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A Match Amidst Books

A library with stack of books and beautiful lights
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

“Wake up, wake up, It’s a brand new day,” chimed the mobile from the bedside table stirring Ananya awake.

She hit the silent button and sat up groggily rubbing her eyes off the reminder of sleep. She walked up to the window and drew the purple curtains that were fluttering to the breeze. The early morning sunshine flooded the room. As she stood there gazing the view outside, she sensed the warm glow flooding her soul and after a moment of contemplation, she realised what made her so happy. She was meeting him finally. Though she had looked forward to it eagerly, she felt a reluctance creeping up the back of her mind. She reassured herself that everything would be all right and proceeded to get ready.

“Someone is chirpy this morning. I wonder what is the reason,” stated Ananya’s mother as she placed the hot idlis* on the table.

Ananya who was putting on her earring as she walked into the dining room, stumbled on her path.

“Er… Ma,” she stammered as she sat down attempting to find a convincing reason.

“Mrithu has come home. I am going to meet her,” she finished smoothly.

“Oh! Has she? I wonder why Reshma didn’t tell me about it,” said her mother.

‘Oh, shit,’ Ananya chided herself as she realised that Mrithu’s mother was her mother’s colleague at school.

“Umm… Ma..”

“So, who is the guy?”

“AMMA!”*

“Anu, I know you. You are wearing your favourite green kurta and have taken the utmost care to groom yourself. Why else would you do so?”

Ananya blushed as her mom continued, “Is it Rahul, the guy you had a crush on during school?”

“No… Of course not.”

Ananya’s mother raised an eyebrow in question.

“Yes, I am meeting a guy. But I’ll tell you the details in the evening,” Ananya replied.

“Fine, dear. Be careful and get back home soon,” her mother smiled making Ananya leap in joy.

She got up and kissed her mother on the cheek. “Thank you, Ma!” she said and went to her room to pick her bag. When she walked out, she remembered that she had forgotten the gift and ran back to her table. She stuffed it into her bag and ran outside noticing that she was getting late.

“Ma, I am leaving,” she called out to her mother who was busy in the kitchen.

“Anu, are you taking the scooty*, or do you want me to drop you?”

“No, Ma. I’m walking,” Ananya replied as she wore her slippers.

“Walking? Where are you going?” her mother asked surprised.

“To our society Library,” Ananya winked and walked away without waiting for a reply.

The Library was two streets away and as she walked, Ananya reminisced the events of the past two months.

Ever since her mom had taught her to read, the library had become her favourite place in her world. She had grown up with it and even after she had moved away for college, she went to the library whenever she had a chance. It was a part of her childhood that she was unwilling to give up.

Ananya was a final year undergraduate student and had come back home in the summer break to start an internship with a leading Technology firm in the city. As soon as she was home, the first place she had visited was the library. She had found a copy of a book that she had been wanting to read for long and happily checked it out. Out of guilty pleasure she had then wandered to the kid’s section for a quick read of ‘Famous Five’. As she rummaged through the rack, she found a tattered copy of ‘Shantaram’, another book she had been aspiring to read. Since the library restricted them to only one book a week, against her goodwill, she proceeded to hide the book safely amidst the history section, which was very rarely visited.

The next week, she ran to the library, nervously not wanting to miss her book. Fortunately, she found it in the same spot and as she picked it up and walked to the librarian, she noticed a paper slipping and falling from the book. Assuming it to be the library entry card, she picked it up and quickly stuffed it inside. After talking a few steps forward, she realised that the paper had been thin, unlike the usual card. She opened the book again and discovered that it was a note.

Dear reader :),

Having chosen this book, you have already become my friend. Since I found the book in this peculiar rack, I understand that you have hidden it to borrow some time later. I have been searching for this book for long. So, I request you to not borrow and be kind enough to make a deal with me. Let us read it at the library and hide it at the same place. We will both be benefitted that way. I hope you consider my request.

In anticipation,

Your book pal 🙂

Ananya was confused. She did not know whether to smile at the reader’s intelligence or wonder if it is a sinister plot to steal the book. After serious deliberation, she decided to try her luck. She quickly grabbed a pen and scribbled at the bottom of the note.

Hey book pal,

I am so happy to have found another person who loves this book. And I am not evil-hearted to deny a fellow bibliophile a book. So I am all in for this reading arrangement.

Cheers!

She had wanted to complete the book before her internship ended. So she sat there at her favourite table at the rear end and began reading. She didn’t realise the passage of time until her mom called her on the mobile asking her to come home for lunch. The next day when she went there, the note was still not replied and she understood that her mysterious reader did not come on weekends. Thus she began to spend an hour or two every Saturday and Sunday there.

When she visited the next week, she was happy to find the book in the same place and eagerly turned the pages for a note. She caught one at the 160th page.

Hey Fellow Reader,

Thanks for helping me out. I see that you don’t come on weekdays, which actually delights me since you will not complete the book before I do. I know I am selfish.

And yeah, it is difficult to write notes without names. So hey this is Mr. Darcy 😉

Ananya’s smile grew wider as she read it. She tore a new paper from her notepad and sat down to write.

Hey Mr. Darcy,

I wonder how many Elizabeths have broken your heart. Just Kidding! Yeah, I am interning with a firm on weekdays. So I get time only on weekends. You have taunted me for a challenge Mr. Darcy. Let the reading war begin.

Cheers,

Jo

Over the month, they had gotten to know each other by exchanging notes. She learned that Mr. Darcy was an MBBS graduate preparing for his postgraduate entrance examinations and took mid-afternoon breaks to visit the library. He was a slow reader and they were able to maintain the pace throughout the novel. They shared their bookish knowledge and realized that they had similar interests. Having decided against mobile communication they continued sharing notes which had soon become full-length letters — another common trait shared by them. As they neared the end of the novel, they understood that neither of them wanted their reading arrangement to end. It was Ananya who had initiated the meet.

Dear Darcy,

We both know the book is coming to an end. Over these days, I have gotten to know so much about you and have grown fond of you. I believe it is high time we met. Please let me know your decision. I’ll drop by on Wednesday evening to check your reply.

Excited, Anxious, Fingers- crossed,

Jo

As soon as she walked out, she regretted not setting the deadline to Monday or better she should have given her mobile number. But she walked home, hoping for a positive reply from him. Monday and Tuesday seemed to pass very slowly for her and she couldn’t wait for Wednesday evening. She almost ran to the archaeology section (they had made a common agreement to switching the hiding location to ensure that the book did not fall in the wrong hands.) She found a cute bookmark on the last page of the book with the lines “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.

Her heart soared in joy. Attached to it was a small note.

Dearest Jo,

Saturday 11 AM at the rack where it all started.

Not wanting my heart to be broken,

Darcy

By the time she reminisced the events, she had reached the library. Her heart thumped against her chest as several thoughts crossed her mind. ‘What if Darcy didn’t like her? What if everything was an evil trick played by someone? Were they too quick? Had she misjudged?

She closed her eyes to calm herself and decided to walk in, prepared to confront the worst. She slowly walked to the history section, mentally wishing that Darcy did not cheat her.

On nearing the place, she found a man with a crisp blue shirt and unkempt hair bent over the same tattered copy of their book. She had half a mind to run away and never turn back. As she stood there in a dilemma, the man slowly raised her head.

Both of them stared at each other in shock.

“Vinay?” “Ananya?” they spoke simultaneously.

Vinay was Ananya’s mother’s favourite student. Ananya had always disliked him since her mother cared for him so much and had always spoken about him with high regard. It had made Ananya insecure and only after she left school, she had made peace with her mother.

“So, Ananya you are Jo March!” Vinay spoke breaking the silence.

“Umm… Yes… I am,” she stammered.

Vinay knew that she had always disliked him. “Are you comfortable or should I leave?” he asked hesitantly.

“No… No…Please, Vinay. I am just surprised. Pleasantly surprised to be honest. I had several questions and deliberated my decision as I made my way here. But now I am happy that my Darcy exists and I have met him,” she blushed.

Vinay beamed, his smile reaching his eyes, and placed a gift-wrapped package before her.

“What is this?” Ananya asked curiously.

“Go on. Open it.”

She understood that it was a book and carefully unwrapped the package. She was amazed to find a collector’s edition of Pride and Prejudice.

“A little namesake, which I hope you’ll love,” Vinay said.

“Of course I love it so much. Thank you,” she said.

Before Vinay opened his mouth, she rummaged her bag and took out her gift.

“Ah! Let me guess. A book?” Vinay winked at her and proceeded to open it. It was a brand new copy of ‘Little Women’

“A namesake of mine too. I was surprised to know that you haven’t read it yet. You should definitely,” she said.

“Anu, I am a man, and am I not a little old to read this?” Vinay asked.

“Uh-uh, Vinay, I hate such stereotypes. This a timeless classic that ought to be read and cherished. And, one is never too old to read,” Ananya glared at him, reminding Vinay of her mother.

“Your wish is my command, madam,” Vinay bowed down making her laugh.

They had never expected such a turning point in their lives and were happy to have stumbled upon the same book. Thus began a beautiful love story.

*Idli — An Indian breakfast

*Amma — Tamil word for mother

*Scooty — A local slang for scooter


A Match Amidst Books was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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