A Galaxy of Words

My first introduction to public libraries was through the library at Nainital. The wooden walls, a maroon coloured sloping roof, adjacent to the lake, ducks quacking right across, a massive reading room towards the left with almost all the newspapers, and a range of books arranged in shelves after shelves on the right of the library. As I write, I can smell the library still. Those old books which had such a variety of novels, a lovely catalogue, and delicate pages that had turned yellow over the years. I am almost certain that I will never see a library more beautiful than that. The wooden floor, the pin drop silence, and those eager eyes of readers that included many school students, and senior citizens. Although I only used to accompany my sister to the library, yet I am so nostalgic about it now. I wish I would have read also some books while resting against the window of the library that faced the lake, with sunlight peeking from behind the hills and seeping into the room. I have been so lucky to have grown up in such a town.

Libraries today are in a dilapidated state, particularly the municipal libraries. They show the status of reading, if we look at them poetically. The joy of reading is not reaching people anymore. And that makes me sad sometimes. Reading widens your horizons of being better humans immensely. They also make you extremely creative in terms of your thinking ability. But it’s the reality we all need to live with.

Why I am being passionate about reading and libraries today is because today I had the privilege to visit one of Asia’s largest underground library. The Bhadriya Mata temple library is located near Pokhran, in Rajasthan. The library houses almost nine lakh books of varied genre. While most books are in Hindi, the place is magical and makes you spellbound. There are books on law, ancient manuscripts, books on surgery, geology, physics, journalism, Hindi literature, religions, and almost every genre one can think of. The only book that I found there which I have read was “गधे की आत्मकथा” by “कृष्ण चन्द्र”.

The library is a treasure island. Even if you don’t wish to read any book their, the mere grandeur of the place is magical and sweeps you off the floor. There was only one genuine reader in the library. He was an old sage with a long white beard, who was staying in the Ashram and had come all the way from Uttarakhand. He carried a notebook in which he noted the number of each book he would like to read. I wanted to click his picture but felt shy and small to act like this.

Route towards the Ashram
The infinite parallel universes
Babaji analysing the books
Old Manuscripts
The pillars of Hinduism: the four Vedas
Lastly, what we do best: pose and smile

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