Skip to main content

What are Books Worth?

Indian Bloggers

In today’s Time of India, Ruskin Bond narrates a revealing anecdote.  A boy who looked after his father’s ration shop requested Mr Bond for a book.  Always happy to encourage youngsters to read, Mr Bond gave the boy a copy of his latest, large-format children’s book.  The next day, Mr Bond bought some jaggery (gur) from the boy’s shop and the writer was chagrined to find that the sugar lumps were handed to him in a paper bag made out of the pages of his own book.  “My author’s ego was shattered,” he writes.

Ruskin Bond
When I decided to gather some of my short stories in a book form I had varied motives.  The primary motive was to dedicate the book to a religious cult because of which I lost my job in Delhi and, far worse, I threw away a large collection of my books in a fit of depression.  The cult took over the school where I taught with the promise “to run it at least for a hundred years” but killed it in a brief span of two years.  The entire school complex including hostels and staff quarters was bulldozed to smithereens within weeks after two years of shameless prevarication which masqueraded itself as religiosity.  Thousands of books from the school library were bundled and thrown into a truck and sold, I believe, at paper value.  Were they pulped and transmuted into cartons for transporting items such as gur?  I don’t know and don’t wish to know.

By dedicating my book to the cult, I sought to exorcise the devils put into my soul by the various people of the cult with whom I had very revealing interactions for over two years.  Most of the stories in the book were inspired by my encounters with those people though none of the characters correspond to any of them.  The themes of “faith, doubt, human fallacy, God's devise, divinity, morality, sin, facticity, fantasy, truth,  illusion and deception” – as listed by an extremely perceptive reviewer, Sunaina Sharma –  were inspired by them.  Most of the stories would never have been written had I not had the (mis)fortune of interacting with the people of the cult.  Dedicating the book to them occurred to me as natural an affair as Alexander the Conqueror beating the retreat from the banks of the Beas in ‘And Quiet Flowed the Beas’ (one of the stories) or  Galileo the scientist capitulating in order “to be” in ‘Galileo’s Truth.’

There was another motive too in publishing the book.  A lot of my blog readers had asked me to do it.  They said that the stories were inspiring in many ways.  I trusted them.  Or, to borrow Ruskin Bond’s phrase, “my author’s ego” was on a gratification drive.  Having lost in one place, I sought to win elsewhere. 

Did I win?  Not at all.  Even those who asked me to publish the book didn’t show any interest in it once it was published.  Two months after the publication of the book, without intending to draw any parallel with an eminent author like Mr Bond, I should say I feel like him when he received his sweet lumps of gur packed in the pages of his own book which he had donated to the shopkeeper. 

Paper bags are far more acceptable than plastic bags, Mr Bond consoles himself towards the end of his piece in the Sunday Times.  If his writing can reduce the toxin of plastic from the planet, he would be happy to make the sacrifice.  Not without some grumpiness, however.  That grumpiness is obvious in many remarks he makes about contemporary youngsters whom he compares to porcupines “with their hair standing on end like wire brushes.”

I felt consoled after reading Mr Bond’s piece.  If a great writer like him has reasons to be grumpy, I have nothing to complain about.  All other motives of mine for publishing the book have evaporated now.  My ego is restored to its state of equilibrium, thanks to Mr Bond.


  1. That's such a nice topic to talk about. Inspired me!

    Have a look at my work too and share your views >>

  2. Very motivating. Although, I commiserate with you, I agree to your stand. It's not worth fretting over it.

    1. I'm used to more downs than ups. Plus I have reached an age at which nothing matters anymore.

      Thanks for your commiseration.

    2. I don't think there's any such age. :D

      It's just a maturity, which may be obtained at any age, provided one is lucky enough. I've seen people ranting for mere trifles at real old age. You are not only lucky, but have really understood the value of things.

  3. Thanks for coming up with such a motivational post Sir. :)

  4. Your promise to run the school for hundred years is not lost. The edifice might be gone, but through your writings, I am sure there will be many more minds that will open up to question or to answer the questions you have asked. The dedication, by its sheer irony, has in a way immortalized the school. The fact that their was 'gur' in the paper is a sign of hope too. It does not matter how many read the book. What matters is how many 'understand' it. I would have one discerning reader over a hundred others who do mere lip-service.

  5. Thanks, Sunaina.

    No doubt, it's no use having many buyers of a book unless they understand what's inside it.

    What Ravi Subramanian wrote in 'The Bestseller She Wrote' is true, I think. Selling a book depends on a lot of factors that have nothing to do with the merits of the book!

    1. Haven't read the book but would definitely agree to that.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Ugly Duckling

Source: Acting Company A. A. Milne’s one-act play, The Ugly Duckling , acquired a classical status because of the hearty humour used to present a profound theme. The King and the Queen are worried because their daughter Camilla is too ugly to get a suitor. In spite of all the devious strategies employed by the King and his Chancellor, the princess remained unmarried. Camilla was blessed with a unique beauty by her two godmothers but no one could see any beauty in her physical appearance. She has an exquisitely beautiful character. What use is character? The King asks. The play is an answer to that question. Character plays the most crucial role in our moral science books and traditional rhetoric, religious scriptures and homilies. When it comes to practical life, we look for other things such as wealth, social rank, physical looks, and so on. As the King says in this play, “If a girl is beautiful, it is easy to assume that she has, tucked away inside her, an equally beauti

The Adventures of Toto as a comic strip

  'The Adventures of Toto' is an amusing story by Ruskin Bond. It is prescribed as a lesson in CBSE's English course for class 9. Maggie asked her students to do a project on some of the lessons and Femi George's work is what I would like to present here. Femi converted the story into a beautiful comic strip. Her work will speak for itself and let me present it below.  Femi George Student of Carmel Public School, Vazhakulam, Kerala Similar post: The Little Girl

Face of the Faceless

“When you choose to fight for truth and justice, you will have to face serious threats.” Sister Rani Maria, the protagonist of the movie, is counselled by her mother in a letter. Face of the Faceless is a movie that shows how serious those threats are. This movie is a biopic. It shows us the life of a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to serve some Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh [MP] and ended up as a martyr. If it were not a real story, this movie would have been an absolute flop. Since it is the real story of not only a nun but also the impoverished and terribly exploited Adivasis in a particular village of MP, it keeps you engrossed. It is a sad movie, right from the beginning to the end. It is a story of the good versus evil, the powerless versus the powerful, the heroic versus the villainous, the divine versus the diabolic. Having said that, I must hasten to add one conspicuous fact: the movie does not ever present Christianity or its religious practices as the only right way

The Little Girl

The Little Girl is a short story by Katherine Mansfield given in the class 9 English course of NCERT. Maggie gave an assignment to her students based on the story and one of her students, Athena Baby Sabu, presented a brilliant job. She converted the story into a delightful comic strip. Mansfield tells the story of Kezia who is the eponymous little girl. Kezia is scared of her father who wields a lot of control on the entire family. She is punished severely for an unwitting mistake which makes her even more scared of her father. Her grandmother is fond of her and is her emotional succour. The grandmother is away from home one day with Kezia's mother who is hospitalised. Kezia gets her usual nightmare and is terrified. There is no one at home to console her except her father from whom she does not expect any consolation. But the father rises to the occasion and lets the little girl sleep beside him that night. She rests her head on her father's chest and can feel his heart

All the light we cannot see

Book Review Title: All the light we cannot see Author: Anthony Doerr Publisher: Fourth Estate, London, 2014 Pages: 531 What we call light is just a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most part of the electromagnetic spectrum remains beyond ordinary human perception. Such is human life too: so many of its shades remain beyond our ordinary perception and understanding. Anthony Doerr’s novel, All the light we cannot see , unravels for us some of the mysterious shades of human life. Marie-Laure LeBlanc leaves Paris with her father Daniel who is entrusted with the task of carrying a rare diamond, Sea of Flames , to safe custody when the second world war breaks out. The National Museum of Natural History, Paris, has made three counterfeit diamonds of the Sea of Flames. Four men are assigned the task of carrying each of these diamonds to four different destinations. None of them knows whether they are carrying the original diamond or the counterfeit. Marie-Laure a