Jild covers for torn book jackets…Simla in the Sixties
Cultural practices are learnt watching around the society one is raised in….seeping in, unknowingly, a way of life that we think how life is to be lived like. Gradually we mature…and newer practices make way in our life and old practices, like old worn-out artfacts, are stored in some dark corner of the attic….the so called brain…the storehouse of all the experiences we gather while living.
These days when I am packing all my belongings, I came across a large number of books, lovingly read and devoured, once upon a time. The paper jackets of these books were badly damaged, torn or gone….I thought of giving a new look to these “full of life” books…
And my memories of giving a new life and looks to books, in Simla of the Sixties, came back to me. And why would it not as these days all we do is to think of our childhood….life spent…long back…in idyllic surroundings of pristine Simla.
How we would scour for newspapers to be used as paper covers on our books. English news papers were preferred over to he Hindi ones…Veer Pratap…. As the quality of paper used in the English newspapers was comparatively better.
More preferred would be the shining, glossy and thick pages extracted from the “Soviet Nari” and “Soviet Land”….the colourful pictures in vibrant colours of seemingly happy and dancing damsels and young boys in those magazines were out of the world for us. And tbe tag of a “Phoren” magazine added so much of glamour to our books. Looking back I can laugh over it that how would I disdainfully avoid picture of a dancing damsel on the pages of Veer Pratap but would admiringly glorify the picture of dancing damsel in the Soviet Nari!!!
But the best paper covers for my copies and books would be from the Indian Book Depot… The precisely cut covers, bought by dozens, and lovingly put on the copies and books to give them a semblance of elite appearance. Looking back I am really amazed at the frugality that ran my life…or our life…life of kids of our age, the kids I knew of! We would buy brown sheets, the big ones and cut pieces as per the size of the copy or book that needed to be covered. Nothing to be wasted…every single piece cut to get the maximum numbers of brown covers.
Once the covers were put, again we would have two choices…either to purchase the small printed stickers from the Indian Book House where one had to fill up the name and class etc. or to cut these from white papers and stick on the front side brown cover. I would make mine and what a labour if love it would be to embellish those small stickers….writing in a beautiful hand….
And those were the days when Fevicol and staplers were unheard of… We had two options..o e was to get gum granules from the shop of Sunder Pansari.. soak them in water, stirring with a wooden piece. Lo and Behold…our super sticky gum would be ready. There was a cheaper option as well…to prepare a sticky solution using simple wheat flour. We would make a paste of flour and water…put it on slow fire to simmer… stirring all the time do that it would maintain its smooth consistency…and our “Letti” would be ready. It would be much cheaper than the gum made from the granules!
How careful we were as kids..how innovative, creative and ingenuous…and it reflects in our personality, even today when we can afford to have the best without bothering for the money.
But, today, when I thought of giving a new cover to my books…I thought of using a chart paper…cutting it in right shapes, without wasting much, and sticking it with Fevicol. I put on these books a heavy stone Kundi..the way we used to do long back…in the small home, with big memories, in Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties!!!