CS Sharada Prasad | libraries
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What is it that I would miss?

When I go back to India for good, what is it that I will miss the most? It is the public library system. I am very attached to Berkeley Public Library(BPL). I go there at least once a week, sometimes just to ogle at the stacks of books! It is nothing compared to the Gardner Main Stacks at UC Berkeley library, but BPL is still a great public library. I can check out up to 50 items. Through Link+, I have access to all California public library books. I choose the book online and it is delivered to BPL for pick up  I can now borrow audio books and ebooks too. With a valid California ID, one can walk into any public library, become a member instantly, and borrow books that moment.

This reminds me of my childhood days back in Chitradurga, my visits to the public library named as (Sri Krishna Rajendra Library). The library was attached to my preschool – Rotary Bal Bhavan. On Saturdays we were allowed to play in the shared compound. I was not too curious about the library then. When I was in 7th grade, I became more observant of the reading habits of my cousins from Bangalore. During their visit, I went to my public library where they borrowed books under my father’s name. I also decided to try out a book. If I remember correctly, it must have been some Hardy Boys book. I looked at the last page, some 223 pages in all, 14 days borrowing period. That means I had to read 223/14 = 16 pages everyday!

Reading English books was a torture. My medium of instruction was English but that did not help me much with my spoken English or the ease of reading English books. I was good with basic grammar (we were taught eight parts of speech, and few tenses, nothing more). But my vocabulary sucked and I was not familiar with the writing style of English novels. Each page took me close to 15 minutes. I forgot the names of the characters. Names confused me as the author would use first or last name depending upon the situation. It was hard for me to relate the names with gender. I wrote down all the names of the character, the mutual relationships on a paper and frequently referred to them. I never finished a single book till I reached college.

When I was in Bangalore for my 11th and 12th grade education, I visited Shankar Circulation Library, a private library near 8th cross, Malleswaram, with my cousins. My first English book I read end to end was some Tintin comic book. I don’t remember  its name. I was 16 and I did not understand that comic fully. My classmate VIkas Raykar was a great inspiration. He had many but different books at his place and no television. I was very surprised to find someone who liked books more than television.

It’s been 12 years since I stopped watching television. I commuted for two years on my bicycle to Arghyam listening to podcasts and audio books everyday! Daniel Bachhuber introduced me to Radiolab and Google Reader! I soon got hooked to podcasts and RSS feeds! My life is filled with books and podcasts now. I read when I have free time. I read to procrastinate my research. My reading interest has now expanded to  fiction, non fiction, humour, history, and comics! Ever since I have discovered audio books, my life is filled with more joy! BTW the book “How to read a book” has been amazingly helpful!

As you can see, I have a lot of catching up to do! If you started reading at a very early age, you are fortunate. But I don’t envy you. There are many people in my country who will die without reading even a word their entire life! (30% of Indian population is still illiterate). I now have friends on campus and outside who keep inspiring me with their reading zeal. I find goodreads more interesting than facebook for that reason.

I am in love with Beyondpod and Poweramp apps on my android. Beyondpod allows me to download all my podcast subscriptions (link my podcast subscription here). Poweramp provides me with a great interface to play my audio books and audio files. Coolreader is my favourite ebook reading app on my android tablet.

There is one other important aspect of my current life in Berkeley which I will miss a lot, may be the most. It is the conversations I get to have with people here.  I am almost afraid to go back to India for this reason. What if I don’t find similar set of people back in India? May be that is what life is all about! Trying to find familiar things in unfamiliar places! Even if I decide to stay in USA, my social circle will dissolve soon after grad school! I should learn to cope with change!