World Book Day, celebrated this year on the 23rd April, aims to change people’s lives through a shared love of books and reading. In most parts of the world, the day is observed by the theme of ‘share a story’.
It was in the early 90s that I had an opportunity to be associated with the Rifle Factory in Ishapur near Calcutta (now Kolkata) for a project. I was staying in a hotel near the Sealdah Railway Station in Calcutta so that daily commuting to the factory on the suburban trains was so convenient.
On my commute I met several people in the railway station who were remarkably unique and admirable. One such guy was a Mazumdar who was running a bookstall in the crowded Sealdah Railway Station.
He had the unique skill of recognising faces in an unusually crowded place like Sealdah. He promptly picked up copies of the Times of India and the Telegraph on my second day at the railway station and gave them to me without my asking him anything, all because those were the very newspapers I picked up the previous day. He had such a remarkable memory. And thus started our friendship.
Much later, one evening, I asked him if he had copies of Tagore’s Gitanjali with him. He was so apologetic that he didn’t have a copy that he could sell to me.
‘If I can’t get a copy of Gitanjali in a place like this where Gurudev Tagore lived and died, where else should I expect to find it?’ I poured out my arrogance to lubricate our friendship which was now very close after several weeks of interaction. While I was enjoying the conversation, he felt miserable.
By that time he already knew the hotel I was staying at and the fact that I was to leave Calcutta the next day. To my big surprise, he woke me up early on the morning I was scheduled to leave at my hotel and handed over two copies of the Gitanjali to me. Ever since that day, this book has been a daily read for me. I read this book three times every year, bit by bit . . .
It doesn’t matter how MUCH you read, what matters is WHAT you read.
As a part of my profession today I deal with tons of content, but my rule is very simple, it doesn’t matter how much you read, what matters is WHAT exactly you read.
Also what matters is the dedication of thousands of Mazumdars who help you get what you need to read.
Happy reading !