On a Pyre of Books

The following is the last conversation between a father and his son.

He’s old and has been ill, of a critical disease, for sometime. His body has withered with time. He’s now in his final moments. He has called his only son to have the last talk and say a final good-bye.

His son is a young man who has just stepped into the adulthood. He loves his parents, especially his father who was also his best friend. He knows why he’s there so he reluctantly goes inside the room where he had spent his entire childhood….

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Ughh..Ughhhhhhh..Ughh….

“Please pardon me, my lungs are giving me a hard time.”

“It’s okay Dad. Let me get you some water..”

“No…No…. Stay. I want to tell you something. I don’t have long and I won’t be at peace if it goes unsaid.”

“What is it Dad?”

“Here! grab that chair….and help me lie down. Its difficult to sit anymore.”

 

“I want to tell you about my last wish. I haven’t told anyone about it, not even your Mom. I am telling you because I know if someone can fulfill it, its you.”

“Dad! please…don’t say things like this….”

“Its alright son. I know my end is near. I can see it…” ughh…ughhhhh…

“Son…look around and tell me what you see.”

“Ammm…I see your table and chair, the painting on the wall that you made for Mom on your first anniversary, pictures of us on the table, my childhood drawings and two walls covered with cabinets.”

“What’s inside those cabinets?”

“Books.”

“Son…from where you see they appear to be books but to me they’re my closest of friends. Friends with whom I’ve shared some great memories. I want them to be at my side when I am cremated. That’s my last wish.

You’re probably thinking that I’ve gone insane. I haven’t. At least, not yet.  I ask this because its the only way I can be with them even when I am gone.”

“I must confess Dad..that’s the strangest thing anyone has ever asked me to do. But I am curious. If you think that’s how you’ll be able to take them with you, why not consider more valuable things like money or your collection of paintings?”

“Oh! son…money and other valuable things are of value to the living only. Dead have no use for such things. After all, God doesn’t sell a loaf of bread for Rs. 20.”

Ughhh..Ugghhhhhhhhh…Ughh…Ughhhhh…..

“Here..have some water, Dad.             Okay. Then by that logic wouldn’t these books be better used by the living? You can donate them to a library or leave them here as your memory to us.”

“I used to think along the similar lines too, son. But one day your mother accidentally broke the earthen pot we used in summers to store water. As she was cleaning it’s remains I wondered what will happen to them. Probably they’ll be grounded back to earth and reused to make new pots. Then it struck me. These books will have the same fate. No matter what I do with them, eventually they’ll be destroyed and their remains will be recycled.”

“Yes, but what about all the people who can benefit from them before they’re destroyed. Honestly Dad, don’t you think they will be more valuable to the living than the dead? I am sorry if that hurt your feelings, I am just playing the devil’s advocate.”

“That’s fine son and I am happy that you are. Because if you don’t believe it yourself how will you convince others.”

“Truth be told son, if someone wants to read any of the books from my collection they can most certainly find a copy somewhere else. Libraries probably have most of them in their catalog. But that’s not why I want to take them with me.

Over the years, I’ve grown intimate to these books. They became my father, imparting me the wisdom of ages and telling me about the truths of life. At times, they became my siblings, my partner in crime. Occasionally, I found myself in their pages. Many a times they took me to a completely strange world, the kind that I couldn’t imagine even in my weirdest of imaginations. I made friends there, lots of them. I fell in love, broke my heart, found my soul-mate, only to be parted at the end. I cried with them, I laughed with them, they made my angry, they cheered me up. But above all, they never let me feel that I am alone even when I was alone.

I don’t know what awaits me at the other end. I don’t know what will become of me. However, with them at my side, I can cross over to their world and reunite with my long lost friends, my love. For when I am ash and they’re ash, everything becomes real.

Uggghhhhhh….Ugghhhhhhhhh…..Ughhh….Uggghhhhhhhhhhhh

So son…will you do this for me…will you do your father this last favor?”

“Yes Dad………I will.”