Sunday, July 31, 2016

Library Girl – A Romance

I love reading books.

During my student days – and later – during my Navy days – I had easy access to good libraries – and  I could easily satisfy my appetite for reading books. 

After retirement – since there are no libraries (or bookstores) near my home – I have to drive a long distance to my library to read there and pick up my dose of books – and – owing to the distance – and – the terrible traffic scene in Pune  I can do this once or twice a month. 

Last week – I met a lady who lives near the library. 

“You are so lucky – you live so very near the library – that – you can go there every day to read...” I said to her. 

“I have plenty of work to do – I have no time to waste reading books...” she said. 

“Surely you can find an hour or two to go to the library which is so near your house...” I said. 

The lady suddenly lost her cool – something seemed to have snapped inside her – and she shouted at me: “I am not idle like you – I am a busy housewife – I have no time to waste reading books – also – I hate reading books...” she said. 

So – that was the real reason she did not ever visit the library which was so near her home – she hated reading books. 

Of course – I observed that she had plenty of time to see movies – to spend the entire day shopping in malls – and – to attend various social functions and kitty parties – but – she had no time for reading books. 

All this reminded me of a story I had written sometime ago – of a girl who was exactly the opposite of the lady I have mentioned above.

Here is the story...

LIBRARY GIRL
Story of a Girl Who Liked Books
A Romance
By
VIKRAM KARVE

“Excuse me – are you returning that book…?” a feminine voice said in my left ear.

I was standing in front of the library counter.

I looked towards my left.

She was a good looking girl – of my age.

The girl was pointing to a book I had kept on the counter – an ‘Anthology of Short Stories’ – a newly arrived book in the Library.

“No. I am not returning the book. In fact – I am borrowing this book for reading…” I said.

“Oh – I thought you are returning that book – I have been desperately wanting to read it ever since I saw the cover on the “new arrivals” notice board…” she said.

“I too want to read this book. You can borrow it from the library when I return it…” I said.

If the girl thought that she could charm me into giving her the book – she was mistaken.

I will never “sacrifice” a good book – even for the most beautiful girl.

The librarian across the counter asked for my library card – stamped the return date on the book – and gave the book to me.

The ‘good looking girl’ was still standing beside me.

“May I see the book…? the girl asked.

I gave the book to the girl.

She looked at the cover – browsed through the book – and she gave it back to me.

“I really want to read this book. When will you be returning it…?” she asked me.

“Next Sunday. I will return the book next Sunday…” I said.

“You come to the library every Sunday…?”

“Yes. I come to library on Sundays…” I said.

“I come to the library every day. I study in the college down the road and live in the girl’s hostel next door…” she said.

“Well – I live in the Engineering College hostel…” I said.

“Oh – that’s quite far away…”

“Yes. That is why I can come on only Sundays…”

“Oh – I am lucky I live in the hostel nearby. I come to the library every evening after classes – and – nowadays – sometimes – I come on Sunday mornings too…”

“What are you doing – BA – B.Sc. – or…?”

“Of course I am doing my BA in Literature – I told you that I love reading…” she said.

“Well – I am not as lucky as you are – I too love literature – but – I am stuck with boring ‘Engineering’…” I said.

As I smiled a ‘goodbye’ to her and started walking towards the exit – she said to me: “Don’t forget to bring the book next Sunday. And – make sure you give it to me. I will be waiting here in the library from 10 o’clock onwards…”

When I went back to the hostel and started reading the book – I thought of the girl I had met in the library – and – in my mind’s eye – I nicknamed her ‘Library Girl’.

Next Sunday – I reached the library at 10:30 in the morning – and – I found the good looking ‘Library Girl’ waiting for me in eager anticipation – well – she was waiting eagerly for the book – not me…”

From then on – the ‘Library Girl’ and I met every Sunday – in the Library – mostly in the ‘Fiction’ section – especially searching for Short Story Books on the “Short Fiction” Book-Racks.

I discovered that – our reading interests were similar – like me – ‘Library Girl’ too loved reading ‘Short Stories’ – and – we often discussed the short stories we had read – and we recommended books to each other.

I looked forward to meeting ‘Library Girl’ every Sunday.

I enjoyed being with her – as we browsed the library bookshelves together – and talked about books and our favourite short stories.

Believe it or not – but – we did not take our relationship to the ‘next level’.

I was a “shy type”.

And – maybe – she was the “shy type” too.

Ours was a unique friendship – an exquisite ethereal relationship – a platonic love so delicate – that one wrong move might destroy everything.

So – we both probably wanted to keep it this way – and – our beautiful Sunday morning ‘bookish’ relationship went on for a long time.

Days passed – months – years – and – one Sunday – after our morning ‘Library Time’ – as I said ‘goodbye’ to ‘Library Girl’ – she said to me: “Wait – I want you to meet ‘someone’…”

“It’s already 1:15 – our mess closes at 2 – and it will take me at least half an hour to cycle down to my hostel…” I said.

“Please wait. I will treat you to lunch. I want you to meet someone…” she insisted.

So – I waited – I sat down next to her in the reading room browsing through a literary magazine.

I could see that ‘Library Girl’ was eagerly looking at the entrance – waiting for her ‘someone’ to arrive.

Suddenly – she nudged me.

I looked up – and – I could see that ‘Library Girl’ was smiling at her ‘someone’ who was standing at the entrance.

We walked to the foyer of the library.

‘Library Girl’ introduced her ‘someone’ to me.

“He is my fiancé…” she said to me.

Then – ‘Library Girl’ introduced me to her fiancé .

“He is my ‘Library Boyfriend’ – the one I told you all about…” she said to her fiancé.

Her fiancé treated us to lunch in a classy restaurant – after all – he was a rich businessman – a smart guy from New Delhi.

Notwithstanding her ‘engagement’ – my Sunday morning friendship with ‘Library Girl’ continued.

But – soon – her BA course was over – and – we met for the last time in the library.

“My course is over – I am winding up my things here and I will be going home tomorrow…” ‘Library Girl’ said.

For her – ‘home’ was Bangalore – where her Army Officer father was posted then.

“Why don’t you do your MA in Literature here in Pune..?” I said to ‘Library Girl’.

“No chance of further studies for me,” she said, “my wedding is fixed next month. They were just waiting for me to complete my BA. And frankly – I am not really interested in studies – I just want to read plenty of books.”

“You will be living in Delhi after marriage..?” I asked her.

“Yes.”

“You are very lucky.”

“Why?”

“Delhi is the best place for book lovers.”

“Really…?”

“Yes – there are so many excellent libraries – and wonderful bookstores where you can browse – and – every year – in winter – there is a magnificent Book Fair at Pragati Maidan...” I said to her.

“Wow – it’s going to be so exciting – I am really going to read books to my heart’s content,” she said, “I am already feeling like going to Delhi…”

“Yes. Delhi is a Book Lover’s Paradise. You are so lucky…” I said.

“And you…? What are your plans…?” she asked me.

“Well – I have got one year to go to finish my Engineering – then – maybe I will take up some job in the industry – let’s see…” I said.

Then – we said our last ‘goodbye’.

I did not ask for her address – and – neither did she ask my address.

Why ask for the address of a destination where it is not desirable for you to go…?

We knew that our platonic friendship was destined to be a transient relationship – like passing ships – and – we ourselves had intentionally kept it that way.

So – we said our last ‘goodbye’ – and – ‘Library Girl’ and I – we parted company.



3 YEARS LATER

Three years later – I saw ‘Library Girl’ in the Library.

She was browsing books in the ‘Fiction’ section.

‘Library Girl’ saw me too.

She smiled at me.

I smiled back at her – and – I walked towards her.

“What a pleasant surprise…” I said to her.

“Yes – I am so happy to see you too. So I can see that you have continued your ‘Sunday Morning Date’ with the Library…” she said.

“Yes – I still come here every Sunday morning…” I said.

“You work now…?”

“Yes – in a factory.”

“That’s great…” she said.

“And you – what brings you to Pune…? I asked her.

“My Dad retired from the Army last month – and my parents have settled down in Pune…” she said.

“Oh – so you have come on a holiday…?” I said.

“No – I have come to Pune permanently…” she said.

“Permanently…?”

“Yes – I have come to Pune permanently.”

“What happened…? Don’t tell me that your husband has relocated to Pune…?” I said.

“No – he hasn’t relocated here – I have left my husband – I going to divorce him…” she said.

I was taken aback – and involuntarily – I uttered: “Oh…”  

For some time – I was confused as to what I should say to her.

Then – I said to her: “I am very sorry…”

“It’s okay…” she said.

We looked at each other in silence – I did not know what to say.

After some moments of silence – ‘Library Girl’ looked at me and she said: “Do you know the reason why I am divorcing my husband…?”

“Why?”

“Books…!”

“Books…?”

“My husband – and his folks – especially my ‘mother-in-law’ – they did not like my ‘reading habit’…”

“What do you mean…? How can anyone not like someone else reading…? It is such a harmless and quiet activity.”

“It was a joint family – lot of socializing – plenty of relatives and guests visiting all the time – and – my mother-in-law always wanted me hanging around – especially – if someone came over to visit – and people were always coming over to visit us throughout the day…”

“So…?”

“So – whenever I went to my room to read a book – my mother-in-law would keep disturbing me and calling me out – even when there were no visitors – she wanted me to sit with her and watch soaps on TV…”

“You could have read books at night…”

“Ha Ha – at night – well my husband certainly wasn’t interested in reading books with me in bed…”

“I am sorry – I didn’t mean…”

“The fact is that no one in that house was interested in reading. You told me about libraries – browsing in bookstores – visiting book fairs – that Delhi was a paradise for book lovers. But – whenever I tried to go – they would put some obstacle – some social commitment would always pop up – either someone was visiting us – or – we were visiting someone – or going for some ‘event’…”

“But – you could have mutually adjusted – talked to your husband. Why the extreme step of divorce…?

“I did not like them ridiculing my reading habit all the time – I told my husband – “you can criticize me – but don’t ridicule reading – and – don’t denigrate books and literature…” – but he did not listen – no one showed me any consideration – and they – my ‘in-laws’ and all their relatives – they kept mocking me for my interest in reading books – it was very humiliating…”

“Oh…”

“One evening I had gone for a book launch to a famous bookstore – the book was an anthology of short fiction – and while an author was reading out her story from the book – my husband barged in – and – he literally dragged me out saying that his business partners had suddenly decided to come home for dinner and I was required to be present at home immediately to ‘host’ them…”

“Really…”

“Something snapped inside me – and – I decided – ‘enough is enough’ – and – I left my husband’s home the very next morning – and – I haven’t gone back since…”

“I am very sorry to hear all this…” I commiserated with her.

“Hey – I am okay – there – in my husband’s home – I was feeling ‘suffocated’ – now I am feeling much better after I escaped from that stifling atmosphere…” she said.

“That’s good – so we will see you in the library every Sunday…” I said to her.

“Of course – in fact – I have decided to do my MA in Literature at the college nearby – so I will be here in the library more often…” she said.

“Wow – that’s great…”

‘Library Girl’ looked at me – and – she said to me: “Hey – I kept talking about myself all the time. What about you…?”

“I told you I work in a factory – in the auto sector…”

“Are you still a bachelor – or have you got married…?”

“I got married – 6 months ago…” I said.

“Oh – Congrats – so where is your wife – haven’t you brought her to the library…?” she asked.

I looked at ‘Library Girl’ – and I said to her: “My wife hates books…” 

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This blog post is a revised repost of my story MY LIBRARY GIRLFRIEND posted online by me on April 28, 2016 in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/04/my-library-girlfriend-library-girl.html
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