the habit of
SHE went to the wardrobe to get a saree. A book was lying flat on it. Just out of curiosity, she flipped through some of the pages and she was hooked. She leaned against the wardrobe and went on reading and reading totally forgetting the reason she was there. That is how Una is. Reading books is like an addiction for her. She read her first Maxim Gorky while she was in class four, without understanding what was written in it of course. She usually has a book on her lap while going to the office by bus. She reads something when absentmindedly cooking a curry to choke the members of her household, when she is eating or when she is in bed at night.
People like her who are totally into reading books are very rare around us. Most of us have not adopted the habit of buying books and reading them or of going to a library every once in a while just to read for pleasure. Our literary experiences are limited to going to the Ekusher boi mela every year, hanging around there for a while, and buying a few books (usually easy reading novels), which later end up in bookcases in our living rooms.
We confine books, and thus knowledge, to bookcases. This is probably why decent libraries are scarce in Bangladesh. Book collections in most of the school or university libraries are limited to academic specialties. At the para level libraries are totally absent.
Very few libraries are moving forward. Bishaw Sahitya Kendro, popularly known as Kendro is one of them. Abdullah Abu Saeed, a well-known face to all, established Kendro in 1978 with a slogan 'Alokito manush chai'. It started slowly, but later it turned out to be a success. Situated in Bangla Motor, it is the hub of many young minds. From 4pm to 8pm on weekdays, one can go and dig into the books. One can also become a member of Kendro. Two types of membership exist: you can become a member for Tk 200 and read only the books that cost Tk 150 or less, or you can become a member for Tk. 400 and read books of any price. Members can borrow two books at a time. Kendro also has mobile libraries - a large bus full of books plays music while visiting 150 location in Dhaka, on different days. It stays at each spot for several hours. People of all ages can read at and become members of these libraries. This fascinating idea was first introduced to the people in 1999. Outside Dhaka, activities are limited. There is a mobile library in Chittagong and soon they will be introduced in Khulna and Rajshahi.
Central Public Library,
situated in Shahbag, with its enormous reservoir of books, has become
a dating ground for young lovers. Most of its books are unutilized although
numerous people visit the library everyday. According to library officials,
"the book collection reaches several lakh. It is hard to give the
exact number because new books are regularly added to the existing collection".
Book lovers with different tastes can go there from 8am to 8pm, although
there are no membership facilities. Fiction and fundamental books of
all disciplines are available. The library is closed on Fridays and
on other government holidays as it is a government enterprise.
Shishu Academy maintains a large library for children only, situated beside the Doel Chattar inside the DU campus. Any child with minimum reading abilities can become a member. The membership charge is very little, only Tk 100 and it is refundable. Membership is valid until the member's SSC. The library is open 7 days a week, from 9am in the morning to 4pm in the afternoon. Members can issue 2 books for 15 days. Non-members, including adults, can visit the library.
Narigrontho Probortona is worth mentioning for their interesting book collection. The name reveals it all. Books written mostly by female writers are available in Probartona. The subject matter of most of the books is women and their issues. Only a few years ago books written by women and books on women were hard to find. Narigrantha Probortona was established in 1990, and their goal was to make these books available and in the process promote gender equality. It is situated at 2/8 Sir Syed Road, Mohammadpur.
Knowledge may be obtained by many means but learning from books can never be replaced. Books help shape the world of creative imagination in a person as they make one think ardently of the subject the book is dealing with. Before the advent of electronic media, there were only printed materials to satisfy the human urge to gain knowledge. When electronic media invaded everything, experts suspected this was the end of printed media. They were of course proven wrong. As I have mentioned before some things can never be replaced and books are one of these.
Books written decades ago by Robindranath, Nazrul, Bibhuti, Manik. Tarashankar and Leo Tolstoy, Jean-Paul Sartre or Mark Twain still fascinates many people. Widely loved characters like Durga or Aupoo and Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn will never whither away from people's hearts. Bonolota Sen of Jibonananda or Manik's Kushum are still objects of desire. "Tomar jekhane shadh chole jao" still bemuses many and they still romanticize about Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera'.
This is why Una still loves to read. This is why she has a huge collection of books at her house. Many people still go to bed at night with a book as their perfect partner.
By Shahnaz Parveen
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