Sweet Freedom and the Love of Books

Shine, sweet freedom
Shine your light on me

– Michael McDonald

It was in 1981 that sweet freedom finally shone her light on me.


In 1981 I escaped the claustrophobic confines of Burn Hall School and entered Sri Pratap (SP) College as a freshly-elongated fuzzy-faced 14-year old.

Three glorious years later, having lived thrills worth several lifetimes, I left for medical school as a man in every sense of the term. The person I am today is just a slightly wiser but more cynical version of my 1983 self.


Last week, after too long a time, I returned to SP College to attend a book fair. It was a bittersweet experience. Beatific memories at every corner were tempered by despair at the descent of the college from stately decadence into outright decay. Unkempt lawns, soul-less concrete buildings jostling the old architecture, and garbage dumps where the tennis courts used to be.

There is something seriously wrong with the way we are treating our heritage. The more money we throw at the insatiable monster that masquerades as progress, the worse things seem to become.


The book fair had another unwelcome surprise in store. I had expected throngs of book lovers to be crowding the stalls. As it turned out, apart from a smattering of college students and a few government officers, only tradespeople connected to the fair seemed to be in attendance.

I made a number of visits to the fair over three days and picked up a selection of exquisite books from the vast collection on display. Apparently the Mirwaiz had also visited the fair and advised a young, impromptu audience that a careful selection of reading material was essential for the progress of a nation.


Surely there would have been a book for every taste and pocket, but very few people seemed to be interested. What a shame!

Even as we blame our ebbing love of books on the movement/militancy (which is our favourite catch-all excuse for every ill that ails our society), we should take a look at For the Love of Books.