The Booklovers Library
The Booklovers Library
It was a very pleasant November morning. It had rained a couple of hours back and the roads were still wet. Keerthana, a first-year journalism student walked slowly to 'The Booklovers library' near her house, enjoying the freshness of the trees washed by the rain. The air smelled good and the wind blew gently on her face. She was a member of this library ever since she was a kid. Her father used to take her often to get her children's books and comics. Since then, her love for books has only grown each day. It is a very old library that was started in the early 1970s by Krishnakumar, a retired Colonel. This library is now run by his son Kishore, who works as an Assistant Professor in the English department at St.Mariam's College. He takes care of things at the library after coming back from college in the evenings and on weekends. His father makes short visits now and then. Keerthana has known Kishore from her childhood. There are a few other people just like her, who are members and frequent visitors to the library for a long time now. Kishore helped them in forming a small group, a book club that met every three or four weeks on Saturday or Sunday and Keerthana was a part of it.
Kishore smiled as Keerthana entered the library."You are a little late. The others are already there at the back", said Kishore.
"I had some assignments to complete. Are you joining"?, she asked eagerly.
"Not today. I have some pending work", Kishore said.
Keerthana walked to the back door disappointed. She opened it and her mates were sitting in a circle under the magnificent Ashoka tree. The backyard of the library is a beauty by itself. Kishore's father took years to build this wonderful garden and now it is filled with so many trees and plants. There is a Gulmohar tree covered with flaming flowers, a beech tree, several neem trees, copper pods. The fallen flowers from the Parijatham tree decorated the earth below it so beautifully. There are innumerable flowering plants too - jasmine, different kinds of roses, Dandelions, Hibiscus, Chrysanthemum, ornamental plants, and many more. Sometimes a colorful butterfly flutters about and poses with style on these flowers. Chairs are placed randomly under the trees for people to sit and read.
Keerthana sat down with the group to discuss the book they had just finished reading - Breath by Tim Winton.
"I found the book very enthralling", began Richard."Pikelet, Loonie, and Sando take us along with them in their exciting ride. I didn't feel left out, I felt like I am a part of all of their adventures. He also paints a beautiful picture of the landscapes."
"The fear of taking up something challenging, the excitement of doing it, and the satisfaction after having done it is captured beautifully", added Keerthana.
"And the difficulty of people who have to give up all that and get used to normal life. I felt sorry for Eva, Sando's wife, who is suffering from the sudden withdrawal from all this excitement. The emotions of all the characters are honest."
They went on and on for another hour. By the end of the session Kishore came to check if any of the readers have left the books lying about in the garden.No matter how much you tell, some people do it. Keerthana looked at him. She has been a silent admirer of Kishore for many years now. Whenever Kishore takes part in their book club meetings, Keerthana gets excited. Every time she looks at him there is immense joy in her. He makes her nervous. She respects his intelligence, calm, passion for his job, and his love for books. Realizing that she was staring at him, she quickly turned her attention to the group. They were now discussing which book to take up for their next session. Kishore pitched in."I read Immortals of Meluha recently and it is good. I have a couple of copies. You can circulate amongst yourself".It is a fifteen-member group and eight of them are regulars. The library doesn't have those many copies of every book. So they take turns to withdraw the book for each book club session, circulate it, and complete reading it in three or four weeks. Even when there is no session, they all gather in the garden every Saturday, spend long hours reading and discussing other books or anything in general.
Whenever Kishore is free, he joins them too. Keerthana loves her conversations with him. They are so insightful, sometimes enlightening. She could listen to him for hours. Every time she reads an interesting book, Kishore becomes a character from the book. He was Rochester when she read Jane Eyre, Jamie Fraser when she read Outlander, Edward Cullen in Twilight, Ronald Weasley in Harry Potter, Mr.Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, the list goes on. But Kishore had no particular interest in Keerthana. To him she was like any other member of the library. Keerthana was completely aware of this, so she never bothered to express how she felt about him.
Days passed. At the end of one interesting book discussion meet, Kishore got up to make an announcement."I have some news. I will be taking up a job offer at Mahidol University in Thailand starting next month. I will be leaving in another 2 weeks". Everybody looked at each other."Congratulations!!!", screamed Jennifer."This is so sudden and a big surprise", she said.
"Thank you Jennifer. I have been planning it for the past few months. I thought of letting you all know once I was sure about it".
"So, are you moving there for good?", asked Richard."I haven't thought about it. I am just going to see how it goes for a couple of years and then decide", Kishore said.
"You will be missed", said Geetha.
"I will miss this place too, these meetings, all of you. So many good memories", Kishore said smiling.
Keerthana was silent. She was shocked and sad. She knew Kishore from her childhood. To think of this place without him seemed impossible to her. Even though it was not for him that she came to this place, his presence made it even more enjoyable. She was going to miss him dearly."So what happens to this library?", Keerthana spoke finally."Oh, this will continue to run. My father will be taking over till he finds someone for the job. Don't worry", Kishore said. Everyone was so happy for him, and yet very very sad that he was going to leave, Keerthana the saddest of all."Will you be here next weekend?", she asked."Yes, that would be my last I guess", Kishore said. All of them left the library with a heavy heart that evening.
The Booklovers book club planned for a farewell party to Kishore the following weekend. They arranged it in the backyard of the library. His parents, some of his close friends and of course a few members of the library who knew him well were all there. Everyone had wonderful things to say about Kishore. His parents talked about how proud they are of their son and how much he will be missed. His friends talked about the funny side of him. And then it was time for Kishore to give a speech. He stood up and looked around at everybody."I first came here during the opening of the library, when I was seven years old. My father started with his collection of books and many books passed down to him from my grandfather. The library started growing and I grew with it, grew in it I should say. I spent most of my time here, I studied sitting here in the backyard, did my homework and assignments from here. Read a lot, a lot of books from here. I have added many to the collection which I will never stop doing. This has always been my other home, my world. To leave it, even for a short period is heart-wrenching. It is the most difficult choice I had to take in my life. But sometimes life puts you through such situations. I am going to miss this place terribly, and you all. Wherever I go, my heart belongs here. And thank you so much for arranging this party. It was so nice of you guys. Love you all", he finished and sat looking down, fighting to stop his tears. Keerthana welled up. Everybody clapped and cheered. Music was on and people went around talking, having fun, and eating.
The crowd began to thin out. Everyone wished Kishore and bid him goodbye. Keerthana walked to Kishore. She shook his hand and said, "They are never going to find a replacement for you.No one is ever going to work or do things for this library so passionately like you did. I loved the time we spent together here, our long conversations. I will miss you. All the best to you Kishore".
"I will miss you too, all of you. I had the best time here. All the best to you too. I hope to see you as one successful and renowned journalist someday. I will come here during the vacation time and I will see you around", he said.
"Sure, you take care".
"You take care too".
Kishore saw her leaving. She turned around and waved a bye. Kishore waved back smiling at her.
Years passed. Keerthana did not get a chance to see Kishore after that. He hadn't come to India in the two years she was there. The book club met as usual. They found a new librarian, Miss Nisha. She was friendly, loved books, and supported all the activities that were a part of the library when Kishore left. She even started a book reading session for children. Everybody loved her but Kishore was still missed. Keerthana left to Delhi for her higher studies, got a job there, and settled down married to a wildlife photographer. One day, when she was cleaning the upper loft in her room, she came across a small cardboard box. It was a collection of some memories from her childhood - some bus tickets, movie stubs, few passport size pictures of her friends, some letters from her cousins and friends, and then the library card of The Booklovers library. She held it in her hand and couldn't stop smiling. What a terrific time it was, so many wonderful moments and learnings. She had gone to the library last year when she was home. Nisha was still working there. Nothing had changed much in the last four years except for the number of books and the new members. She wondered what Kishore would be doing now with his life.
She left everything as is in her room and went to fetch her phone. She opened Facebook and searched for Kishore Krishnakumar. There he was, with his wife by his side carrying a small kid in her hand. Keerthana laughed, "Look how much weight he has put on. He looks different", she said out loud. He was wearing spectacles too. She looked at his profile picture for some time, thinking about the good old days. The picture didn't seem like it was taken abroad. Is he back? she thought. She would know when she goes home the next time. She wondered if she should send a friend request. She hesitated for a bit and then decided not to. Some things are nice when you leave it the way they are, she thought and put the phone down. She carefully placed all her memories back in the box and continued with her cleaning.