Wanted – A Place to Read and Relax

Dec 19, 2010

Mangalore has everything an ordinary citizen could possibly need (okay, okay, except decent roads and uninterrupted power supply), but what it lacks is a place for one’s intellectual development. And by that I don’t mean the endless seminars and talks organised now and then, nor do I mean colleges and not even libraries. What I mean is a place where one can  simply sit on a nice cosy armchair or a beanbag, relax with a cup of coffee and read one’s favourite book (or for that matter, any book) in complete silence, without noisy interruptions from blaring sound systems or chattering teenagers.

I have often had this idea. In fact, I am one of those (or perhaps the only one!!), who on any given day is most probably found in a cafe with a novel or a notebook writing down whatever her thoughts dictate. Around me will be hordes of people, mostly teenagers or college-goers in their early 20s, laughing over god knows what, but loud enough to put the blasting music to shame. The quietest ones are the couples, who do nothing but gaze at each other with silly smiles and talk, or seem to talk, in whispers. And there’s also the LCD, tuned to channels nobody wants to watch, with no volume so that you are forced to watch the monkeys on Animal Planet lip sync to Munni Badnaam hui.

The best part is, amidst all that cacophony, all those hurrying waiters, and that deafening music and boisterous teens, I find peace and quiet with Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy, or my dear diary.

But this is not about my peculiar ways of living my life. Back to the topic, what Mangalore needs is a place where one can truly unwind with a book, or whatever one wants to do without being a pest to others. We have malls for improving our physical fitness (the wallet too gets to shed its weight) by all that walking it takes to traverse its length and breadth. We have a so-called park for spending a lazy evening, and beach to remind ourselves that it’s our oldest and still our most favourite mode of entertainment for a fun outing with family. We also have a host of restaurants and food courts to put on enough weight to make it worth shedding at the gym, plus the theatres that are either too hot or too cold.

And then we have the libraries – libraries which have some notorious customers like me who forget to return the books on time, but have no space wide enough to walk without bumping against a shelf or tumbling over books sprawled on the floor. Not to mention the pathetic condition of the books, what with their covers hanging on to dear life and the books themselves with half their pages in the grave.

My professor in college, who I greatly respect, had told me once that Mangalore is an intellectually dead place. He was from Kerala, so it will not exactly amount to city-drohism (something like ‘desh-drohism’ – sorry, couldn’t really find a better term). Anyway, may be to call Mangalore intellectually dead is going a bit too far, but definitely it’s not in good health. We have so many colleges, but how many students would be aware of what’s happening outside the sphere of their own lives? We have book shops where, to find a classic like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre you need to make at least three rounds in three weeks of at least three different booksellers. And salespeople who, when you ask for “Wretched of the Earth” get you books by all the Richards on earth!!

Being a city of so many languages, perhaps it’s fair to say literature has seen considerable advancement in languages like Konkani, Beary and Tulu. Yet, here too it seems that literature of a language is confined within the community rather than being more pervasive. Unless you are specially interested, chances are you wouldn’t know the great writers of these literatures, mostly because our education is such that we would know all the poets of 16th century England, but not those who made our own mother tongue language so rich and beautiful.

What we need is more than just sporadic reminders in the way of seminars on vernacular literature, in fact, what we need is an effort at the academic level to make the education system more fluid where literatures of different languages can merge, rather than be ‘specializations’ which ultimately end up being little more than exam-oriented courses.

That apart, as I said earlier, our city needs a place to sit, relax, sip coffee while enjoying a book. A well-lighted place (by which I mean plenty of natural light and not dungeon-like places), with comfortable beanbags and armchairs, and NOT study tables, making up the furniture. Where there are rows and rows of books on all topics, in all languages of local interest including, of course, English, where one can actually shift the furniture to suit one’s comfort. And where there’s enough space so that you don’t have to live with that awful feeling that your neighbour is staring at the page you are reading, and where you can walk without having to watch your feet. Also, a coffee machine which of course you will pay for, and neatly arranged tables just in case you need to write. And no music (those who want it are free to bring their MP3 players, provided they use earphones), no talking aloud, and no, it’s not meant for noisy reunions, or for phone calls. At such a place, if we ever get one, I dream to sit by the window reading Jane Austen. That, for me, is life.

And for all those who come up with the answer ‘home’ to read and relax, well, that’s not my point. The experience of reading ought to go beyond that – even though reading late into the night by the lamp has its own charm, to be truly refreshing, a similar change in the ambience does a lot of good. And without television, visitors, and phone to disturb you hundreds of times, reading, or for that matter, writing at a place I elaborated earlier would truly become an experience to be cherished. And somehow, I find concentrating an easier task in a cafe rather than at home, in fact, I did a lot of my exam preparations in a cafe.

And for all those who feel the ambience does not matter as long as the book is good, well, that’s not my point either. Basically, I agree that any book can be read anywhere, still, having such a place would enhance reading habits in people, where they don’t really need to take the book home and return it the next week with the regret of not having touched it. They can simply come with their own book and enjoy.

The problem is, few people will have the time to spare for a reading place, what with work, malls, theatres, beaches and restaurants consuming most of our lives.

By Anisa Fathima
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Comment on this article

  • Dr Kiran Acharya, Manipal

    Thu, Dec 23 2010

    Nice writeup. Highlights the need for such facility very effectively!
    Similar request for display of art in every new apartment getting constructed was suggested, however commercial interests dominate over intellectual!

  • Anwesha, M'lore/Dublin

    Thu, Dec 23 2010

    A sentence in your article that you prepare for your exams in the cafe reminds me of one of my friends who had to go to the Railway Station or to bus stations to study becoz she needed that kind of distractions to concentrate! Very Unusual!!!

  • Anil Dsouza, Halealve/Cardiff

    Tue, Dec 21 2010

    Hey Anisa, Fantastic writing. i thoroughly enjoyed it.

    U r absolutely right, every town in India should ve a cozy place which serves food and allows one to read and write. Here , there is one big library with bean bags and cozy armchairs where one can just relax next to a pile of books.

    British Council libraries usually have these..

    Keep writing and hoping to wait in a queue in some cozy reading place in Mangalore to get an autographed book of yours. God bless

  • Sanjana , Mangalore/ Bahrain

    Tue, Dec 21 2010

    Dear Fathima,
    Your views are good. Yes no doubt its a wonderful dream to see. As my dear friend Ajay said, in UK they have such facilities. Yes many countries, we have all these facilities. But just think pratically is this possiblein our city. Hey not to demotivate you, but Fathima... do you thing , if such a kind of park cum library is made in the city. u think people will utilize it in the right way... ? A topic to discuss. Am sure many readers will not agree with me. But it may also be a place for frnds to meet, pairs may cum( pretending to read books) in fact finally there wont be any reading , only chatting and coffee . And the guys who have come seriously to read will be affected.
    But once the rules and regulations are bit stict..people will slowly follow them. Then it will work.
    Dear Fathima...i just wanted to think the other way, so that when u plan to workout such a thing...it may help you to make it better or the best.
    So all the best...take care


  • Max & Jessie Rasquinha, Mangalore/Houston, Texas

    Mon, Dec 20 2010

    Dear Shaikha Fatima, "Salaam-alekhum" and a big Namaskhar. Your article makes us feel guilty whether we missed anything in the form of providing a suitable quiet place or a suitable book collection to all community members when we provided a comfortable and luxurious airconditioned library at our own home at Valencia for more than ten years under the banner of "International Orientation Center". We treasured more than 20000 books of all types, fiction as well as non-fiction from Philosophies to Psychologies from Business to Health to Environment from Finance to Economics to anything and everything. We also provided the Videos covering all educational, religious, political and historical topics. We provided the music, and we even providedv a coffee pot with free coffee and cookies. It was all free to the public. We hardly had anyone visiting us - so much so, my brother felt that we were just throwing our money outside the window because Mangalore is still not ready for quiet reading, quiet intellectual concentrating, or quiet private life. We gave away our 20000 books to so many organizations, and we have at least another 2000 books in my home library for my own reading.

    We thought we share our feelings and observations with you, if you don't mind, please.

  • tia, m'lore/yemen

    Mon, Dec 20 2010

    I'm reading ur article for the first time and trust me ur fantastic :)All so true u mentioned.I'm far from m'lore ryt nw,please write more articles on how m'lore's present condition is,i really misssss my place :( m'lore rockzzzz :)

  • Umesh Rao, Mangalore/ Muscat

    Mon, Dec 20 2010

    Can we get directions to IRA in Jeppu?

  • Gauri, Mumbai/Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 20 2010

    Please check this wonderful place called IRA in Jeppu :)...just to read :)

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    It is an interesting article to
    shed light on an important topic
    which is being ignored.

    As we have more avenues of
    easy entertainments, the habit of
    reading is totally ignored.

    Richard Nixon, the former U.S.
    President was a great speaker and
    author. In his book " Leaders"
    he has aptly written " One common
    characteristic of virtually all the great leaders I have known is that they have been great readers.
    Reading not only enlarges and challenges the mind it also engages and exercises the brain.
    Today's youth who sits mesmerized
    by a television screen is not going to be tomorrow's leader.
    Television watching is passive.
    Reading is active."

    We need to
    cultivate the habit of reading
    very early in life, also we must
    train our children to be good

  • Fazil, Bangalore/Coorg

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    Fantastic article Anisa. Totally agree with Janette D'Souza. Your choice of words and the humor is great. Good article. keep up the good work sis....

  • jaleel abdul, kukkaje, kanyana

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    waw!!!!! excellent article keep on writing anisa keep it up

  • Robert Netto, Mangalore

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    Dear Fathima, i get your point. Cafe would be a better choice but as you said there are problems that you have mentioned in the article. For me it was definitely not about your writing skills, I completely get what you are trying to say through the article because i also love reading novels and i have not been able to find the right place.

  • Ajay, UK

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    Very well written and very much true.Here in the UK we always find people with a book on the bus or trains which are of course less crowded and noisy.The central library is very spacious and people could go and read there as well.I wish some one started a reading zone in Mangalore... It could be in a part of a mall,park or even a spacious library.

  • Janette D'souza, Mangalore/Abu Dhabi

    Sun, Dec 19 2010

    Simply love to read your articles Anisa. It has more to do with how you write your articles than what you write. It doesn't mean that what you write is not important to me but I simply love the style of your writing. In fact, you are one of my most favourite writers of Daijiworld.

  • theo d'silva, kadri/toronto

    Sat, Dec 18 2010

    dear fathima,
    your writing skills are excellent, and one day you will be a great writer of novel. wish you goodluck.

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