Some books become old friends, the ones whom we don’t get to meet up with much but who would be the first ones on the spot when you need a shoulder to cry on. Likewise, these books lie in some darkened corner of the bookshelf, gathering dust over the years as newer titles in colorful covers make their appearance there. But one day while dusting you would take down the much thumbed copy of your favorite book and as you leaf through those yellowed pages you would glimpse little friendly waves, rekindling that cherished friendship all over again.
After my marriage last year I moved to Pune and most of my book collection remained behind at my parents’ home in Mumbai. In every visit I would cram 3-4 of these in my bag to carry back to Pune, blatantly ignoring my husband’s question about where we would store these. In my last visit I happened to pull out my copy of “Born Free” by Joy Adamson. It is a beautiful hard cover edition with superb illustrations of the lioness Elsa and her human adoptive parents and extended family. This book had been a companion of my childhood and had contributed immensely to my fascination and love for the animal kingdom. The pages, once stiff and crisp, now lay yellowed and the binding had cracked at places. But I believe a book is judged by its cover. If it looks brand new even after having spent years on someone’s bookshelf, ten to one it’s never been read. But if the cover is rundown it just speaks about the hours it has spent in the hands of someone poring over the book. I quickly packed the book in my bag, deciding it to restore it in its place of honor on my bookshelf. For once my husband made no protest for he had spent some time rifling through the pages of the book and was quite looking forward to peruse the story of Elsa at leisure.