While browsing through the books on my bookshelf last night, ‘The Quran’ published by the Salaam Centre, Bangalore landed in my hands. I believe that each book that we buy or read gets a memory shot tagged to it. When we come back to pick those books again in distant future, we invariably travel time. Same happened with this book. I had to travel only a year back – 2015, Bangalore Book Festival at Palace Grounds. One incredible experience that I had thought of penning down and for some reason, completely forgot; it has come to this day that I write about it.
Barely a minute after the gift books had reached the recipients, I got an email from Junglee, an Amazon subsidiary, saying something to the effect of – ‘Now that you have bought books from amazon, how about selling some on Junglee?’ Though this was a routine pitch, it got me into wondering about a lot of things of recent past. Just a day earlier I had told a friend in jest that I was going to sell all my books, take note – it was not a serious statement!
I don’t own a lot of things. My friends who know me well are completely sick of my wardrobe and at times have to take me hostage to get me to buy stuffs. This is not because I am on some money-saving mission, I don’t save either. So where does the money go? I don’t claim to have some sort of library for myself, but I have a respectable number of books with me and the number increases at a staggering rate. In fact, our Government could define BPL (Below Poverty Line) mark by just contrasting between my wardrobe and the bookshelf. Rich gets richer, the poor gets poorer.
Capitalism-Socialism-Communism all sleep in the same bed here. I had read somewhere that the day you own more than single pair of clothes to cover yourself, you cease to be a communist. Now, most of the present day communists would certainly fail this test in today’s age and I don’t blame them. The condition itself is too stringent and suffocating. However, if for a few considerations, I am allowed to take it as the benchmark, then the beggar who just had a garbage box to comfort his spine in and almost no rag on his body, just outside my workplace in Chennai would perhaps make the greatest Communist on earth. Marx and Lenin would miserably fail this test. Taking heart from this, my wardrobe stands a much better chance to be regarded as at least a reluctant communist, reluctant because perhaps it wants to get a few more clothes for itself, but its master is lazy as a dead bone in such matters. This opens up two new ways to become a communist –
1. Have a very bad master!
2. Become lazy, lazy like a dead bone.
Sitting on an antipodal citadel, my bookshelf is a shelf-ish enchantress. If there ever was a true capitalist, it is her. The master is possessed by her beauty and she makes him do all that she desires. When much of what the master earns goes into her wishes and fancies every month, it is not very difficult to understand how enslaved and smitten by her the master is!
There is no end to her desires. I have never left my bookshelf alone, but perhaps on one occasion when I was moving to a new city and all her possessions had to be transported beforehand. For about a month, I couldn’t see her due to delays in courier service. That was the only time we were separated. A thing to note here is that this Capitalist monster owns a lot of anti-communism books, and since sits just beside my reluctantly communist wardrobe, leaves no opportunity to jeer at him and show him how communism failed the day master’s friends bought him a second pair of clothes. I can’t tell you any method here to become a capitalist. It can’t be done. Capitalize is a verb, but capitalism is a noun. So, you might think you can capitalize to become a Capitalist but Capitalize in turn depends on some noun, say in this case – situation! That situation comes by itself, you just have to be greedy enough. Like I said, the day you work your ass off for another pair of clothes in your wardrobe, you have embarked yourself onto the voyage of Capitalism.
To let myself wander for some more time, I would want to touch upon capitalism in books-industry and what’s going wrong there. I remember my boyhood days when books containing spiritual or religious messages used to be distributed for free and if I talk particularly about a few organizations, they used to encourage their first readers to pass on the books to somebody who hadn’t read them and continue the relay so that someday in distant future, entire planet would know about these organizations. Backed up by huge grants and charity money, this was their way of marketing. To be candid about it, I used to collect all of them just to sniff the fresh-from-print pages. Not that I didn’t try reading them but failed to make any sense of the content matter then. Interestingly, many customers stood benefited as even if they never opened these books, never turned over a single page; they could always keep them on their study tables and shelves to show off.
This still continues with the Quran and the Bible. You get them for free most of the times and the people who throng on the stores to get these books for free, generally don’t belong to Islam or Christianity. However once they rack up these books in their house, it helps to prove their broad-mindedness and establish a secular image to their guests without having read a word. That notwithstanding, let us think from the perspective of an involved reader. For him, these socio-religious books still come at nominal costs. Additionally, most of the dedicated readers share these books on their own after having read them. While he can get a Bible or a Quran, or a Gita for almost nothing, Das Kapital will cost him somewhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1500 on Amazon.
The socio-religious book segment is more communist than the segment that sells the works of Karl Marx. Marx would perhaps say today – ‘Socio-religious book is the new opiate of the masses!’
Think of all the socio-religious books as public owned and the fact that anyone can read them easily, re-interpret, comment, criticize, and burn them amidst a few fatwas from selected communities – not very difficult to fathom! Unwittingly and ironically, the bible of communism can’t be bought by the segment of the society that needs to read it more than anyone else. They have to be content with mind-numbing tall tales of leaders and impostors, not that the leaders and impostors have much of a difference in today’s age.