Mar 31, 2013

In which I philosophize about giving away books...

I am on a mission to reduce the clutter in my life. At least, I have fooled myself into thinking so. Although muddled self-delusion is probably one of the first things I should throw out.

Now, I am not one of those people obsessed with maintaining a tidy house or work-desk. Unlike some people I know, I feel it is perfectly fine to use a chair as a place to hang your towel. In fact, I usually have papers strewn around on my desk, and I keep telling myself (and sometimes my boss) that when I need a particular paper, I can usually fish it out of what seems like a disorderly pile to the ordinary viewer. Random Access Memory, anyone?

But, occasionally (very infrequently for my mom's liking), I get bitten by the 'cleanliness' bug. It attacks in mysterious ways, when I am least prepared for it. Like on a perfectly harmless, brilliantly lazy weekend afternoon when I am ready to enter the heavenly state of post-plateful-of-thayir-saadam-with-naarthanga bliss, the devil, true to the proverb, commences his work on my idle mind. And before I know it, I am neck deep in a pile of old books, trying to remember when I bought each of them, and trying to decide whether I'll ever re-visit some of them (the left part of my brain, the supposed seat of logic and rationality and sarcasm shouts "Yeah, probably when hell freezes over") or whether I am better off giving them away.

Now, I am not one of those idiot book-lovers, with an overt fondness for printed alphabets on thin sheets of wood pulp. The kind who can wax eloquent on the smell of a new book, or kind who can go on a monologue (with a generous dose of nostalgia) about the feel of the paper from an old Wodehouse edition which they somehow hunted down in a side alley near Flora Fountain from a book vendor who had this Jeeves-like ability to procure whatever you had asked for, but only if you asked nicely enough and plied him with enough currency. I am perfectly comfortable (and concerned about the environment too!) with reading on a screen, and have developed quite an affinity for my Kindle. I don't have truckloads of books (contrary to what my mom thinks) and I haven't yet gotten around to the idea of using them as furniture. But the fact is that I stay in Bombay and my tent is quite small (but not my rent!), and the books have become the Camel which will push this Arab out, inch by painful inch.

And so, I decided, some of these books have to go.

That was the easy part.

Deciding which ones to throw give away was much harder. Books are not dead-wood. They are alive, and have this leech-like ability to cling on to your life. Even the ones which you have outgrown and are not likely to come back to ever. Correction, especially the ones which you have outgrown and are not likely to come back to. Ever. 

And so, the epic struggle of the left brain over the right started.

"This one needs to go."


"You hated it the first time you read it! Why do you want to keep it?"

"Every body deserves a second chance. Maybe I'll like it better if I re-read it"

"C'mon, we'll never finish this, if you behave like this!"

"Why do we have to 'finish'? Why can't we keep them all?"

You get the picture...

And in the process of throwing giving away these books, I discovered that one of the hardest things in life is: Letting go. Be it of old books that I have read, of random holiday pics lying in a forgotten folder somewhere on the computer, of the movies and sitcoms that sit in the external hard drive that I promised myself I'll finish someday. Or of bad memories, broken relationships, people I am better off forgetting...

I'm going to wipe them clean, one by one. Some day.

Moving on...