Tuesday, June 08, 2010
‘The house is getting cluttered,’ everybody started complaining. (After our kids left home for studies circa 2003 and then started working, we’re empty-nesters: it is just the two of us at home. Now you know who’s the everybody doing the complaining!)
Jokes apart, my brother-in-law who came home on a visit called my wife aside and admonished her, ‘What have you done to this house? It was such a nice little place when I came last! Look at this now. Worse than a railway platform!’
My older son who came on a short holiday announced, ‘This house needs to be de-cluttered.’ The next time I come, it’ll be on a month’s leave and I’ll take up the task.’
There a lot of bric-a-brac collected from all sorts of places over four decades – marble statuettes from Bhedaghat near Jabalpur to brassware from Moradabad, lacquered toys from Sankhed in Gujarat, phulkari from Sunam in Punjab, boomerang from Australia and the niniature of the ‘Mannekin Pis (The Pissing Boy)’ from Brussels, what have you.
The major chunk of what constitutes the ‘clutter’ is books. I was a bibliophile since my student-days and after I started earning, I have been buying books. My wife has her own collection of books before our marriage. Our personal collections got married in January 1976 along with us. As our family grew, so did the books. Only, it was not pro rata. With the addition of two kids, the size of the only doubled, but the size of the library grew ten-fold, if not more.
And we have been subscribing to excellent magazines. Apart from the ubiquitous Readers’ Digest and the National Goegraphic, we had the Economic and Political Weekly, The American Review, Seminar and the like.
How do you de-clutter? We asked the school nearby if they could accept the books. The Principal shooed us away thinking we were selling books. When we clarified that we wanted to donate and not sell the books, she suspected that we were planting books that might corrupt the mind of the youth – spreading messages of fundamentalism or violence against one sect or another!
We tried another tack: why not approach government-run libraries? The State Central Library flatly refused: we have no space for any more books. In fact, we are scared that the books from the British Library which closed down a couple of years back will come to us. (Yes, the librarian used the word ‘scared’!)
The University Library said: Please give us a list of the books (In quintuplicate, if you please!) so that we can see if we do not have any of them. We’ll take only such books as we do not have on our shelves.
He sounded as if Article 43 Clause (12) Subclause (k) of the Service Regulations of the Librarians of the University of Kerala stated that the retirement benefits of a librarian are liable to be forefeited if multiple copies of the same book are found in the stock.
A friend told us of a school being run by a former bureaucrat for the underprivileged classes. She was delighted to hear about our offer. The books would be a welcome addition to their library.
So a few dozen cartons of books will soon be moving out of our house to the school library. I feel as if a part of me were being removed but I am happy in the thought that instead of gathering dust, the books would hopefully would be read by scores of boys and girls.