Books, grandpa and lessons...

Reading ensures we are not alone, we are not a closed mind. An open mind is a sea of possibilities

Faheem Jeelani
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 15 2018 11:57PM | Updated Date: Aug 15 2018 11:57PM
Books, grandpa and lessons...

The Japanese literary great Haruki Murakami said, 'If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.' Books are that axe which titillate one's soul. But how does one go about reading the right kind of books? What got me writing about this was when I posted some pictures from my library on social media. The idea was to share my personal journey; which necessarily a potential bibliophile may not follow. I've always believed reading is your own personal jaunt.  As adults we can encourage and suggest especially to youngsters what books to read. That is how and where I picked my love for them.

Each Sunday without fail my grandfather’s cousin and bosom buddy Khwaja Ali Buchh would drop in at our place, in his crisp white kurtas: a man of impeccable honor and love for books. What would transpire in next few hours would absolutely enthral the curious kid in me. From Babur’s battle at Panipat to Jinnah’s jibe at Molvi Yusuf Shah, they discussed everything. They would often exchange books and though they had aged, the brothers retained their penchant for book reading. I remember one of the earliest books that they suggested to me was ‘Kashmir towards Insurgency’ by Balraj Puri. A thin book which awakened me to the nitty gritty of Kashmir issue. In addition my grandfather insisted that I and my sisters read everything. At one time we were subscribing eight to ten magazines: Reader’s Digest, India Today, Frontline, Sportstar, Woman’s Era, Femina. You name it.

Abba’s idea was to cultivate the habit of reading in us. Igniting the curiosity in us. And, I see the wisdom in it now. Books must essentially be read for pleasure. If a book, however popular it may be, fails to strike with you, just don’t read it. Put it on your shelf. Never be stuck with it. There are so many books out there to be read and learned from.

As the saying in sufis goes, ‘what you seek, seeks you.  In my adolescence days, like any other youth, I had my existential crisis. There were far too many questions in my mind. And unfortunately my pillar of strength my grandfather was no more there to guide me. While aimlessly travelling in south India, I met Thimma, a 45-50 year old Brahmin, introduced by my friend. Thimma owned a farm house on the foothills of Coorg district and had married a widow. He was a rebel in a family of illustrious blood line. His grandfather was the first surgeon in Coorg and he proudly displayed his accreditations in his farm house. We spend the night talking about love, wars, philosophy.

The next morning while handing over my morning cup of tea, Thimma passed on a worn out book to me. Its pages were loose, murky yellow and smelled exactly how old books do. Still sleepy, I turned its pages and started reading it. Not realizing I had already read much of it, I turned to its cover and looked for the title – it read- The Wisdom of Kahlil Gibran. I remember standing up and hugging Thimma, who was looking over me. He wryly passed that smile he owned and told me he knew, I would like it. The book was passed onto him by his grandfather. In a matter of time, frozen on its shackles, I remembered my own grandfather. Of the life lessons he taught me. Of being compassionate. Honest to oneself. And more importantly, keeping myself open to new ideas and thought process. It was his blessings perhaps that I found a teacher in Kahlil Gibran. Long after he was gone, he left an anchor for me. Reading ensures to us that we are not alone and protect us from having a closed mind. An open mind is a sea of possibilities.

So, primarily as adults it’s our responsibility to create that atmosphere at our homes, from which our children learn. Children, as it is, are great learners. They pick from us what we do. Consciously and sub consciously. I was lucky to have a grandfather who created this atmosphere around us. We must pledge to do the same.


Faheem is a Kashmiri IT professional based in the UAE 


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