words have energy. and so do books. even as a child, i was always overwhelmed by the energy inherent in the space of a library or bookshop. i grew up in a small town in the north called pietersburg. the little indian ghetto we lived in was called nirvana. my mom and i would walk to the library every so often. this event thrilled me beyond measure. i remember, i was barely five when i got my first book out the library. the tales of peter rabbit. the over zealous reader in me was enticed pretty early on, wanting to be an adult along with my twenty-something year old parents, and not the baby first-born happy only with teddybears and other such trinkets.
and so began my love affair with books. my parents are avid readers. so the energy follows along a bloodline, perhaps. or a kind of conditioning, maybe. what is interesting, is that, i chose the nerdy reclusive route of an adolescent, intent on burrowing in the world of words, rather than the shaky aspirations of the other kids. my friend mish reminds me often, of her visits to pietersburg, to her maternal grandparents. my sister would be enthralled by her tea-sets, and they could compare notes on barbie fads. (ok, i had an india barbie ;) but, i would be mesmerized by the single wall of towering bookshelves in her grandfather's lounge. layers upon layers of time old wisdom, collected here in his sacred space. i learned much later that, when he passed on, his oldest grandson (my mom's first cousin ebie) inherited his out-of-print works. i also learned, from my dad, that sunday afternoons were set aside for philosophical seminars in his lounge, attended by a select few of his friends. some of his grandchildren of my own age, lament not being at an age of understanding when he was around to impart the knowledge he possessed. but the energy that held my attention, and many others, was undeniable. i remember it still.
when i moved to johannesburg, i soon became acquainted with the old bookstores of mellville, the side roads of fordsburg (i bought orwells '1984' for R2.50!) and the flea market bookstalls at the zoo lake and bruma. old mellville is still my favourite hangout. last year, when i travelled to cape town for the bookfair, i discovered some worthy gems at the parade bookstalls (i got a signed copy of psychoanalyst june singer's 'seeing through the visible world' @ R25 - dr.singer worked with carl jung, btw:P). and this year, when i stayed out in durban for a few months, i happily came upon one or two places of rare bookish discovery, out in bulwer near the university, and in kensington (amitav gosh' 'the glass palace' and vikram seth's 'an equal music' at R40 each) etc.
london's all year sales place one in the happy position to buy books at 'three for two' bargains. and because of the large book buying potential, and hence the great print runs, prices are far cheaper than that of the south african book market. i find this both with regards to local and overseas print. i have my theories, and all are not related to cost. a sinister exploitation abounds. but thats another post.
books have an energy that sings to me like the piped piper did in that old folktale... let me not forget to mention the bookstores of old delhi. i have trudged and dragged my brother and some cousins at various times through the streets around the jama masjid in delhi's old quarter looking for hidden treasures, only to be delighted beyond my expectations. lucky for me, my dad shares my enthusiasm and has more than happily led the way. we're known to gift each other some or other book gift. and unlike a tie or a pair of socks kind of gift, i believe that books (for self and for gifts) find you, and not the other way around. books FIND you. i liked typing that. it reminds me of my new acquisitions, a single copy of 'the essential rumi' and 'the book of love' waited on a lonely shelf in mumbai for me ;)
there was a time when mumbai flourished with too many books to choose from. the 'fountain' area (think scene for movie 'chameli') once listed hundreds of sidewalk vendors intent on distributing largely pirated works, now long cleared up. but even there, i have my choice places to shop at. at least, now, shopping for books is less precarious. and still well worth the ardent search for works not to be found anywhere else in the world. of course, apart from the carefully placed individual booksellers, there are the mainstream stores. but its in these caves of some dust and many sweet-smelling pages that are to be found anything your reader imagination can conjur, from the best-selling popular fictions to the rarest of finds.
there is an energy about this. a sharing of someones soul, someones dreams, someones fears, someones hopes tried and tested. theres a flow of life in books. and this flow of life and energy binds us, inextricably. i am writing again. i feel linked to the energy of the universe in more than one way. spirit thirsts and is quenched. through books, and life, through believing and being.
Local Council By-Elections April 2017
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