The sign saying ” Wanted Library Assistant ” is up on the wall of our new library premises at Indira Nagar Chimbel. Every lane and every new location is almost like a bee hive transfer but with hosts of new bees coming in to nest. The room was alive when I walked in. Boys in all manners of dress and behaviour were seated in our now larger room and determined to give our RP Terence a challenge.
I knew that the timing for a library assistant was right. Despite three adults in the room, there was an air of naughtiness and vigilance was needed. Along one wall was a shy smile. I smiled back and realised that I was looking at the potential assistant. Every fibre of my being was however distracted and alerted to fast kicking legs, taunts, attempts at prodding and elbowing and I found I could not return the smile.
Terence and Pranita read aloud a story that engaged and animated the boys significantly to warrant more taunts and some jibes. I was weary from doing what I have been doing for years at Indira Nagar, reminding every new cohort about the library. What it means, why we do it, what we expect and what may be ways to behave in the library. It is tiring, this returning to the same point every year or so and saying the same thing. It almost feels like I have made no progress, that everything is as bad or the same as it was and six years of a community library in the space has touched no one’s life but my own and I am feeling scarred.
Two hours later the smile was back. I learnt from Terence that Nazmeen wanted to apply for the assistant job and was waiting to talk to me. We settled down to chat and I began with a burst of enthusiasm to share what the library program is all about. Nazmeen silenced me with “ma’am I know everything about Bookworm.” I was quiet for a bit and then asked her how she came to know about us ? ” I am your student ma’am” she said. “I used to come to the library when it was near the bus stop. I remember The Village Fair, Ismat’s Eid, crafts like the paper wheel, songs you used to sing and a book called Night.” Six years later, everything is fresh and all knowing for Nazmeen and my mind and heart blurs.
I am back where I was six years ago, sitting down with a young ( now older) girl talking books – stories – songs and crafts and I realise I am spiralling but in joy.