Thursday, June 15, 2023

If it were not for books


wrote this a few years back in response to Prof Ayan Banerjee’s call to list 10 of my favourite books. If floated up on Facebook again And frankly, I was stumped. And as I kept reading this old post I thought of curating this as my blog as well.
Now, It's not as if I am not used to requests but requests of such intellectual proportion have seriously not been a regular occurrence. So, I was tempted to start with Swapan Kumar just for the play but it wouldn't have been right. So here I go. 
At an age when kids go out and enjoy a game, I was given a space of a few metres of a blind lane and access to the district library in Baranagar Ramkrishna Mission. Beyond that was a world full of violence, police raids and conflicts of sorts that were believed to have a corrupting influence on a young mind, and, of course, the real physical danger of stopping a stray bullet. 

 I had learning difficulties. Coming from a family where scholastic achievements and literary fame came easily, I was a skeleton in the cupboard as it were. But that lack of recognition was made up many times over by the books in that library and my father's collection. 

 Well as I said I had a middling intellect and an eager tongue. And I was fairing poorly in school. This was the time when I stumbled upon জীবন স্মৃতি by Rabindranath. What I am today is primarily because of that book, elementary physics, Euclidean geometry and Asimov.
Ayan Banerjee stay on. 

 I am curious to know how many of you reading this piece still remember the intro that Tagore wrote the way only he could. He writes that life paints pictures on the easel of memory and the facts blur. So what he was going to write shouldn't be checked for historical veracity. It struck a chord in my young mind. 

And then came Euclid. And somehow even my middling intellect latched on to the importance of an intro while communicating something. I realised that even literary efforts needed a structure as did academic articulation. 

While for years my mother and my teachers were trying to drum in an academic sense into my dyslectic mind, Tagore and Euclid together achieved the feat effortlessly. 

And then came elementary physics and the concept of relative motion. While for a lot like you, the difference between Newton and Einstein may have opened the gate for figuring out the intricacies of the physical world, to me it came as a justification for what I was -- a being with a middling intellect. What I was, I was. 

What I am today is what I am -- the product of a complex journey, a being defined by its course etched in my memory, a person defined by others from their relative perspective. Wait for Asimov. As is required I invite my cousin Ananyo Bhattacharya to join me in this journey. 
Illustration done by Dall-E

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