Sunday, November 13, 2016

Purani Kitaabein - #1

During the early months of 2015, I wrote a long draft about few books that I was fond of in my relatively younger years, and about how I could not find them due to lack of meta-data. The draft was later discarded. But I kept looking for those books on the Internet, without much hope. The search for them still continues today when I find time. 

This blog post is the first one of the series that will follow eventually.

The book title was नन्हे मुन्नो के लिए भौतिकी (Physics for Kids) from Mir Publishers, Moscow. The book was translated from Russian into Hindi. Early 90s it was, I was in 1st grade then. The book had short stories about children performing simple experiments and learning the fundamentals of Physics while they were at play. It was a great book, and I loved it. The book passed through some of the very significant stages of my early years. It had crayon, pencil and pen scribblings while my hands made themselves gradually comfortable to use these tools as I grew older. A few pages were even stained with daal/sabzi, thanks to me sitting with that book while I ate. I read that book innumerable times. That was how I was in love with that book. But sadly, I never cared to remember the name of the author or the translator. 

12 years later, I was a not-so-happy-and-quite-angry-teenage boy. I dumped this book along with some other not-so-important-to-me junk to an anonymous raddiwala who wholeheartedly accepted our big pile of old books and gave us some loose change that was eventually spent to buy Khaman. (There was an undeclared rule in our house that the money received by selling junk will only be spent to buy junk food.)  The book was gone. The Khaman was consumed, digested and forgotten. But the regret of this activity surfaced up last year when I was browsing across the digitally preserved copies of Soviet era books. That is when the search began. 

Mir Publishers has limited footprint on the Internet. Their last publication was in 2008. The website is currently squatted. The only immediate option left was to scan through Google search results and try my luck in finding anything that takes me closer to my childhood memories. 

The Internet does its best to preserve old stuff, so that you get your regular dose of nostalgia every now and then. I found loads and loads of such old, rare books, painstakingly uploaded by people all across the world - without any expectation of benefits in return. However, finding the book that I was looking for seemed difficult. But nonetheless was an exhilarating experience. My search for the book went on for a few months and halted for a while until last week when Google suddenly listed it in its first page results. 

One of the preserved 6th grade memories. 
When you get to see something associated to you after a very long time, you get into a fizzy cocktail of emotions. And it happened to me when I found this book here. My eyes saw it probably after more than 16 years. It was a very overwhelming moment. No, tears didn’t begin welling up, but a punch of nostalgia blew my mind. Every page of that 50 MB PDF file reminded me of those simple school days. I was just an average boy who probably wanted to become a scientist or an astronaut only because this book influenced me to a larger extent. So much, that even my classmates were very sure that Vivek Pandey would grow up to be a scientist someday. Innocence was at its best.

Well, the good thing that happened later in my life was that I didn't become a scientist or an astronaut. What I do to earn money now has nothing close to physics, thankfully! But yes, those days of innocent career speculations were just awesome.

My initial reaction after discovering the online version of this book was to look for a physical copy. But eventually I decided against it. My longing for this book developed only due to the lack of its presence. I am very much sure that buying a new copy will never replace the memories of the old book. Yes, the struggle to find and purchase the book will indeed give me some joy. But how long will that joy last? A few years later, the book would just be part of stuff that I will have amassed over time. 

I dumped my favorite childhood book when I was a teenager. Because at that moment I probably had other important things to do. Or the presence of this book did not matter to me at that time. As I grow older, the book - if at all I manage to get a copy,  will probably lie somewhere with its peers. And someday, once again I might just dump it off. The priorities change fast. And so I decided to not pursue my search for a physical copy. I've found an online copy, and I believe it is wiser to be happy with that. The memories of this book and my associated childhood are already with me.

Hoarding stuff is momentary joy. The experience sustains with time.

Anyways, the book is found. 
Old childhood memories are rekindled. 
I am happy. 

And here's a screenshot of the epilogue from the book. Last read sometime in the 1990s, there are no words to describe what I felt when I read it recently...