Monday, 15 June 2009


One of the things that struck me when we were in Mussoorie at our parents' place were the books.

It shouldn't have surprised us of course - since most of the books are the fruits of the years of study abroad - as well as a life-time of collecting books - on top of the reams of mission and devotional books that our parents have.

Looking at them was like seeing a mosaic of old friends.

Some of them were my companions in college classes (the pain of buying a new edition at the ridiculous academic prices still hurts). Others were found in old book stores, or sales, or in library discard piles. Others were received as gifts - or bought with the intention of giving (esp. when within the family - they stay...).

A whole bunch were bought from AH Wheeler railway kiosks. Usually looking for something 'decent' or cheap (hopefully both). Some were from my first pay-checks in Bihar. Others were hand-me-downs from folks who went away.

Special mention for the Tintin comics - totally devoured by Asha and Enoch who discovered them with a vengeance this holiday. Many of them had been painfully bought from old-paper-wallahs in Bombay days. Their cousins - the carefully bound library of Commando war comics did not make their appearance. It will be another 5 years or so before we want the kids to be delving into the inticracies of WW2.

More books lurked up in the first floor - Mum and Dad's square library - with many veterans of our childhood of growing up in OM still lingering there....

But the strange thing was that this time the meeting was an awkward one.

Part of it was the dead core tiredness that I carried up with me to Mussoorie (happily, it seeped away with lots of love and cake and chai and conversation).

Part of it was the sheer numbers of books. Waiting. So many unread. So many needed a re-read.

The other side of the strangeness was a feeling that I am not really sure I wanted to read them all. I remember Peter Bowers, my room-mate from college days telling me that he was happier to read the Bible than all the other books. I thought how narrow that seemed at the time. But looking at my books again I realise the truth to what Peter said 20 years ago.

Though all truth is God's truth - and a good novel or a gripping history or an excellent textbook or a brilliant travelogue will get you far - the Book of Books is the one that I want to spend more time with from now on.

Its not an either or - but more of an issue of priorities. Since I have not been reading much over the last few years I want to start up again. But I also want to go a lot deeper into scripture - to let it seep through me. To think in the patterns of the writers. To know the underlying rhythms and cadences. To bite deep and not just send flat stones skipping across the surface.

Evidence of my decision. We brought back a huge bag of books. Before we left Mussoorie I managed to overcome the awkwardness and devoured The Man Who Knew Infinity a biography of the amazing Tamil mathematician S. Ramanujan. As a family we started The Tower of Geburah (and read it over some magical hikes to nearby hills - as well as on a sweltering train journey back). On the way down I pondered over Spiritual Revolution - a history of Operation Mobilisation. Currently Sheba and I are reading through The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce. Our books are out again in the front room courtesy of a new metal shelving unit.

At the same time I am chewing through the Gospel according to Matthew. Fascinating stuff to see a man who was a collaborator with the occupation authorities join hands with a man who was a revolutionist seeking to overthrow them - all because of this man Jesus and the new relationship he calls people into.

It is exciting to see the kids start digging into books too. Asha is a busy reader. Enoch tries to read words - but prefers to be read too. We have some wonderful experiences coming up as we explore new worlds through books!


  1. I read this post a few days ago and have been kicking it around in my mind. As someone who has a deep love for fiction and wished I could read hours a day every day, the balance of Word/literature is one I'm always struggling with. I think they can be mutually beneficial and especially hope that my reading of fiction augments, not diminishes, my love for the Word.

    I just came across this interesting quote from Martin Luther:

    I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature pure theology cannot at all endure, just as heretofore, when letters [literature] have declined and lain prostrate, theology too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate; nay, I see that there has never been a great revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and letters, as though they were John the Baptists. . . . Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies, as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily.

    Martin Luther, Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523. Werke, Weimar edition, Luthers Briefwechsel, III, 50.

    I guess I'll keep striving for fullness with both.

  2. Thanks Ben,

    The Word illuminates the world (though we so often do the very opposite).

    Der Gute Martin certainly proves to be pithy and very apropos to this topic. Amazing what a German monk was able to set in motion - and how Catholic his tastes were.

    What dismays me about a lot of fiction is the total bleakness and sordidness of it all...