Value of printed words
I never liked the idea of selling old books or newspapers as a kid. My room was a small library. I used to keep Sunday editions of most newspapers. I didn't want to sell my textbooks. I loved to collect everything I had ever read — even my K.G. books. (Gulmohar was my favorite.) I had to reconsider value of the old newspapers when their volume kept growing. At the end, I decided to sell my archives of The Kathmandu Post and The Himalayan Times. I sold all the copies of The Hindu and The Statesman except their Sunday supplements. But after a few years, there was no room for those supplements as well. But I didn't sell them. How could I sell them? These were my textbooks. My room was my real school.
Then I had to leave. After I left home, there was no one who loved them as much as I did. When I was a kid, I used to prefer comic books to my textbooks. I spent all my money on them. Mother was worried about my studies, but I couldn't change my ways. Finally one day, father decided to tear all my comic books, dozens of them, and threw them outside. That was the first lesson of my life.
For my family, like for everyone else, old newspapers didn't deserve a place in their rooms after a certain time. After I came here, they first moved my treasure collection to a room on the ground floor which nobody used. Images of my newspapers in that cold, dark room started to haunt me for a few months. Then it stopped. I had to grow up, I had to live with this. Then, I realized I wasn't going to read those old papers again. Why should I keep them? But a part of me kept on saying: Will you also leave your beloved when they become old and 'useless'?
Today I had to sell old books and newspapers again. The two men who had come to my flat to buy those printed words got 12 kgs of them. Last month, I had to shift to a new flat and sold well over 15 kgs. I asked them whether they have children. They said yes.
'Don't they go to school?'
I found an old dictionary among the books I was going to sell. I had a newer edition of the Oxford dictionary but I didn't want to sell the old one just for 6 rupees a kg. So I decided to keep it.
I also had to sell pages that I had cut from those papers because there was no point. I cannot take them along. I sold them as well. They were stuffing those papers into a jute sack, when I did a funny thing that prompted me to write this post.
I took out the dictionary and told them: 'I will give you this dictionary if you promise me you won't sell it.'
They looked surprised, they didn't know how to respond.
'I am giving it for your kids. In which grade do they study?'
There was a pause. A long one.
'My son is in the eighth grade,' one of them said, taking the book from me.
'Give it to him then, and tell him to study. But don't sell it. If he's a dictionary already, please ask him to give it to one of his friends who doesn't have one. But don't sell it. OK?'
He nodded silently, and then they left.
March 7, 2009
Value of printed words