Thursday, August 11, 2005

This season's daffodil, she never hears

Roman Rolland street- that was another street in Pondicherry. But I called Rue de la Compagnie that. It had Roman Rolland Library and hence made sense to my 6 year old mind to call it that. And the name stuck.

I was given two red cards which meant I could borrow two books from the millions there- when I was young, which soon became hundreds as the years moved past. All aglow I carried my cards in my palm. I think the first book I borrowed was 'The ugly ducking'. I'd read that story a thousand times by then. And cried a thousand tears… I don’t really remember.

You had to pay 10 rupees for those two tickets. A one time payment and you could borrow all the books you wanted.

I was always there. And so was daddy. We would walk through aisles of dust covered books and daddy would make an attempt at sorting out the books in the little time he was. But chaos was my territory. I would find the perfect book from any corner. The more cluttered it was, the more I shone.

Hardbounds and the joy of it. If I write about it, I would be writing poetry.

The librarians were a friendly lot. I think it had a lot to do with daddy being what he was.

I don’t know when I latched on to the habit, but I soon felt that two red cards were cruel. I needed more books than that. It doesn’t pay to add here that my house was but a street away from the library. But well, it was a long street.

So I, mistress of chaos and finding, would hide books that I wanted to borrow next, but the cruel red card wouldn’t allow me to.

When daddy saw me carry an armful of books and come back from those long tall shelved corners with two of them and a triumphant look on my face, he understood I guess, the small sin I’d committed in my small world.

I was bought two more cards. I’d grown and so had the prices. It was 25 rupees each card now.

He didn’t say anything and it made everything more terrible. I stopped hiding books. I hope he noticed it, that reformation act of mine. The guilt lingered on for sometime like the stinging pain of red tincture on a wound. Which hurt more I don’t know…the fact that I did something I shouldn’t have or that I was caught doing it…

Redemption. I gave away two cards to my neighbor. She never reads.