Friday, August 29, 2014

The Library Class

During my high school days, apart from the regular subjects like the languages, science, mathematics, and social studies, we also had some additional classes on subjects like moral science, physical education, and so on. One such class was the library class. It was probably called that because it was handled by the librarian. It was a class that was completely dedicated to discussions on books. English books, novels in particular, were introduced to us in this class. It was a wonderful escape to the world of imagination.

Our teacher, DNR, was definitely a fervent book lover. He had a very efficient way of introducing a book. I can see him in my mind’s eye now, as he appeared in the class, greying-haired, bespectacled figure moving around in front of the black board. He would start a session by first listing on the blackboard, with a neat hand, the main characters from the book he had chosen for the day. Sometimes, if a break preceded the library class, this story outlining on the blackboard would start even before all the students were seated in the class.

Later on, I have gone on to read some of the books that DNR introduced in those classes. Novels like The Lost Horizon by James Hilton, The Airport by Arthur Hailey, a crime thriller titled Not Safe To Be Free by James Hadley Chase, and so on. Each one of those books has left an impression on me, not least because I first heard about them at an impressionable age. The love of books and reading was in me from an early age. The world of English fiction was introduced to me by DNR, and his library class. The selection of the books was also appropriate, as these were stories that could really hold the attention of a high school student. It was obvious that he loved these books. The class listened to him with rapt attention. The stories transported us into another world for the duration.

The books introduced in these classes were mostly from the genre of general fiction and thrillers and not the classics of literature. I think this was a good approach. As we were for the first time getting introduced to the joys of reading, light and entertaining kind of books kept us interested. Obviously, as one gets deeper into the world of books, the magnificent range and variety of reading material presents itself.

Later on, once out of high school, as I got more into the reading habit, I moved from the thrillers genre onto the classic genre.  In spite of not always being very accessible and easy in terms of readability, the classics have offered me a great reading experience nevertheless. When I look back on my reading choices over the years, I find that my list of books includes books from different genres, including a fair number of classics too. In a way though, it all started with the library class.

These days we often hear discussions regarding the importance and relevance of fiction. Internet is making information far more easily accessible but it is also resulting in changes in the way we read. The amount of reading has increased as a result of text-messaging, browsing and so on, but the traditional way of reading books has decreased. Internet has certainly increased the efficiency in generating and distributing information. The question though still remains regarding the impact on the state of reading fiction.

So, why do we need fiction? The answer for that question can never be universal. It is like asking why do we live. For one, maybe it is just the love of a good story. There have been hundreds of witty answers to the question on reading. I liked this anonymous quote- “Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” And this one from Gustave Flaubert,- “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”

I do want to believe in literature and its possibilities. 

DNR and his library class definitely helped in instilling the curiosity and enthusiasm for literature. Years later, I had a chance to meet DNR again. In 2010, I was back in my school for a reunion and he had come there too. Now, completely grey haired and long retired, he looked older. I went up to him and introduced myself. He seemed to recognize me but not distinctly. I told him how much I used to like his library class and mentioned some books that he had covered. I think he was pleased that I could remember some of the books he had introduced to us.

More on my favorite books here-