Books and bookshops have always been a part of my life.
As a child stranded between cultures far too often, it suited me to find refuge in the world of books. I didn't know then that I was an introvert, but it was clear that my escape into the world of books was one of both necessity and protection.
Books protected me. Back then, children of my age who considered themselves to be ''cool" would never sit next to me if I was reading a book - which is exactly the protection I wanted for myself. I wanted to be left alone.
As a habit since childhood, I carry books with me everywhere. It particularly helps when I travel - I can forget about my tensions and also get rid of strangers who try to open a conversation with me when all I want to do is escape into a book.
Books have been my best companion ever since the early years when I learned to distrust people's intentions - what they said had little to do with what they eventually did - and this continues to baffle me. But thank god, I have a great place to escape and can return from it only when I feel like it - yes, books!
Even today when we can buy books at the click of a button on Amazon or Flipkart, I avoid it like the plague. I prefer to spend time in my favorite bookshops. Nothing brings me more happiness than the visual delight of seeing books arranged in rows, their blurbs become invitations to the world that I love to peek into before I choose it, with the loving care and attention to detail and almost protective care that one would extend to a marriage proposal before taking it to the next level. I spend hours in bookshops, not just to touch the new books and feel it in my hands, but to also talk to those who are in charge of selecting the books and to customers who walk into a bookstore.
One of the things that continue to pique my curiosity is that a majority of young parents whom I have met at bookshops seem clueless about what books to buy for their kids. Over the years, it has become my second nature to play the book assistant and ask them about their children.
To my astonishment, I find that most parents don't seem to know what their children like, besides their favorite TV channels and the games they play on the iPad. Some parents I met didn't even know the correct age of their children - and let's remember, I am not talking about rural parents here nor do I intend to judge parents by how little they know about their children - I admit, I am guilty too. If you ask me what apps my son loves to play games on, I would be confused for a second or two. But books, I can tell you about his favorite books in my sleep only because I am passionate about them too.
And when I look back, I realize that some of my happiest moments in life have been in bookshops, where I managed to discover rare insights through rare treasures (called books!) and brought them home with me.
You may not even believe this, I met the President of Zambia in a bookshop and he graciously came over to shake hands with me and we spoke for a few minutes. It turns out that President Kenneth Kaunda too loved reading and he never lost an opportunity to read the latest books! That was one of my favorite "bookshop" moments, seriously!
My books are my treasures - they are all I have, and I call them ''family".
And today happens to be World Book Day. Are you reading something interesting - tell me about it!