Paul had lived life to the fullest. He drank the cup of life till its very last drop. The day he closed his eyes for the last time was, unfortunately, exactly hundred years after the day he opened his eyes for the first time. He died seconds after he became a centenarian. The entire town loved “Paul Chacha”(Paul Uncle). His Library, which he fondly called as the “Mother”, was open that day, as per his wishes. “Never deny people their right to study and learn” he would say. “Mother” was a great Library. Paul had made sure that he left no stone unturned as far as the development and maintainance of “Mother” was concerned. It was truly “state of the art” in every respect except one. It was not air conditioned artificially. The library had these huge windows, which were open most of the time. The breeze from the beach nearby and the huge trees surrounding the library ensured that “Mother” was by default air-conditioned, courtesy Mother Nature.
Paul had read most of the books and knew the title and the name of the author of almost every book in that Library. “How can a son not know about his Mother?” he would always retort when some one asked him about how he managed to keep so much information at his fingertips. In the last eighty years hardly did he set his foot outside the library. “I cannot leave my Mother alone” he would argue with people who would advise him to take a break. “How could Mother’s lap not be peaceful?” he would assert. A small room annexe to the topmost floor of the library was his abode. His morning walk was well within the vast library. He would make sure he covered every nook and corner of the library. If he found any section dirty or ill-organised, the punishment for the person responsible was a special one. For a week Paul would clean the section on his behalf. The six-hundred odd employees were experts in what they were assigned to do, thanks to he innovative punishments of Paul. “Punishments should not hurt the physical exterior but should tap and mend the gentle interior” was his mantra. He had two last wishes. The first one was obvious; His mortal remains should be buried in the park surrounding the library. The second one; The section in the topmost floor, which he fondly called “Amrutham” (life immortalising liquid) should be maintained as it is and none of the books, how much ever old they were, should be removed from that section.
Paul used to personally maintain “Amrutham” . Raju, 40 years of age, would succeed Paul as the main care-taker of the “Mother” and would personally maintain “Amrutham”. A day after the demise of Paul Chacha the entire town had gathered to pay its last respects. The venue was again a natural one – the Beach. After reading out the eulogy, Raju addressed the gathering. With a quivering voice, heavy heart and wet eyes he began his address. ” Paul Chacha is no more. But his legacy, his “Mother”,will guide us in the right path. “Mother” will inspire and educate the generations to come. Today, I would like to share something which is close to my heart. Most of you, during your visits to the library, have asked me about this. The story behind “Amrutham”. Today I will let you know the fact that Paul Chacha shared with me 15 years ago when he stopped me from committing suicide by jumping off the window in “Amrutham”.
Paul Chacha was then nineteen years old. He was from a very effluent family. At nineteen, he was the sole owner of one of the largest business establishments of the country. He had lost both his parents and his younger sister in a car accident. He could not bear the grief and decided to commit suicide. He came to our town, far away from his city, hoping no one would even recognise him. Fortunately, he chose “Mother” to end his life, which was then a big ill-maintained library. He climbed to the topmost floor and decided to jump off the window. He stood at the edge of the window with his eyes closed. He took a few deep breaths. And then something incredible happened. He inhaled the smell of old books. That scent had in it a life saving essence. It not only saved his life but instilled in him a new desire to live. That very night he completed reading two books. From then on, he never ever thought of ending his life. He named that section “Amrutham” and the library “Mother” from that day. He went back home, sold everything in his possession. He came back to our town, bought the Library and poured every penny at his disposal for the revivification of the “Mother”. 15 years ago, as I was about to commit suicide a voice asked me to stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths. Now you know why I am still alive. “Mother” will never let her children die. Paul Chacha will remain forever alive in our hearts. These are the last few lines that he wrote hours before his demise. I will finish by reading them out for you,
Oh dear “Mother”, thanks for this life.
Happiness, knowledge and inner peace, everything very rife.
Every deep breath of every child, who is ending his life if it looks,
should carry abound the life-saver, the smell of old books.