Recently I watched this Bangla movie –Bhoot’r bhobishwat which literary means –the future of the past. So I derive the title of my post from this hilarious Bangla movie which touches upon a very critical subject in our ever progressive outlook towards life –what is the future of our past?
I have been very conventional, conservative and old fashioned in the way I lead my life… rather I try to be. Basically I try to balance between being conventional and at the same time being environmentally responsible. Though these are not always inversely related, however for this topic at hand today, they are. Read along.
Unlike me, my better half has been pretty pro-technology. She got her Samsung S2 preordered. She uses it not only for making phone calls but also as a makeshift camera, music player and restaurant review finder along with a host of other online activities. So when some 3-4 months back she expressed her desire for an Amazon Kindle, I was cautious and treated every discussion on this thread with utmost care.
Like I said, being old fashioned and a book lover –who dreams of owning a personal library and a readying room –it’s kind of difficult to accept an electronic gadget acting as a replacement for something that has shaped me. I mean, every book lover would agree that there is something special about each and every book that we have read and if affordable –owned. I still remember that the oldest books that I have read to be Secret Seven and Famous Five series by Enid Blyton that we got to subscribe each Tuesday from the school library. These old books with their yellow pages has a story to tell about themselves. They had probably been there even before I was born. They had been read so many times by so many children…handed down to the younger brother or sister from the elder. Some of these kids like me would put a cover on them. Some would write their names on them. Owning a particular book gave you a feeling of belongingness. We would discuss about a story that we read in these books… we would exchange books… we had a thriving social network due to our books. However the most characteristic attribute about a book, rather, an old book that I like is… yes, you might have guessed it by now…it’s the smell. I have opened so many old books and put my face between the pages to sniff that old smell of paper. I find no words to describe that feeling… Some of these old books that I have are still so perfectly bound with good quality paper and clean print… as if they are meant to last for a long time. Even the feel of paper when I turn a page or try to read with my finger on a line kind of connects me to a book. A lot of books that I own have been bought from Blossoms [-an old book store in Bangalore] where they buy and sell used books. Since my books are all used, it usually carries the reminiscence of its former owner…name, notes, date of purchase, price paid… and something of its own, that old book smell. Apart from these things, belonging to a family where books are treated with a lot of love and respect, having a book always with me has become a habit. Whether I get time to read one or not, I carry one around with me. And well, carrying books has never been inconvenient for me. I have traveled… well not a lot, but I have traveled quite a bit. And my books travel with me. Some people may say that it sure looks inconvenient, but it’s a choice I made.
So when my wife told me that she’d want to go for a Paperwhite version of Kindle I was flabbergasted. What? A Kindle? An electronic replacement for something so romantic? How can a gadget ever replace something that is so alive? These questions never made it through my lips though and like all good husbands, I bit the bullet and ordered one from Amazon. Before buying, I read a lot of reviews… these reviews were read to convince me that I’m doing the right thing by buying the gadget. Knowing my wife, I wanted to be sure that if she did not like it, I should find it good enough so that it does not lay in one corner and gather dust while I leaf through one book after another. The product reviews were all pretty convincing. Most of them mentioned the ease of use and the similarity it has to a regular book without the hassles. No need to remember the page number, or no need to hold the equipment like we would hold a book to keep it open while reading, the fact was that it was lighter than a normal paperback, convenient size, ability to carry lots of book in one single device. However the one particular feature that completely bowled me over was the built-in dictionary. I mean, I’m a book lover but I cannot afford to move around with a dictionary. So whenever I find a difficult word, I just skip that or try to figure out what it can mean from the context of the sentence or the situation. Apart from this dictionary feature I was certain that there were no other reasons why I’d trade my physical books for some electronic gadget. And so, very skeptically I went ahead and ordered the Kindle which arrived promptly in less than a week’s time. It has been more than a month now…and it’s the highest utilized gadget in our house. Not only wife, but even I find it extremely convenient to read. And that precisely was my fear, though I did not mention that. Fear you might be wondering of what? Fear of what’ll happen to my books, if I liked the gadget.
Being old fashioned, I had this dream of having a library of my own. This library would contain books on subjects that I liked. There would be spy novels, spiritual books, books on mythology, on history, on the stock market, on finance on economics. Books that I could see. Looking at the library I would get a sense of owning something worth owning. But with a Kindle in place, the dream gets a bit complicated. Yes, I might end up reading more books [a Kindle is far more convenient than a conventional book when you try to read while doing some other activities too] and since they would be in electronic mode, we’re also saving paper and trees… which is being pro-nature and we’ll end up saving a lot of space tool. So what happens if everyone starts liking the electronic version so much? What’ll happen to the old books? Will the future generation ever know how an old book felt? Will they know how a book mark looked in real life? Will they ever understand the idea of searching for a book in a physical library shelve and not an online one? Will they ever know how it felt to open an old book and put their face in it to smell the old pages? What is the future of the past?