A very senior author who is a neighbour, wanted to read books by Ruskin Bond. My mother told her he’s one of my favourite authors, and now one of his books from my collection is on the way to the neighbour’s house.
Books have always been a way to say ‘I love you,’ in our house. We’ve given each other books for various occasions and even for no reason, as long as I remember. One of my most prized birthday gifts was from my elder sister and her husband. It was Rs 1,000 that blew up on books. Today that sum does not have much value. But when I was a teenager then, quite some time back, it was a lot of money.
So I had found myself in a bookshop buying a treasure trove of words. I brought the books home and covered them with plastic, as is my habit, to protect them.
I also write my name and full address on the first page of the book.
It was on one such occasion, when I had bought new books, that tai (my sister) told me it wasn’t enough just to write my name and address on the book. She told me I should write my name somewhere on the inside pages too. “Why?” I asked her, wondering what quirky advice she was going to give me then. “It’s because someone who has borrowed your book and doesn’t want to return it, will tear off the first page with your name and address. But no one tears a page from between a book,” she said. Strange advice I thought, but believed it immediately and followed it.
While choosing a book to lend my neighbour, I saw I had written my name on one of the pages inside.
It’s certainly not a fool proof method to prevent a book from being stolen. A thief will take it if she or he intends to, despite the owner’s name or address on the first page or inside! But like many crazy things my sister told me and I listened to, I took this too, seriously.
After all these years, seeing my name in the middle of the book, brought a smile to my face. Evidence once again, of my mad kid-sisterly obedience.