The Murakami, Norwegian Wood, as my companion in one of the tough phases of my life, has all kinds of stains from being in my purse for too long. Flip open my copy of Bridge Across Forever and you will see lines of hope a friend’s father wrote to him before he gifted him this book, the wishes that the friend carried forward when he gifted it to me, and then some notes from a screenplay a friend and I tried to write inspired by it. These books, they have seen me through as much as my closest friends, and you will stumble across these stories when browsing through them.

I will let you borrow these books if you wish. And for me, that would be like sharing a piece of my soul. It will be our shared memory and not just a common pdf. I will warn you not to use pen marks on them, but I will let you leave me little pieces of your heart in it when you return them. And years later, if you have forgotten about the book, I will remind you to return it because there is a paragraph in that book that I want to find. It will be an extra reason to reconnect, should that ever be needed.

When finding these paragraphs, as I turn the pages, I will relive my time with the books, perhaps stopping to read some of my favourite parts. Not as efficient as your Kindle’s search, but bliss cannot always be rushed.

So, next time you are home, stop by my bookshelf. And smell it. It has centuries of stories in them, the joys of holding them, and real shelves of my love. Their brightness may not be adjustable, but they can be held. Hugged. And they light up my soul instead.

Blossoms bookstore, Bangalore, India. A home/haven for bibliophiles.

Jayati Doshi

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