What price Physics ?

I sold my Dad’s books today. I had lived with those books from the day I was born. Without understanding what they were all about I knew their titles by heart. I pronounced words like Quantum Physics like they were my friends.

The years passed and the books got old along with my dad. When he retired, the books from his office joined the ones at home. Dad found out that after working a life time as a physicist he was happier reading something else for a change and started reading fiction. Espionage, murder mysteries, the works. Physics remained in the book case.

Soon they were wrapped neatly and transferred to the loft. Dad now started saying, let’s just give away these books. When I asked, to whom would he like to give the books. He always said, some one interested in Physics of course! But that person always eluded us.

We explored various avenues seriously. College libraries? Sorry, these are PhD books, not much use to us, we teach only up to M Sc.. University Library ? Not interested. They already had loads of books which no one was reading in the first place. People kept donating useless books. And anyways, they teach different stuff now. How physics can change remained a mystery to me, but I understood the changing times. I still have ten cherished volumes of my Mom’s school encyclopedia which talks about- The Wonder of Radio. It was printed to be sold only in Indian Empire. We are talking a different era here.

I tried to palm the books off to the old college and school books dealer, by saying, these are for M Sc . He was smarter than me and asked, which year? The syllabus has changed 2 years ago. If the books are older than 2 years, he didn’t want them. I couldn't tell him that they were published in 1926.

Finally dad relented and said I may sell them to ANY book shop, but not to the raddiwala who buys old papers and other junk. I nodded dutifully.

Dad sorted the books, saving a few for himself. He saved his PhD thesis, the papers he had published during his thirty years as a physicist. My nephew had asked for them. Now my dad was emotionally free of the books. He asked me to do what I wished with them.

I knew that no book store will accept them. I packed them in a large bag and took them to that forbidden raddiwala down the road. He poured the books on the floor and thirty years of physics came tumbling out. He unemotionally piled them on his scales. I wanted to pull a few out and say, these are nice, in perfect condition. They had stayed on the loft all these years , they can continue to do that for a few more years.

For the first time in my life I was selling a book. Had never sold even my school books. They were always used carefully and passed on to some one, along with the notes in the margins. And here I was selling the books which had sustained us all.

I had to make several trips to the guy with my books. He weighed them all in front of me. The sum total of thirty kilos of physics was 180 rupees, at the rate of Rs. 6 per Kg.

I returned home with an empty bag. Dad asked me how much did I get. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth. I said five hundred. Dad cheerfully said, “looks like we got a better deal than Dr Chowdhary. He barely got two hundred.”


wooster said…
tugs at the heart and draws a tear out...
SloganMurugan said…
I always like it when an old book has a name or some memory of its original owner in it. I hope the book had some thing the new owner would wonder about.

- Gopal
Skasster said…
that's lovely.
suniti said…
Thanks Bertie :)

Slogan, even I am addicted to old books and love reading the notes in the margins. In fact one of the very early entries talk about shopping for books on the foot paths . Thanks for reading.

SKasster, thanks. Hope you will come again.


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