By Sunita Pandey, 52, Lucknow
I spent most of my youth in Lucknow in a family of voracious readers. Doing well in exams meant five second-hand books or one new one. Dad was deeply disappointed when I refused the offer of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex as a 13th birthday present. At 18, I loved it.
The one constant in my life as wife to a forest officer and mom to two children, as we moved from place to place, was books. In Ramnagar, it was crumbling tomes in forest rest-houses. In Moradabad, it was AH Wheelers at the railway station.
In Agra, the purchase I remember most was Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy; spending Rs 500 on it was a big decision. Hardoi was a book desert. The few officers who were fond of reading kept a hawk’s eye on who was buying what from outstation trips and then borrowed shamelessly.
Dehradun, in contrast, was an oasis. The children were enthralled by the tradition we established of book shopping at the end of every exam. The happiest memory of a three-month stay in Bangor in Wales is of the free library. Eight books at a time. Pure bliss.
In Meerut, a favourite place was a little library in Civil Lines. Their arbitrary payment system left me bemused but I had fun browsing. In Kanpur, the campus library in the Forest Training Institute had some excellent works in Hindi.
Now I am back in Lucknow. From the first book In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, I have become hooked to my Kindle app. Reading Banaras: City of Light by Diana L. Eck, a gift, in paperback is almost odd.