And I was stopped from reading in the reading room, narrates Mahesh Kaul.
Being a bibliophile and searching for an opportunity to read may push one to a dilemma. A space that can provide solace and serenity with little disturbance should be the ultimate destination of a voracious reader. Perhaps reading room suits that purpose the best. And if the reading room is a public place administered by the government authorities, then peculiar situation may arise leading one to think—has the interpretation and meaning changed as far as this most favored place of the reader is considered.
Recently, I visited the reading room of a public library-Sri Ranbir Library, Jammu after a period of five years with a hope that I will find some space to read few pages of V.S.Naipaul's recently published book "A Writer's People" as I had some free time and wanted to invest it in reading. I entered the reading room that used to be my favorite place in my college days. I sat down at a corner chair that is witness to my growth as a reader. A lean, stern fellow hardly in his mid thirties appeared and banged his hand on the table in front of me, while I had just read half a dozen pages of Naipaul's latest book. "Stop reading this book", he shouted. I immediately looked at his face and said, "But what is the problem, I am not committing any offence." He shot back with authority, "This reading room is meant for reading daily newspapers that are provided by this library and not for the personal material that public brings along to read." I replied, "But nobody told me that before when I used to visit this library some five years back. Reading room means a public place to read and it doesn't matter whether it is a book or a newspaper". He shouted back with a firm resolve to drive me out," It may have been so but now we have placed a notice at the entrance- "visitors should not bring personal material for reading in the reading room."
I was shocked to learn that the interpretation and meaning of reading room has changed. Library science has adopted new set of rules for the bibliophiles and newspaper readers. I left the reading room while having a look at the young school boys tearing a picture of a glamorous woman from a Sunday edition of a national newspaper. Maybe reading rooms need mischief mongers and not the bibliophiles these days!
(The writer is a Tourism Professional, Researcher and Heritage Preservation Activist)