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The unwanted book

I looked at that book on my shelf. Even though I didn’t like it, I admired the book very much. It’s strange, isn’t it? I think so too. It takes me back to that day in Trivandrum city.

It was a sweltering evening in Trivandrum city. My father and I occasionally visited the city in a year, about once a month. There was always something new to watch every time we came to the city. Sometimes it’s a unique fair; sometimes it’s a special exhibition. Not to mention the arrival of new guests in the city zoo. And also the various competitions arranged at Gandhi Park. The city never lacked ideas to entertain us.

This time, we were headed to a fair at Kanakakkunnu Palace. The fair was conducted at the sprawling ground in front of the prestigious palace. It’s a major activity hub in the city. Each time a fair is announced there, it would have a specific theme. I think the theme that day was ‘The roots of Kerala.’ I remember seeing so many traditional and cultural displays that day.

It’s funny how I got my ticket to enter. My father tricked the cashier into giving me a low-cost ticket for kids under six years old. I was seven. The cashier just peeked at me through the small hole used for receiving the cash. No one could tell the difference.

We entered the fest through a majestic arch placed at the gate. It was decorated elegantly with cut-outs of various art forms of Kerala. Kathakali and Mohiniyattam took the main attraction at the centre.

I glanced across the various tables arranged in a row on both sides as we strolled. Clay sculptures, glowing lively paintings, old hats and umbrellas weaved out of coconut leaves— everything produced a nostalgic beauty. It was a long but exciting walk. Although, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in those displays. Even though the fest was based on a theme, it had small stalls with toys and video games like a regular fair. So naturally, my eyes went at those instead.

My father is a peculiar man. I had never seen him waste a single penny. So, despite my brutal struggles, he didn’t buy me any video games from the stalls. Instead, he bought me cake and sugarcane juice from the kitchen stall located adjacent to those videogame stalls. I looked hungrily at those video games while sipping the juice. That’s all I could do.

My father’s second-most frequent and well phrase was ‘Don’t waste a single dime on anything we don’t truly need.’ His first was ‘Go and study! Or else no television for a week.’

We were nearing the exit of the fest. Near the exit located so many Malayalam books for sale. I loved books, especially Malayalam storybooks. When it comes to the matter of books, my father showed no miserliness. He wanted me to read as many books as he can. Because he himself had a time when he wanted to read but had little money to buy books. He collected used books and studied them hard, which resulted in earning a job under the state government. Reading saved his life out of misery.

He bought me the storybooks I wanted. He also bought a book for himself. The book was based on money management. Not surprising at all!

Just then, my dad approached a pale old man who was sitting at a lonely corner. He had a small table in front of him with two bundles of books. Interestingly, both the bundles contained the same book. My father smiled at the old man and bought a book. I was told to hold it. It had a cheap book cover and looked more like a magazine than a book.

As we walked out of the exit, I ran my eyes into the book. It was a Malayalam poetry book. I was surprised.

“It’s a poetry book !” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” replied he, coldly.

“Dad, you don’t like poetry books,” I remarked in wonder.

“No, I don’t. But you might like it.” He proceeded to walk again.

“Dad, you know that I don’t like poetry either.”

He let out a sigh. “Whatever! You just keep it.”

Whatever? I couldn’t understand him. Why is he acting so different now?

“You always tell me not to waste money on anything we don’t need,” I said with aspiration. “Then why did you buy this book? It’s of no use.”

He turned back and took that book from me. Then he leaned down and showed me its back cover. The photo of the author was displayed on the cover. I recognized him instantly.

“That old man,” I muttered.

“Yes, my boy.” He said as he patted my head. “He was selling his own book in this age. His bundles were untouched until we approached him. And that’s the only book he had. He needed money. He needed appreciation. I just wanted to help him.”

“But—”

“Sometimes we do things that give us no gain but helps other people.” His words reverberated in my ears. “It’s humanity. It’s just what we are.”

I couldn’t grasp that statement clearly at that moment. I simply thought he was just giving away his money to help the old man. An act out of sympathy. But later, I realized what he did. It was not an act of kindness. It was a token of appreciation for his book. I hadn’t cared to look at that old man’s face after we bought his book. Since I am a writer now, I could now see what his face reflected. I know what it feels like. That happiness when someone buys your book. That feeling when you know that someone is putting off their precious time to read your book. My dad is a remarkable person. He did what little he could do to make this world a better place. He didn’t consider it as a great deal. He thought of it as a fundamental quality of being humane.

 Once again, I stared at that book. Just to remind me that sometimes you do gainless things because it’s the right thing to do. It’s just what we are.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Happy Read

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