Thursday, October 18, 2007

Second hand books

Circa 1990s....
Me: Again second hand books? Why can't I have new ones?

Amma: Ganeshan Mama has been so kind to give us the textbooks every year. We did not even ask him. He and his wife volunteered and we couldn't refuse. It would have ben rude.

Me: But can't you just tell them that I don't like it? Arrey, I want new books ma. Why don't you understand?

Amma: Shobha, how does it matter? The books are in a very good condition. When you have such good books, what is the need to buy a new one? You can always buy other books with the same money. Tell me, don't you think the books are good?

Me: But I don't want other books, I need NEW textbooks.

Amma: Tell me, don't you think the books are in good condition?

Me: Well, yea...they are.....but.....

Amma: I think buying new books would be a waste of money. We will not spend money on something that we already have.

Me: But all my friends have new books. Only I don't have them.

Amma: Shobha, don't compare yourself with your friends. Everyone is different. Besides, is there any difference in the old and the new book? It is not as if your textbooks contain old matter in comparison to the new ones.

Me: You are being totally unfair. (I leave the room crying)

2007: SMS conversation

Me: Ok, what book you want for your b'day?

D: Give anything you want of your choice.

Me: Hmmm...ok...Will it be ok if I give u second hand books? Tell me if its alright with you. If you don't like the idea, its perfectly ok. But let me know.

D: I love second hand books.

Me: :)

From being close to tears because my parents forced me to use second hand text books in school to actively buying and gifting second hand books, I have come a full circle today. Unnecessary consumption can be stopped whenever possible. Sometimes, I realise my parents were so cool. My parents came up the hard way. The economic backgrounds of their families weren't particularly flattering during their childhood. However their lifestyles did not radically change once they started earning well. It is remarkable that they have continued with their simple lifestyle. Amma still follows the adage of 'Simple living and high thinking'. She proudly flaunts it. Hehe...

'Hand me downs' are never fun, especially when you are a kid. C'mon, whoever likes using old stuff? Not surprisingly, I always used to be at loggerheads with my parents when I was in school. Most of my school textbooks were second hand. Our family friend Ganeshan mama's son was a year older to me. This effectively meant that all his school textbooks were handed down to me after a year.

At one point of time, I used to think that we are very poor as compared to my friends because of this annual ritual. Only poor families did things like this, no? Indulging in self pity was an annual ceremony (It makes me laugh now). The ill-feeling with my parents would last for a month or so, before all my friends' books started resembling like mine and I would be normal again. Worse, after a point of time, my books looked better than their new ones.

This used to bother me quite a bit. I once asked Amma if we indeed are very poor. I remember Amma having laughed at my question. She assured me that we were not poor but was very firm on having a simple lifestyle. Now-a-days it often strikes me as to how amazing my parents have been in certain ways without even them realising it. I was never a fan of their simple lifestyle and always dreamed of spending extravagantly once I started earning. While I did indulge in some consumerist fantasies earlier, nowadays I see myself constantly questioning it. Earlier I would tom-tom about how retail therapy was an instant cure for depression. Now, I laugh at my own claims.

For the first time I will do something that I have never done before. I will be gifting a second hand book to one of my dearest friends. Amma-Appa have always maintained that it is the emotion behind the gift that matters and not the gift per se. I have never consciously gifted anyone second hand. I always thought, it was not a right thing to do. I don't exactly think likewise now. The 'always' bit can be tampered around a bit. Earlier, my refusal to use second hand books was more to do with my stupid pride. I think I was too bothered about what my friends would think of me.

I now believe that I should use every product till it completely looses its utility value. What Amma intended then makes complete sense to me now. Both the new and the old textbook served the same purpose. So, there was no point in actually buying a new book when I had a slightly older one to serve the same purpose. Besides, it also reduced unnecessary consumption.

The above SMS conversation just reminded me of my childhood. It's amazing how certain incidents can make you look at your parents in a completely different light. I love my parents' simplicity :) I think as one grows older, one starts appreciating certain facets of our parents' personalities which we would never have thought or appreciated before. Come to think of it, I consider my parents' so-called kanjoosi then as simplicity now. Hehe :)

21 comments:

manuscrypts said...

convenient justification :p

Divya said...

Second hand books have more character than first hand ones. This is because they acquire the character of the person they belong to, unlike new books that are virgin. So when one buys a book that has been owned before, one acquires the character along with the book.

Nishant Ratnakar said...

hmm.. nice write up.. At dariyaganj in delhi and at majestic in bangalore, I've picked up quite a few second hand books which rather being gifted to someone you love ended up in a pawn shop... When I open them I get to read very interesting things scribbled on them... will tal about it later

kpowerinfinity said...

Well, I didn't have to use a lot of second hand books/clothes as a child because my sis was much older :-) However, I have given off a lot of things, including hand written notes in classes and tuitions. I wonder what people understood from that!!

Specifically about second hand course books, one problem I had was that I have always been extremely finicky about having anything scribbled in my books. A lot of people write stuff down (sometimes in pen!) and I would have found it intolerable cruelty. I myself never wrote anything down in my books...!

Of course reading second hand books is fun, because usually people don't scribble stuff in their books, and also because in most cases, you would know that this book must have passed through so many hands, so many people must have read it cover to cover, and it probably gives it more character.

Thinking aloud said...

this is so true...it is very difficult in these days of plenty to bring up children in a simple lifestyle...

***I think when one grows older, one...*...u've hit the nail right on its tiny head...

Shobha said...

Manu: Kuch bhi.... Def not convinient :p

Divya: Agree.... Though in my case atleast, I was not romanticising about this fact, hehe :) You know wot I mean no?

Nishant: You should some of the books to me :)

KK: Oh, I know people who can't tolerate a single line by a pencil on any of its pages... My cuz is one of them :) I write a lot on my books. Passing thoughts while reading a line, my opinions etc etc... I think its an act of instant gratification to communicate our feelings that are evoked while reading it...

Thinking Aloud: Yup, leading a simple lifestyle aint very easy...Hey...Welcome to my blog. I don't think I have seen you before :)

shruti said...

I feel the same way as divya does ..second hand books is something I have indulged in for a long time ..the fresh pages of a new book have never appealed to me for some reason .

Vidya said...

Age defenitely is an eye opener because of the experience/exposure that happens with it. No wonder our elders used to say, respect the old. :-)

Sri said...

Even I managed whole of my engineering studies through second hand books! :)

~Sri.
http://finehall.blogspot.com

Prem Paul Ninan said...

Are you trying to remind me about the Friends CDs? :-p Kidding...

विशाल said...

Lovely post...could completely relate to it!
Mast one after long time...brought back memories of second hand guitars,drafters,drawing boards etc bought out of dwindling pocket money...*sigh...sniff

Sriganesh said...

shobhiee...my new blogiee...

http://finehall.blogspot.com

Shobha said...

Shruti: Ok...now I know what to give you on your B'day :p haha

Vidya: Ummm.... I respect people not because they are old...but because of their idea(l)s and their actions :)

Sri: Hehe...as we grow older, I think many of us resort to second hand books...

Prem: This was not a desperate attempt on my part. But if it reminds you of that...I'm thrilled. I want them soon :D :D

Sri: yea yea...will visit it :)

Shobha said...

Vishal: oops...missed you somehow :) Thank you :) Glad you liked it... :) Yup, those penniless days were lot of fun...hehe

Anirudh said...

Whaaaat?!

Inspite of having become lazy about writing comments recently, I shall intervene here because I see my title (and I have so few of those that I must protest) being taken away.

Statement: I was gifted a second hand book by Shobha Sarada Viswanathan in the summer of 2007.

Was I the first person? I don't know. Perhaps there are others who have been ignored in a similar fashion. If there are, let us join hands and end this unfair practice. Thanking you,

Anirudh Karnick

Btw, you guys might be interested in reading Jai Arjun's 'The stench of old second-hands': http://jaiarjun.blogspot.com/2005/10/stench-of-old-second-hands.html

Shobha said...

Anirudh: Well, I never consciously thought of gifting you a second hand book. Remember, you happened to choose one and I just bought it for you because the whole idea was that you will choose the book you want and I'll buy it for you. It was different in this case. I actually DECIDED to buy a second hand book for D. I had no intentions of buying a 2nd hand book for you. Do you understand the slight difference?

Anirudh said...

Boo hoo!

I wander alone,
Titleless,
Saying I couldn't care less

Boo hoo!

Shobha said...

Ani: BUM!!!!

Anonymous said...

nice blog. I found quite a few second hand books on www.secondhandbooksindia.com

esp PG Wodehouse, Steel, Crichton and a few not very popular authors. I like this site and recommend it.. ;-)

Malesh Ponnusamy said...

Life is all about full circle, though the western world would measure time in a linear fashion, but in reality it is a full circle. Liked your post and your parent's simplicity :)

Aravind said...

This piece reminded me Gandhiji's pencil story with his grandson.No logic but I dont know how I got it in mind?
great mind-set and great write-up.
again saying,a lovely thought