The library

It’s funny how the library has always been a fundamental part of my life. At first I became a frequent visitor of our school library, not really for the books, but because it was a sanctuary of sorts. It was a place I could while away my time during the lunch hour, while the other kids were busy in the playground. Given that I was one of the few non-white students at our school in Manchester, pairing up with any of the other students as friend was not a viable option.
And so I would go to the library. That way no one would taunt me for being alone. The teachers became impressed by my regular presence there over seven years and soon I was asked to become a library monitor. It was a place I would silently flick through books, and wonder why Jesus said he was “the Word,” or why some authors wrote that Hindus were fatalistic because they believed in karma.
A few years later when I went to university I would spend long hours at the library. Here, I had friends, so my visits were not to while away time. It was to actually study! And of course to take advantage of the central heating. It was freezing at Lancaster, and I would feel so desperately cold that I would be the only student wearing fingerless gloves IN the library. I enjoyed reading the likes of S Radhakrishnan, the hypnotic words of Sufi mystics, the parables of the Buddha and the Sermon on the Mount.
And even later, as a Master of Arts student in Religious Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, sitting in the library was a hedonic experience. Here, the architecture was such that one could see floors of books by simply gazing up, as if to the Almighty. I enjoyed spending hours flicking through the Dharmashastras, trying to fathom the true meaning of dharma.
Today, they tell me I am middle aged, but you can still find me in the library! Now I am pursuing my doctoral from a leading business school in India. I have many friends, and the country is quite warm, so no need for central heating!
I guess at last I am a visitor to the university library for no other reason other than reading and researching! Ironically now there is no reason for me to visit the library as I have online access to most of the books and journals that I require. But still, being surrounded by books and by bibliophiles, is an experience to be relished.
And so my need for the library still exists. It’s only the reasons that have changed. Earlier it was a sanctuary, then it became a place where I discovered the richness of religious texts of world religions – the exquisite knowledge of centuries condensed in the form of the printed word. Today the library has become an integral part of my life. It is my sanctum sanctorum, an inviobaly private place to which I retire when I seek answers.


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