A small piece

I just returned from a week long vacation from Guwahati. I visit it perhaps twice or if I'm lucky, thrice a year. The slow but steady changes in the city, good and bad, strike me on every visit – just as it would any other infrequent visitor. I'll dwell on those some other time, because this entry is for something that I thought would always flourish in Guwahati – the bookshops in Panbazar.

The condition of the bookstores there saddens me. The only ones which seem to be actually thriving are the
ones selling textbooks. All the others, including those selling Assamese
literature or English fiction/non fiction like Modern Book Depot seem to be
rotting away, literally – the musky smell you get when you enter the latter was enough. Some, like the Advanced Study Centre which I used to
frequent since my schooldays have just disappeared. Why this decadence? Is it
because of rising prices? Don't people read books there anymore? Or is it that
the younger ones are more captivated by the malls shooting up everywhere with
the video game arcades and shiny new eating joints? If somebody labels me as
ancient at this point, I'd like to say to him/her – yes, I am all for the
“ancient” joy of buying and reading books.
I was browsing through the shelves in Lawyer's Book
Stall (a well known publisher and bookseller of Assamese literature as well as
law books) when an elderly gentleman came asking for a very specific book on the
freedom struggle in Assam. He had the name of the author and the publisher. This
made me realize that the real book lovers are still there. Maybe the younger
ones have been seduced by the shinier toys. What about their parents then? Don't
they want their kids to read? (Am getting real passionate here).
The annual Guwahati book fair is the same sad
story. I haven't visited it for some years now, but I've heard from my sister.
When I visited it last it had turned into a dumping ground for second hand
booksellers from Delhi. The only stalls worth visiting used to be some of the
Assamese publishing houses and the Bengali publishers from
Calcutta/Kolkata.
I went back there after a few days looking for some
books by Dinesh Chandra Goswami. None of the bookshops had any of his books –
not a single one. There does not seem to be any single big bookshop where you
can actually browse through the huge troves of Assamese literature. A further sign
of decadence?


7 Comments

  1. Yes I used to frequent that since my schooldays…Smell of books? Yes!! I know what you mean…and that smell can be categorized into different types – musty and old, new and plasticky, turpentine-and-pulp…

  2. Even I was saddenned by the disappearance of Advance Study Centre. The shiny book shelves and the rows and rows of books is what always drew me there during my cotton days.In place of this now stands a flower shop, but trust me nothing can beat the smell of books …!

  3. Now that I think of it, none of my school going cousins are actually what you can call book readers. They might read some which has been hyped a lot, like Harry Potter, from time to time but that's it. It's very true that parents have a big role to play – I picked up my bibliophilia from my dad – and growing up in a house full of books does help.

  4. Its just an indication how the love for books is gradually fading away in the mind of people. Is it overshadowing of the electronic media over the printing media or what – i don't know. but it will be quite interesting to know what percentage of the young generation reads books other than their text books. I am sure most of the youngsters would like to spend thier leisure time in playing video games rather than reading books. the role of the parents here is also questionable.

    I remember in my childhood it was almost customery to present books in birthdays or marriages.I remember getting a number of books as presents and as awards in school which inculcated the habit of reading books in me at a very young age.Also my father always encouraged me by buying books frequently and he himself was an avid reader.

    I think parents have got lot to do with this decaying in reading books amomg the young generation….

  5. earlier I too was kind of a bokworm (read: 2 books a day ortwo!!) .. for nearly 6/7 years .. now on a different track … no time to flip thru books… raley I read some reviews.. someday will take out time again…

  6. My grand mother had a huge collection of book…She used to read the whole day even at her 90…..

    I also loved to collect books and read books. I used to read at the time of my engineering also…But in this IT field, I even dont get time to take care of myself…..I forgotten reading in for abt 2 years when I was in delhi…I started staying in a assamese PG in delhi….I used to visit the landlord(uncle). The first day he asked me whether I like reading or not…and showed me his collection of book Assamese, Bengali and English….I was surprised to see a man in his 60, spend the whole days only reading books.

    there are 100 girls in the PG, arount 60 are assamese. I discovered a lots of girls who often visits uncle and a great fan of uncle……Uncle used to give a book, when ever u visit him…..We also enjoyed talking with uncle, as he knows everything…..and he is a real assamese with honest and intelligent mind….

    When I went to home, he asked me to buy some new book giving the name from "Prantik". He have each edition of "Prantik " and "Gariyokhi". It really great experience to get a person like uncle in a place like delhi.

    I started reading again. like me lots of girls(specially from assamese mediam) circulate books in the hostel….oh it was really great…..

    If You want u can read book, and keep in touch with assamese literature from anywhere.

    It doesn't mean how old u r….

  7. Regarding your observation that it's difficult to do anything when you're in IT, I'd like to say that it depends on how passionate you are about your likes, say reading. It's always possible to find time to pursue something you like. It's true that in the beginning the pressure of work might be too much but it's also possible to manage time. I can say this because I've realized it myself :-), the hard way.

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