WHAT I DISCOVERED WHEN I ARRIVED WELL BEFORE LAUNCHING A BOOK: One is a stickler for punctuality and often arrives well before the others. Especially, if one is surrounded by books. Yes, I was invited to launch a book, something I have done often enough. Let me spare you the details and tell you what a wonderful experience it was to browse through books.  It was almost like returning home. Indeed, having been brought up in an atmosphere where reading was a passion, where four of the rooms, including even the living room, were stacked with books, I found the surroundings happily familiar. But I was the lone figure being followed by the Sales Executive at a major book chain. To my utter dismay, I later learnt that the place was a suitable rendezvous for many. That, surely, is not the purpose a bookstore is set up for ? I was not shocked when I learnt that reading books was on a sharp decline. True, everything is going digital and we must welcome changes that would benefit us but must we now necessarily opt for e-books, if offered the choice? That, to put it mildly, would be a tad too sad and not very healthy for the eyes. When people seek advice from me on how they can improve on their writing and speaking skills, without batting an eyelid, I answer, “read, read and keep reading and stick to short, simple sentences!” Something, after all, sinks in the subconscious. And, that is what really matters. The other option would be to await the consequences that Ray Bradbury had predicted in a futuristic, totalitarian age when reading becomes a crime in “Fahrenheit 451″ ( the temperature at which paper burns).Whenever I have visited London, I have spent hours browsing through books, old and new, off Leicester Square. They welcome a familiar face, offer a chair and a cup of coffee too. There is no question of these quaint stores and shops turning into a rendezvous. My place is a ” mess” because of books, files and papers. But it is my home, my “pavilion” so I refuse to be apologetic. Especially, when a neighbour arrived unannounced several years ago to offer some unsolicited advice,”Get rid of these books or you would have rats and worms all over the place!” Happily, the rats and the worms, proverbial or otherwise, have left me and my books in peace. I simply cannot imagine a world without books and creativity. Can you?  ( Writer Utpal Chatterjee is in picture above)

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