Skip to main content

On Libraries

Sunil K Pandya asked on NMJI "Are Libraries in Our Medical Institutes Dead?"

Badakere Rao responded to it with his memories of physical books.

I had this response:

The article on libraries and your response to it was a sweet read to me. The school in Mattanur that I studied from 1st standard till 10th standard had a large library (when I went back last month, it felt small. Maybe everything was much bigger when we were smaller). If my memory serves me right it had 4000+ books. The most beautiful thing was that when any student has a birthday they would celebrate it by donating a book (or more books) to the library and their names would be announced in the school assembly. This kept the number of books keep increasing. Perhaps it became a prestige issue for parents to send only quality books with their kids for their birthday, because all the books so donated were usually good and new books. From as far as I remember my favorite pastime after school (and free hours during school) was to go to the library, pick up a book, and read. The competition with other students who used to read more books (by numbers noted in the library register) only helped propel the habit. When it was time to leave and the library teacher would come tapping on the shoulder asking me to leave, I would take the book home if it appeared interesting.

I still remember one Sunday when I read The Diary of Anne Franke (C edition, I think) from cover to cover at home. Now, this book has an interesting side story that makes libraries not just a collection of books and something much different from digital book reading devices. There are a few sections of the diary in which Anne Frank touches upon sexuality. One particular such page which has some graphic description (which I do not remember now) was so often read by the library users that the page had become dog-eared. In fact, you could open the book randomly and there was a very high chance that page would open up. And I promise I read that page only a few times. That worn out page perhaps was a silent broadcast to all the readers of the book about the curiosity in everyone's mind. There are mechanisms in digital world which allows people to "scribble on margins" which can be read by other readers on their digital devices. But I do not think any digital mechanism can have dog-eared pages.

When I was in ninth and tenth standard, I had become bored of my school's library. Also, I would play football right after school and by the time I was done the school library would have been closed. That is when I discovered the public library in Mattanur bus stand. More than the books there, it was the librarian there who I spent time with. He was preparing for IAS examination and would talk to me about Sweden and Malayalam literature and so many other things that was happening in the world. I took War & Peace from this library once and it was so boring that I never read past the first chapter. Finally when I stopped going to the library, the book remained in my home's bookshelf for more than an year. I later got a postcard from a new librarian who wanted the book back and also made me membership charge for that entire year.

The school I did 11th and 12th in also had the ritual of birthday book donation. And the library there was huge too. But somehow I never used this library. And of course, there was "entrance coaching" to attend after school leaving very little time for actually going to the school library.

Joining Mysore Medical College changed a lot of my expectations from "education system". A library without general books was one such new experience for me. Yet, I would frequent the college UG library. In fact, Swathi and I have spent a lot of evenings in that library sitting across each other and holding hands while reading. Sunil's mention of the pleasure in finding a hidden gem is amazingly accurate. Though MMC library's "gems" were mostly old editions of Gray's anatomy, I particularly remember one physiology textbook by Vander which explained some of the concepts in ways nobody had ever taught me till then. It was one of those treasures you value so much that you would show it to nobody else and try to hide it in some corner of the shelf. But fortunately I didn't have to do any of that because not many of my friends were interested in the library, let alone a textbook that no teacher had recommended to them.

My favorite book is "The Emperor of All Maladies - a Biography of Cancer". If you ask me, it is a textbook of medicine (especially public health) that every medical student should read. But I can make a fairly reasonable bet that the college library wouldn't have that book, even today. But, I also know for a fact that it has multiple copies of all the editions of a book titled "Companion for 1st MBBS" (and also 2nd MBBS, 3rd MBBS, and 4th MBBS). This is a question bank which contains past questions asked in the university exam. It is perhaps the most widely read book by the undergraduate student in Rajiv Gandhi University. And that speaks volumes about what our education system prioritizes. Libraries are only victims to the same.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

VMH - first few days

Getting to Saragur from Mattanur is a tricky business. The shortest route isn't necessarily covered by public transport. My initial plan was to reach Mysore via Virajpet-Hunsur and then take a direct bus to Saragur. But later, I dropped it in favour of what my mom suggested - get down at Hunsur and take a bus that cuts through the corner.

So I did get down at Hunsur. Turns out, in Hunsur there are two KSRTC bus stations. One is for urban buses - the one I got down at. The other, inter-village rural bus service, is where I would find buses to Saragur. Luckily it is walkable distance between the two stations. At the rural bus stand, there was a bus to HD Kote. It's 11 more kilometres between HD Kote and Saragur. But there was no direct bus to Saragur. So I got into the HD Kote bus.

And that was the slowest bus ever. It stopped at every house and couldn't accelerate faster than a turtle. At HD Kote bus stand, there was a city bus going to Saragur waiting for me.…

What Doctors Don't Get to Study in Medical School by BM Hegde

Disclaimer: I realize that I could be putting myself in great academic danger by publishing this post while studying medicine in the same state of the honoured author. But whoever decides to influence my very open professors and make me fail in my exams, also please read this response by nirmukta to one of his articles, to realize that I'm not the only person who feels like there's stone in the rice, waiting to be bitten. Ah! What an interesting title and how easy a way to grab the attention of a medical student tired of reading pharmacology.Within minutes of starting to read this book, I could smell honest but blind religiosity.With all due respect to the degrees the author possesses, this book isn't worth buying. But you should definitely read it once, to understand the workings of a conspiracy theorist's mind.
If you read with a truly open mind, you will be able to ignore the blatant errors of facts or practicality and focus on the drive home message, whi…

Why is Benzylpenicillin called Penicillin G and Phenoxymethylpenicillin Penicillin V?

This one took a lot of searching. My initial hunch was that the G and the V stood for amino acids. G for Glycine and V for Valine. I thought, maybe, if these amino acids were not substituents, at least they would be the precursors involved in synthesis of Penicillins. I had also heard the word "Penicillin Gold" somewhere suggesting that they could be acronyms as well.

After some searching around, there was a chance discovery of this page on some encyclopedia that said "The different forms of penicillin are distinguished from each other by adding a single capital letter to their names. Thus: penicillin F, penicillin G, penicillin K, penicillin N, penicillin O, penicillin S, penicillin V, and penicillin X"

Now I knew there are more letters and these are chosen just because they are in the alphabet and not because of anything special. So the question became, why these letters? Did they start with Penicillin A and go down all the way till Penicillin V and even X? Is…