The Book on the Shelf

Every time Kamla, the maid used to pick the duster (a rugged piece of cloth) to clean the shelf, the faint glimmer of the golden thread outlining the cover of a book would arrest my attention. The book was a gift from a distant relative of mine and it has held its bastions on that prestigious shelf ever since.

I still remember the day when that book came into my life. It was an inauspicious day filled with rows of colourful hanging balloons and disco lights to celebrate my debut entry in the teenage years. A whole lot of people were invited and a huge pile of gifts adorned the garage space, close to the living room. The space was too large for the accommodation of a two wheeler vehicle and has served multitude purposes at some point of time or the other.

“When would you be able to see your birthday gifts?” asked Samit, one of my very close school friend. He always believed that if not anything else birthdays do give an opportunity to enjoy the praises and gifts especially meant for a single person. The focus of attention always used to create an illusion of a famed celebrity in the milieu of crowd waiting in eager anticipation to shower their love and blessing.

“I don’t know. Most probably, I would be going through them tomorrow.” My hands were itching to rummage through those small and large boxes wrapped in glittering cellophane paper.

As the day progressed and celebrations saw the dawn of midnight, I could no longer able to hold myself from the enchanting spell of those numerous gifts. I quickly made my way to the garage space and the first thing that I could lay my hands on was this book. A shipwreck of a family occupied the cover page of the book. I put that aside and decided to cover the rest of the gifts.

But the prying eyes of my mother made it almost impossible to succeed in my mission.

The next day was a Monday and the rigours of the school brought me back to the reality of those unfamiliar texts on blackboard and the dull coloured blue coating of the walls which closely resembled our uniforms. I always used to wonder whether the school was painted to resemble the colour of uniforms or the uniforms were designed to match the colour of the school building.

“Where is the book that I got on my birthday?” I asked my mother on that evening.

“Oh! Your father has kept it in the book shelf.”

I rushed inside to lay my hands on that book. But alas! the shelf was too high for me. I was not able to reach it even after doing several rounds of hopping and jumping.

Then I decided to use a stool to reach there. A three legged broken stool was lying in the veranda for repair. I brought it inside and placed it close to the shelf. As I began to climb, it started shaking vigorously and though I did manage to get a hand on my coveted possession, I fell down with a heavy gash at the rear end of my temple.

My mother immediately rushed to the spot and took me to the doctor. After a few stitches and a heavily wrapped bandage on my forehead, I came back home. I was strictly admonished to never go near the shelf.

A heavy downpour in the evening now and then was pretty common and it only perpetuated the tenacity of the winters in those northern parts of the region. The large windows almost running parallel to the length of the walls used to provide a gateway to the moisture laden heavy gusts of wind. On one such occasion, I rushed to close the windows and as I glanced upon that golden thread, my mind began to relish the opportunity of getting that book from the shelf. I was pretty grown up by then and my hands would easily reach the top of the shelf.

As I picked the book, a heavy lightning followed by a huge growl of the clouds almost froze me. The transformer in the vicinity of our neighbourhood was in flames and within no time, all the lights went off and only that golden thread gleamed in my hand. I rested that book on the shelf.

As I reached the formative years of my college, the month long summer holidays used to give me ample prospect to spend my time in my favourite pastime of going through journals and books. One day as I was looking at the picture of shipwreck, I immediately made my mind to commence reading that book.

At that very instant, the shrill sound of the telephone made me rush and the depressing news of my maternal aunt’s death filled the entire atmosphere with gloom and melancholy. She was pretty close to me and used to pamper me a lot. Sometime it made me feel that I am very fortunate to have two mothers taking care of me. I have never envisaged the thought of her sudden absence from my life and definitely not her sudden demise even in the wildest of my dreams.

The last few days of my holidays were spent in the native region of my grandmother and the golden thread of that virgin book sparkled among the grime and cobwebs.

As Kamla picked the book to clean the shelf, she complained of feeling a bit dizzy. I immediately took that book from her hand and without a second thought dumped it in the sack of old newspapers and magazines. The next day a rag picker took that sack away.

In the evening, news flashed in the local television channel of a terrible accident between an auto -rickshaw and a bike. The passengers on both sides were safe and the only casualty was the death of a roadside rag picker.


A Post by Sushobhan who blogs at Read to enjoy

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