Old Books

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A book is meant to be read, of course, but it's also a physical object to be touched, experienced, even smelled. Jayita Bhojwani has this Perspective.

I had passed by the used-books store often, always meaning to stop, one day. But each day had been too busy, too rushed. Life didn't allow time to pause and linger.

Today I felt compelled and stepped into the dark interior. Within minutes, I was lost in the maze of bookshelves, enveloped by nostalgia and the musty smell of history. I sensed a palpability long-forgotten in this era of online shopping.

Here, browsing had a different meaning; I ran my fingers on grainy covers and traced the engraved letters. I picked up a volume and felt its weight in my hands. I gingerly turned over crisp pages, yellow with age and browning at the margins. I inhaled the woody scent of old paper and days gone by. Here, in these unhurried aisles, I chose based on curiosity; because I was enticed by a sentence or a drawing, and not by five yellow stars.

Inside these books I found beautifully hand-illustrated characters in antiquated surroundings. The first page often revealed a loving inscription in faded ink, written back in the day when handwriting was like calligraphy, and emotions were expressed with words, not emoticons. Who were these prior owners? What did they take delight in? Could we piece together their lives from the contents of their books, instead of from social media updates?


I thought back to my own collection at home, hiding treasured memories. Thoughts scribbled in margins, a pressed flower, a bus ticket, receipts that outlived their stores. After I'm gone, I wondered, will intrigued fingers be leafing through my books? Or will these chapters be relegated to the recycling pile, to take on a new life as a cardboard box, shipping the latest digital reading device.

With a Perspective, this is Jayita Bhojwani.

Jayita Bhojwani is a resident of the Peninsula and lover of books.