Books and romance are intricately intertwined – not just romantic books, but even the romance of reading, letting you live many lives in one!
As an academician, my father often visits different colleges and universities, speaking with and motivating students and staff members. On one such recent visit, he met an elderly librarian who very regretfully said that students do not visit the library anymore and the books seem to be lying unused. Next day, my father jokingly expressed that he had missed telling the students that books hold the promise of bringing romance to their lives.
Before the internet era, while reading a book whose pages had browned with age, you could often be pleasantly surprised to find a dried rose in between the pages. Perhaps, someone had received it from their lover and kept it safe from the prying eyes of family. A book was often used to conceal and send love letters to one’s beloved. A book can provide an excuse to strike a conversation with someone. It can be a beautiful gift with a personalised message written in a stylish, cursive handwriting. A book is also a quick way to discover shared interests or philosophical orientation. Many a love stories started because women were charmed by the ‘Shayari’ (poems) that were spoken in their honour.
A rare book was sometimes recommended by the college professor and the lone guy who would have accessed this book would roam around the entire campus showing it off. This was often done in the hope that some beautiful girl would request for it. The exchange of books and resultant conversation could possibly be the start of a relationship.
Who can forget the scene from the Hindi movie ‘Mere Mehboob’ where Sadhana dropped some books and Rajendra Kumar bent to pick them up. Their hands touched accidentally for a fraction of a second and he caught a glimpse of the girl behind the veil. And he fell in love instantly. In movies, the library was often a place where love between the hero and the heroine blossomed. It was a place where future lovers would exchange surreptitious glances between the stack of books. I particularly loved the scene in the movie ‘Sarfarosh’ where Sonali Bendre leaves her scarf on the bookshelf in the hope that Aamir Khan would pick it up. When he walks away without noticing it, she looks heartbroken. This scene of quiet longing is such a stark contrast to a scene in the movie ‘Befikre’ where the heroine climbs up a table in the library and starts stripping!
With the advent of ebooks which are not only cheaper but easier to access, many amongst us are reading them. I have known several book lovers who have been thrilled to discover the ebook reader. However, their happiness is often ephemeral and they start missing a ‘real’ book very soon. I can understand if they do because there is something so immensely romantic about holding a book, turning its pages and breathing in it’s intoxicating smell. It is a prized possession but somehow it is hard to say that about an ebook. You have it yet you don’t own it.
Books are often a way to access a bygone era, an unknown culture, understand a personality type, imagine an alternate world or unravel a mystery that you have been thinking about. The element of accessing the unknown or mysterious is a romance in itself.
The act of expanding your knowledge or imagination is a great stimulant for the brain. There is so much to know and discover in this world. Even if we read one book per day every day of our life (which may practically not happen!), I don’t think we would be able to exhaust the vast reserve of knowledge that is available. To most of us, this may be fascinating and exciting in our own ways.
Just as books led to many a romance, real life romance became the inspiration for many books.
It is widely known that Rabindranath Tagore’s work was deeply influenced by the wonderful women who were part of his life especially his love interests. Some of the books that found inspiration from real life romance were ‘The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas’ by Gertrude Stein, ‘The Mandarins’ by Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert and ‘Tender is the Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
As George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” This is true of women too! I would take the liberty to improvise and say that the reader not only lives a thousand lives but he experiences a thousand romances too! Books and Romance truly have a mutually nurturing relationship.
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