Prof. Ved Prakash Bhatia, former Editor of Organiser was a voracious reader. He read with the passion of a man who felt not-reading a waste of time. He was keen that his books, after him, should go to the Organiser office, where he was confi-dent that good care would be taken of these prec-ious possessions of his. His columns in Organiser, particul-arly ?Cabbages and Kings? was popular for its erudition, insight and freshness of approach. Shri Bhatia passed away on December 15, 2003; still we receive letters from our readers saying they miss his column.
Smt. Sudesh Bhatia, his wife, last week gifted the first instalment of about 300 valuable books to Organiser, honouring that wish. We are indebted to the Bhatia family. Smt. Bhatia, who till recently was the Principal of Saint Vivekananda Public School, took personal interest in delivering the books to Organiser. Our thanks.
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Books, the older they get the more valuable they become. So why do books land in the pavements? I have wondered several times, when I pick up a book from the second-hand book dealer, why was that book thrown away. Probably the owner threw it because it was not his cup of tea. Or there was no more use for that book.
Second-hand bookshops are a fast vanishing pleasure spot in Delhi. Gone are the days when one could run into them almost in all the markets. Now they have been pushed into a corner, what with IT and TV taking the place of books. The shrinking reading popula-tion and the squeezed used books.
There was a time, not long ago, when reading was a movement. Setting up libraries was one of the mandatory actions of any social activity. The one-room reading centres, even Panchayat libraries, would be full. But now, the local libraries have fallen to bad days. One visit to the district library even in a place like Delhi speaks of neglect and disuse. The books here have not been updated, the circulation and lending systems have collap-sed for want of social commit-ment. Even the Central Library in the national capital suffers from this neglect.
The single biggest factor to this regrettable situation is the television. It has become a one-stop shop for news, views and entertainment. And what'smore, it comes right at your finger tip. There is a wide choice. So the social circles have shrunk, community activi-ties have all but vanished.
The cost of books could be the second intimidating factor. Most of the books come in the higher price range, thanks to the agents, without whom it'snext to impossible to sell a book. Look at the number of people that visit World Book Fair and volume of book purchasing. There is a huge mismatch. Most of the people come away as the books are beyond buying range.
Children are loaded with so much reading, right from kindergarten, that by the time they are in an age to read and enjoy, they loathe reading.
The situation needs dramatic changing. In West-ern countries, the schools and parents? associations in communities have started no-TV days, once a week. Campaigns are being launched to wean children and adults from TV into outdoor activities and community activities, including reading. It is time to wake up and launch a ?return to books campaign?.
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Readers have widely appreciated the new sections introduced in the Organiser in the last few months. More space had to be devoted to political stories because of the election. Now, Organiser probably is the only journal in English to fearlessly voice the Opposition viewpoint, particu-larly at a time, when, all the parties opposed to our ideology have ganged up, discarding all other political rationale. Our reader support is increasing by the day. It is encouraging that in recent months our circulation has more than doubled. I take this opportunity to request our readers to do their bit to spread our ideology by further boosting Organiser circula-tion. If every reader makes it a mission to enrol as many new subscribers as possible, it will help to take a quantum jump in our circulation. Institutions can order bulk copies for their various departments, individuals can gift a couple of copies to their relatives and friends. We are regularly printing our subscription form with every issue. You can make use of them to send your request.
With warm greetings