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“Once I Touched The Cover, I Was No Longer A Human Of This World”: My Love Letter To Books

Dear books,

Thank you, for being my family; for letting an 8-year-old misfit in, and never letting go. Thank you for doing the biggest thing this world has failed at- keeping me safe. I say ‘me’, because this is a love letter from myself. There is a galaxy of children you have saved, I’m sure, but today, it’s just us. For once, I’m not writing for anybody else, but me.

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Suggested read: “Books Promote Empathy, To Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes”: #NLTTalks With Aisha Arif Esbhani

To the books that changed me,

Where would I have been without you? I’ve seen the world in 10 million colours, through your pages. Literature teaches us that the world can never be monochrome; that human beings are too complex to fit snugly into minimalist binaries. I believed my professors because you had shown me a thousand different worldviews over several years.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, is a cheat sheet to life. A beautiful paradox in the way that it undresses life to show you the naked truth, but there is nothing you can do to change any of it. The train of life will take you wherever it pleases, and you understand now the engine works, with no access to the chamber. Kundera is a master, and somebody who has affected me in a way hitherto unknown to me.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand keeps recurring in my conversations. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I confess that I’d be a very different person had I not stumbled upon this book. Some stories touch you so sincerely that they become ideologies. I’ve picked so many fights to defend Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. They were people who taught me the fallacies of societal altruism; the need to be somebody else. In the race of becoming self-less, we are losing our own selves. So, Ayn Rand taught me ‘selfishness’. She taught me how this world runs on logic, why you are the best thing you will ever have. In doing so, she saved me from a million more heartbreaks than I found myself in.

Today, if I see The Fountainhead glistening on the shelves of pristine bookstores, I secretly smile knowing that it’s about to revolutionize the life of another child who stumbles upon it.

If I see the book on a dusty corner of another house; it’s pages thumbed through innumerable times, dog-marked, owned- I immediately feel at ease. This is a house that has witnessed revolution. While it’s still too early to be Rand’s time, I hope and pray that her time does come. Till then, I’ll cradle the book in my arms and know that there is a community of people that understand exactly the way I think.

To the books that broke me,

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You were brutal. You’d think that the advantage of being fiction is that it could choose not to hurt, but that would be too utopic, wouldn’t it? The Bridges of Madison County is the book that has caused me the most amount of pain. I cried for hours, clutching the book tightly to my ribs. I still feel a shudder run through me whenever I catch the book in somebody’s arms. That kind of love, should never see that kind of trauma.

I love John Green with all of my heart, but he sure knows how to make it hurt. Like Holden Caufield said, he’s the kind of author I’d want to be best friends with. I would like to throw soft pillows at him after reading The Fault In Our Stars; soft enough not to hurt him, but hard enough to make a point. He’s a beautiful soul and it comes through in his books.

The Old Man And The Sea is a book that’s thinner than my fingers. It’s a tiny book, with a larger-than-life story to tell. I could not believe that 127 small pages could leave me silent for days on end.  The Swiss Family Robinson was a book about a ship-wrecked family. An unassuming book of some 80 odd pages; the kind you got for awards and never really read. It’s been in my life for 12 years now, and at no point have I loved it any less.

Some books waltz into your time, tear you apart, rearrange your organs, and never really leave. I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve spent crying over stories that I had walked into, and who in turn, walked all over me. But I’m glad we met. To any story that needs to be told, to any story that is bursting with the galaxy in it, my heart is open for you. In a love letter, or a thousand, I hope to be able to tell you exactly how grateful I am.

To the books that kept me up at night,

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You’re the reason I sleep in college. I’ve improvised diseases on the go to cover up for the red eyes and absent mind in class. I have a feeling that my professors understand it isn’t the cold anymore. I have a feeling that they know I’ve stayed up all night chasing alongside a detective, or falling in love with a ‘villain’. But they don’t bring it up. They never call me out. Do you think it’s because we share the same secret? Do you think they stay up at night too, with stacks of answer-scripts growing behind them, but their minds refusing to focus on anything outside the covers of a brand new book? Possibly so. That is perhaps why they are all the more human.

I’ve heard of people who fall asleep with books in their arms. It sounds wonderful and lucrative. Don’t jump to conclusions, I’ve tried that too. I’ve been cozy in a cold room, with a dim reading light, wanting to read just a few pages in bed. Before I know it, it’s dawn, the book is over, and I’m holding it close, not wanting to step out of the world that welcomed me with so much love. That is the only thing I dislike about books. As you come, so must you go. There is no excuse, no staying back, no ‘one-more-please’, no permanent residence. In a way, it’s just like our lives, isn’t it?

Suggested read: By Women, For Women, Of Women: The NLT List Of Books By Women Writers You MUST Read, If You Haven’t Already

To the fictional characters who lived or died,

I’ve loved you. I’ve loved you in a way I haven’t seen reality replicate. When Dustfinger died, I spent several days watching matchsticks burn, imagining them to be his fingertips. I’m lucky I haven’t grown attached to The Song of Ice And Fire (Game of Thrones), yet, or else I’d have died with characters on every second page. Death doesn’t sit well with me. On or off the paper.

Robert Kincaid is the reason why several women are still single. Oh, the list is endless. When he said he was the “last cowboy”, a community of bullied misfits felt it knock on their hearts. That is the thing about books. They know you too well. The surprising part being, they embrace you as you are. Now that is something the world did not teach you to expect, did it?

To the books that made me forget where I was,

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You built me a storm-shelter in a busy street. Once I touched the cover, I was no longer a human of this world, no. Much like The Magic Faraway Tree of Enid Blyton, I’d climb atop the words and vanish into a different galaxy. Nobody could follow me there, and I wouldn’t return unless I wanted to. On particularly tough days, I seek you out. When my hands feel the pages, I am no longer the child who scraped her knee, the adolescent who witnessed her parents fight, or the adult who broke up with the love of her life. I am merely a passer-by. I watch, I admire, I feel, but none of it is mine, and there’s some solace in that.

To the books I read in secret,

You’ve been special. During particularly boring classes, I hide behind an over sized bag, and lose myself in a book. It doesn’t help that I exclaim quite audibly every time I hit upon a new theory, though. I’m quite stupid that way, but a part of me finds that joy too pure to have to hide.

On days when the curfew catches up with me, I hike the blanket a little higher, smuggle a tiny torch into my pillow, and read into the night. There’s no separating us now, is there?

There were several books I read before it was time. I refused to believe that anything at all, in the realm of pages, could be forbidden to as ardent a lover as I. So, I grew up a little faster than intended. I still haven’t arrived at a resolution as to the benefits of that daring move. Yes, I saw the world more clearly, and understood human beings faster and better than was expected of someone my age. I do not say this out of a sense of pride, but an inherent sense of loss. Sometimes, I feel that ignorance really is bliss. It would be so much easier if I could view the world in black and white, and activities as right or wrong. My heart would be so much lighter if I did not find psychological theories behind serial killers, or an inherent disillusionment in the cogs of this giant machine we call ‘the world’. But the beauty of it all, would I be willing to forsake it? I do not know. The only truth I’m aware of is that there is no going back now.

Suggested read: Top 20 Amazing Books You MUST Read In Your 20s, The Defining Decade Of Your Life

To the world of books that brought me up,

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Thank you. A love letter, no matter how long, falls short in light of the 13 years I have spent loving you. There are piles of books I haven’t read, and yet several piles more that I keep buying. Sometimes, when college gets too hard, and assignments weigh you down, I revel solely in your company. When I’m sad, I take all my books out, dust them, read random pages, stack them into towers around me, and sit there like a child in her pillow fort. Those are my grounds, that is my kingdom, and I am safe. I forget what is bothering me, I forget that there is a world outside I must return to, I forget everything apart from the tower of pages standing tall around me. Sometimes, when I finish reading a book I love, I pat it like a child. I could go on till the end of kingdom come, but I must stop. There’s a book on my table, that has been eyeing me for several hours now. I must go.

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Article Name
A Love Letter To Books
This is a love letter I wrote to a world that welcomed me as an 8-year old, and has kept me safe all these years; this is my love letter to books.
Meghalee Mitra

Meghalee Mitra

My introductions have always been "I'm too awkward for this." My exercise routine comprises oscillating between being serious and bat-shit-crazy, laziness, and hyper-activity. I love words, live for food, and am always looking for magic.