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Books & beyond

BF Block Residents Association Library, situated on the first floor of the community hall, turned 18 this year. Present at the celebration were author Pracheta Gupta and hand shadowgrapher and poet Amar Sen. They contributed to a stimulating discussion on the relevance of libraries in our lives today.

Gupta said he refused to believe that people no longer liked to read. “Today’s children know much more than kids of their age a generation ago. So they have a huge appetite for knowledge. But they no longer satiate their appetite with books alone,” he began. Gupta lay part of the blame on parents, saying they no longer encourage kids to read in fear of distracting them from academics. “Gone are the days when siblings would fight over a Shibram Chakraborty book. But it is reassuring to know that even today Ashapurna Debi’s books earn lakhs in royalty and that the Book Fair sales are still rising.”

Thanks to technology, Sen said, changes in reading habits were inevitable. “Booker Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri perhaps never put pen to paper but typed her stories. No one writes letters anymore. The only function of the letterbox in our houses is to receive the electricity bill. But we still treasure the yellowing hand-written letters received years ago.”

He predicted that libraries of the future would only have computers and that the precious few books there would be kept under lock-and-key, as museum pieces.

Chairperson of the library Krishna Ganguly said they bought 60 new books every year and that their monthly fee was a paltry Rs 10. “We do all that we can to keep the reading habit alive in residents. We have 150 members now,” she said.