LIKE other living organisms, libraries too die. They may survive for 700 years as Oxford Bodleian Library has done, but even that venerable institution is succumbing to informity.

Anyone who has grown up without a book as a sibling has had a deprived childhood. The seeds of my library were sown in my head, when, at a young age, I went to sleep to the sound of a book being read to me.

As a student in England, I had access to the local public library that offered a limited range of titles to locals with even fewer interests. 

Two books a week. spread over three trms a year made me wiser beyond the school curriculum. This habit continued during my professional tutelage when, particularly after high-pressure exams, I read voraciously, my mind devouring everything.

The mind, though, as the aphorism goes, is like the stomach. It is not how much it consumes that matters: it is how much it digests.

I have lost count of the number of books I read, just as I cannot recall the quantity or quality of meals I have eaten. With sadness, though, over the past 50 years, one has seen libraries like the Liaquat National Library in Karachi -Pakistan, gradually crumble and disintegrate in the cavernous Frere Hall.

Over a lifetime devoted to books, the memory of some I have seen or handled remains in amber.  The first, a richly illuminated manuscript of  THE BOOK OF KELLS INSCRIBED IN 800 AD by four Christian monks.

The volume is in the Trinity College Library, Dublin, where irreverent American tourists can be overheard asking Irishmen for  ''Kelley's Book''.

The second, seven volumes of an embellished Holy Quran, prepared in Cairo in 704-5 AH [1304-6] for Sultan Baybar.

It is one of the oldest dated Qurans of the Mamluk period and is now in the British Library.

It is exhibited page by page periodically, to minimise exposure to damaging sunlight. To view it even through glass is to experience the hand of God working through the fingers of man.

Future bookshops will exist in another empyrean, a virtual world where books will be images without substance. Gone the physical pleasure of holding a book or hearing the crackle of an ancient page or savouring the smell of a weathered leather binding.

The World Students Society thanks author F.S. Aijazuddin.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!