Bookmarked

I grew up in a fairly small-sized house. As a kid, at times, I thought of it as a challenge and wished that my father should have gotten us a bigger place to stay. After completing graduation, I moved out of my hometown. I got a nice job or two and moved to cities like Delhi and Mumbai. There, I stayed in much fancier and bigger apartments.
I tried to make up for the size of my childhood home by spending more money on rent and more time between those walls. Over the years, I earned enough to have more distance between the walls when I shifted from one place to the next.
As a writer, one thing that remained constant throughout these years was my love for reading. During the four years in Mumbai, I’d often pick up books from Crossword or the tiny bookstalls on the streets of Andheri. I’d be talking to my father over the phone later that day and telling him about the Jeffery Archer novel in my hand. He’d respond by saying – “Why did you have to buy that one? We already had it at home.” He’d even share the spoilers for fun.
Nevertheless, that phone call always transported me back to my childhood home and, specifically, to the one-third of that house that my father had filled with books.
There were multiple closets lined with fiction novels by authors such as O. Henry, P. G. Woodhouse, Hemmingway, Jeffery Archer, John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth, and many more. I particularly remember this green cabinet built inside one of the walls that did not take space inside the house yet had ample room to host a hundred classic authors. It’s funny how I struggled to find space for books in my new apartment, but he had managed to have a mini library for us.
An established writer himself, that was one gift he had quietly bestowed upon his kids. He instilled the habit of reading in us quite early.
That gift stayed with me through the years of growing up. When I was on a flight to Delhi for my first job, it was with me. It gave me company during the nights in Lucknow. It kept me entertained during my daily local train rides in Mumbai, and more importantly, it made me who I am today.
I could never complain to him about not buying a bigger house, but I will make sure that one-third of whichever home I stay in will be reserved for books.
I once wrote about preferring paper books to Kindle ones. A few of the readers mocked me by calling me anti-technology. I do not blame them. Maybe, they never got to smell the musty old books and be transported into another time. Perhaps they are unaware that one could ‘favorite’ special corners in their life with a bookmark so that their future selves can revisit that space.

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The year is 2030.
You live in a macro-rental housing society inhabited by a thousand more people living in matchbox-shaped houses. Google owns it, and they call it a Smart box.
You are in your late thirties. Almost everyone you know works at Amazon or Reliance. Today is Friday. You decide to use the accumulated points on your card. The employers have given you one day’s leave for a month. The office shares a social media update on your behalf – it is an animation of you thanking them for being a great workplace. They brand it as a wellness time for employees.
You decide to go out for some beer. At the café, you meet someone and have a little chat. They dislike your opinions and give you a low rating with two stars.
You hop onto an Uber bus. The facial recognition app greets you by your Citizen code. The driverless bus runs over a bunch of people. Thankfully, they are all homeless, and the system ignores it as an error.
The Spotify chip in your ear begins to play a track by Imagine dragons, but it is interrupted by an advertisement asking you to upgrade to a pro-premium account.
On your way back, you decide to stop at the local Kindle store. You dimly remember it used to be a Crossword book shop at one point. They are all Kindle stores now. You sit down and join a few others who are watching elections. You really hope that the Tesla guy beats Adani to become the new global president. He has promised to run a contest for free tickets to Mars every year.