My stuff had been scattered since 2013 with lots of moving and transfers of myself and parents here and there. Finally, there is little stability with us and I got the chance to collect, open and rearrange all my boxes and bags over past 5 years. I started, of course, with my books. It’s an emotional exercise, to be least dramatic in all honesty. I keep pausing at each book, unable to move on, wanting to write down something for the part each one played I my life. Its going to be a while before i am finished sorting through, and stacking them.
I have liked books since as far as my memory jogs, and the typical Indian upper middle class fam that we are, we firmly believe in preserving anything way beyond it’s expiry date. Naturally, we have fine copies of books that trace back to my parents’ student days. Yet, in the past 5 years, all 5 of us have been in 5 different centres of India, and visiting each other or carrying to/from each other I lost track of most of my books and I am quite frankly nervous as I open box after box, and touch each one of them, doubtful how many of them will be with me and how many are lost or given away or damaged beyond repair.. its like my whole brain and soul journey scattered out. Some of them were awards, some signed copies of authors, some exchanged, some amazing discoveries at a dilapidated street shop, some bought overpriced, some a promise of everlasting friendships, some came as gifts and blessings, some remind me of times and people gone by, some give hopes of a pending reunion or of solving something unresolved, some came as healers, some egg me on for further growth, some want me to write something myself, and some I regret reading.
This copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was in the box that was ruined in the Chittorgarh floods of 2016.
It was the first in the series, even before it was renamed as Sorcerer’s Stone. Earlier it had survived teacher’s disappointed anger in school, sibling rivalry at home, gotten mysteriously lost before exams and magically reappeared after results, passed from friends to neighbor’s kids, got snatched, torn, cellotaped, wet, dried, yellowed. I acquired more HP books in the series and now I even own a brand new giant illustrated shiny edition of this and another HP book (it was a thoughtful birthday gift from mAh BFFs), yet, this particular copy remains indispensable. I discovered and fell irrevocably in love with many more meaningful authors and subjects and books later on, but this is something that I haven’t yet outgrown. The story and the entire world woven by J.K.Rowling may not qualify as great classical literature, but it is a music that chimes through most readers who were born in the 90s. With her clever metaphors, symbolism, acronyms, allegories and the gripping, captivating portrayal of characters dealing with what most humans deal with: friendships, loyalties, betrayals, loss, love, ecstasies,depression, victories, failures, generation gap, racism, homophobia, class inequalities, dissent, ambition, politics, bullying, healing, camaraderie, violence, and the spiritual and psychological aspects of death; she was our initial lessons in sociology and humanity.
The book is shabby and yellowed, but it shall stay. A copy preserved for decades to come. It starts with a chapter “The Boy Who Lived.” I like to call it “The Book Which Lived.”