Friends through antiquity

Mahmudul Hasan Hemal
Thursday, December 1st, 2016


This is more than a wonder to see our modern technological and computerized devices, including e-book reader, PDF readers and tabs, projectors which could have replaced our traditional paper-jacketed books, failing to compete with those of our traditional, old-fashioned paper-books. It is to be acknowledged that cinematography in modern time is incredibly advanced, but apart from a great number of arguments a movie can never stand in the same stature of a book. A book is what it is; nothing can fade the appeal it holds among us, regardless of time, generation after generation.


Of course, movie brings you vividness of story and a purgation of your feelings in a flash, enabling you to enter into the writer’s world in an unbelievably shorter time. You cry, you laugh, and your blood is captivated by means of the actor-actress stage effects. You see them, you see their world. All are before your eyes. But books will let you create the picture of the imagery described in it in your own way. When you read through the depiction of a serene wood, you really draw an imaginary forest on the mirror of your mind. But in case of movie, you see them directly on the screen and therefore are devoid of letting your imagination work. Many of the famous books have been transformed into a diverse number of movies, very few of which reach up to the level of their bookish narration in the sense of inner depth and portrayal of characters. So, even in this era of indiscriminate touch of science, it still seems very remote to think of getting full satisfaction while reading through a sense-captivating story through its movie version or by means of your computer, or other electronic devices instead of turning pages of your books. Because pages hold miracles, because artificiality can never win over authenticity and we always have a sort of soft corner for books.


Books are reminders of different spheres of our life, stretching from our childhood to old age via a colorful youth. It reminds you the relevant time you read it with an ecstatic nostalgia. Have you ever pondered how much of your time is trapped inside your old, wooden book-almirah where you have kept thousands of fragmented memories as a form of books?  You may fancy me insane, dear readers; but I must say, I am like an almirah. Those books decorated inside the chambers of almirah are inside my existence. I am inside the books, books are inside me- we are symbiotic. If you think a bit seriously and take my meaning, you will certainly find yourself in the same position. Is it altogether possible for me to know who you are without knowing what you think, how your heart rings? Only books let us know the tune of another soul, at least the soul of the writers.


Furthermore, it is book which companies you silently throughout your life. What can be of more pleasure than spending times with a great number of books around you on holidays?


U.S. statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin was once asked what condition of man he considered the most pitiable; and he answered, “A lonesome man on a rainy day who does not know how to read!”


Through the extreme turmoil, through the hustle and bustle of this comparatively meaningless life it is invariably a book that takes you to an utterly differently world. Book gives us shelters, just like music does.


Just like visiting The Taj at different time for different view, a good book tastes variable depending on the time initiated to read it. One of my university teachers once told me that she had read Sons and lovers by D.H. Lawrence nearly around seventeen times! Readers are crazy, indeed! Here goes,


“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”


Robertson Davies (1913 – 1995)


Canadian novelist and critic.


Throughout our childhood we learnt to consider our books as sacred, and our religions teach us to learn and to acquire knowledge. The first word of the first verse of the Holy Quran was ‘iqra’, that is, read. The angel Gabriel commanded Muhammed (Peace be upon him) to “Recite!” Islam attaches such great importance to learning that the Quran has this to say:


“It is the men of knowledge who can truly realise God.” (35:28)


Scholars are considered to be like angels (3:18), in view of their potential for discovering the oneness and the glory of the Creator. To inculcate this importance of knowledge in the minds of the believers, the Prophet once observed that “the worship of a learned man is a thousand times better than that of the ignorant worshipper.” Book tends you to imagine and to reflect. And the Prophet is further reported to have said: “An hour of reflection is better than a hundred years of worship without reflection.” (Al-Bayhaqi)


In Hinduism, Hindu gods are usually shown with a consort in their holy books. Indeed manuscripts and archaeological evidence suggests that much of the influence of this religion was deep rooted in Indian cultures. The Mother figure vividly expresses God’s love for human beings which is identical in the Gita, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.


In Christianity, much emphasis has been given on learning. The Bible is probably the most read books in the world. I can’t help quoting from it- “And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (Timothy 3:15)


Buddhism shows an extensive exploration of knowledge through the utter philosophic life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. We find in The Dhammapada,


“Better than a thousand sayings

Made up of useless words

Is one word of meaning

Which calms you to hear it.”


Books are the inscription of life, companions in the philosophical solitariness through the puzzling alleys of living history. Books have the enormous ability to make us talk to the people outside the eternal curtain. q


Mahmudul Hasan Hemal, Post-graduate Department of English, University of Chittagong.


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