This time it was 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky that made me nervous. It has now been a typical situation. I visit to book stalls and book exhibitions; rather they pull me towards them. I just go through the books with eager eyes. I just go through the books knowing that I cannot afford buying them. I just go through the books knowing that it's going to make me panicky at the end. I can't help myself to keep away from the book stores and exhibitions.
I learnt the poem 'The Two Boys' by Mary Lamb in my college days. The first boy, who cannot buy books, tries to read books at the bookstall itself. The stall-man shout at him saying "You, Sir, you never buy a book, therefore in one you shall not look." And the boy has to leave the stall with a sigh wishing if he had never been taught to read, then he should have no need of the old churl's books. On another day, the poetess sees another boy, very much hungry by his appearance, looking at meat in a tavern larder, and she thinks this boy's case is surely harder and "No wonder if he wish he ne'er had learned to eat."
I am not fully convinced that the second boy's case was really harder. For one who loves reading, it's no less dreadful not to get books than not getting food to a hungry. If not getting food kills the body, not getting to read the long-wished books (after being so close to them) kills the Self. The first boy's case was no lesser worse than the second one's.
One another poem I remember is 'Kondawada' (i.e. Dungeon) by a Marathi poet Daya Pawar. Born in a dalit (then untouchables) family, he and his family always had to succumb to various socioeconomic stressors, and he had a thought that he expressed beautifully in the concluding lines of this poem--I could not translate it, just the wildest translation--'Better if I had remained as illiterate as a stone. I would have happily done all that that other people do. At least, I would not have to suffer this scorpion-sting-like pain.'
And here I wish--better if I had remained…--oh, nay…better if I had enough resources…