After putting down the title I wonder if anything more needs to be said. The title is self-explanatory, after reading which any one with any desire to borrow my books will gulp down his words and change the topic.
However, if it is worth saying once, it is worth repeating, and hence I shall proceed. I am not one of those generous souls who offers to lend their books to anyone who wants to read them. I am certain no one’s generosity extends that far. I will lend my books to my children who have been brought up to treat their books well and that too because I love them dearly. They can have my jewellery, my sarees, and my books, in that order. No one else can bank on my generosity unless I am about to get rid of a book I no longer intend to keep.
I am not ashamed of being stingy with my books either. I have gone to a great deal of expense and effort collecting them, and intend to finish reading most of them before I exit the world. The would-be borrowers would not spend half as much to acquire these books but are only too happy to ask to read them at others’ expense. I wonder if they would find it just as easy to ask to borrow my jewellery or silk saris. I suspect some of them, like our erstwhile neighbour in Bombay, would. As an aside, we still fume at the neighbour who told us our acquisition of an aluminium ladder was a very good investment and proceeded to borrow it whenever he needed, and even lent it to his friends. In hindsight we realise he meant it was a good investment for his use.
The other day, a couple living in our building paid us a courtesy call. They are very nice people and I have nothing against them. R took the lady on a tour of the house. I have no objection to that either, as the house was not messy and I had nothing to be ashamed of. However, he threw open my cupboards and shelves for the lady’s inspection without my permission, which I would never have given, and she saw that they contained my collection of books. I keep my books in closed cupboards for a reason. As I was not in the room, he came out and told me she had seen the very books she had wanted to read in my possession. I stared at him, wondering if he expected me to offer them to her. He wanted to be benevolent at my expense, but I just laughed and did not oblige him. Then she asked me if I had a particular book which she wanted to read. I, being me, said I did, and lent it to her.
That was over a month ago. She has now left on a visit to her daughter who lives abroad. The day before she left, R said he would get my book back and asked her if she had finished reading it. She, as expected, said she had hardly touched it and offered to return it as she was going to be away for two months. Before I could say anything, her husband said she should just take it with her to while away her time in her daughter’s house. Feeling unable to be churlish, I told her it was a good idea. The book is now on foreign shores.
I did not fail to give R a good piece of my mind but he is not a booklover and as they say, we are not on the same page on this, or to put it more clearly, he cannot understand my feelings in this matter. One, that my shelves are my personal property and are not his for him to display their contents to a stranger. Two, my books are mine, and are not for lending.
The next day, I moved all my books to my wardrobe, without his knowledge, and if ever there is any further attempt to borrow books, I will steel myself and lie that all the books have been put away and cannot be accessed, I am so sorry.
Maybe I should put a lock on my cupboards because R cannot be trusted not to fling them open and say, “Why, here they are!”.