I didn’t realise the importance of my books until I moved to England. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t come across as a book person. I wasn’t a reader at all, as a child, although I had a sister who was an obsessive reader even at a young age. I picked up reading in my adult life, to pass my travel time on the bus, and it stayed. Of course.
Cut to our move to this country 4 months ago and while packing, I quickly realised that I couldn’t bring all of my books. We were moving our world across the seas and yet, I couldn’t bring them with me. I left them safely with a close friend, who is a book lover herself. A month after our move, I was sitting on a Sunday evening, looking at the new adopted living room and finding only a handful of books to look at. I started sobbing, I missed my books.
Of course, the pile I had left with my friend was mostly of unread books, but I missed their existence. While leaving them, I constantly had a question popping in my head – what’s the soul of a home without books? I felt sad.
When our town opened up here last month, the first thing I did was check out the bookstores. It felt so good to see them because kindle wasn’t helping me. Finally, the libraries here opened up a few days ago and I registered. Within a day, I was asked to pick up my membership card. The libraries here are free which is so wonderful! I rushed there, got my card and was free to browse this library that aptly resides in an old brick building. I didn’t know which room to get in, equipped with access to all the books that now stood at my disposal.
I saw a woman shelving some books and moved towards that room. She was kind and asked me if I needed help. Literally while replying to her, I saw my eyes focussed on a shelf that stood behind her – it was Urdu. I told her I see those and how happy I am, without realising that my eyes welled up. A strange feeling of relief, comfort and surprise engulfed me. I realised how many books I had bought of Urdu back in Pune, to get better at it. And what I was missing was those books, because the lockdown is exactly the time when they would’ve kept me busy. But here I was, standing in front of a shelf stuffed with Urdu books. Fewer books, but at least they were there.
Sometimes, you don’t even know which strings of the heart books can pull. It feels a little bit more like home now. And that’s the story of this picture.
(Also, 2-minute silence for those who urged me not to ‘show off’ my Urdu skills in public especially in England.)