09 January 2015

There are libraries everywhere

This is the fifteenth article in a series I am writing for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The series is for children. Adults consider yourselves warned...you might re-discover a child within you! 

We all know libraries.  We have all visited at least one of them.  Some of us have borrowed and returned books.  Some spend hours in libraries.  In libraries (and bookstores) you don’t feel the time pass, they say.  This is true, especially if you are interested in books. 

There’s an old-world charm in libraries.  They have book-smells.  They have things neatly arranged.  They have systems which make it easy for you to find whatever you are looking for, even if it is not a specific book.   

Today, in the 21st Century, not all libraries are housed in buildings, with rows and rows of bookshelves holding hundreds and thousands of books, neatly organized under various categories such as fiction, science, religion, sports, and so on.  We can download e-books, read them on Kindle.  We can do our ‘browsing’ on the internet.   We can use desktops, laptops, tabs and smart phones to do a lot of reading. 

But there are other libraries which are not recognized as such.  People.

In certain countries, for example, when an old person dies it is compared to a library being burnt to the ground.  What this means is that people gather a lot of knowledge over the course of their lives.  It’s not just facts about specific subjects.  They also acquire understanding about a lot of things.  The more you live, the more you learn.  Older people know more about human things than the very young.  They notice patterns in the way people behave and when they see these patterns repeated they are able to predict better what a particular person would do next.   

The longer you live, the more you know about what happens to people over time.  Older people don’t necessarily know more about specific things than those who are younger.  Indeed, if you ask an 80 year old man about apps, for example, he might be clueless.  But when it comes to human things, they are more tolerant, more understanding of people’s various flaws. 

Just by living, just by working, relating to people, encountering and surviving through ups and downs, people learn so much.  We all do.  And the longer you live, the more stories accumulate inside you.  In fact one can even say that human beings are made of stories; accounts of their own lives as well as tales they’ve heard and lives they have witnessed.  Libraries, all of them. 

Just think back on your life.  How many stories have you heard or read?  How many songs do you know? How many people have you met?  How many friends, how many ‘best friends’?  Can you ever finish jotting down all the things that have moved you to tears or made you smile?  Forget your ‘whole life’ just think about the last week or even yesterday.  So much has happened.  So much has been learned.  Indeed, just in the last 24 hours many chapters of many stories have got written in your mind and heart. 

You won’t remember them all and looking back there will be many stories you’ve missed.  But remember that if there are stories inside you there are probably stories inside the people you’ve met.  They are all books, waiting to be read. 

You have to keep one thing in mind.  These ‘books’ are not always accessible.  They are often not written in languages we are familiar with.  Some stories don’t unravel at our convenience.  What we can do is to visit these ‘libraries’.  We visit when we listen.  We visit when we are patient.  We read when we open our hearts and minds to what others have to say.  And we enrich ourselves.  Immensely.

Other articles in this series


Ru Freeman said...

This is a beautiful post. I'm going to share it with all the young people I know - and the old ones too!