Giving someone a book is a thoughtful gesture by the sender. Books as a gift are expressions of love, care, and consideration; the sender is sending the message as if saying ‘I see you, I know you , I’m thinking of you.’ But there are people who make it a little more especial – they surprise you by expressing their gratitude through the medium of handwritten notes. I have treasured many books that came as gifts. The books received from three important people in my life – One from a Toastmaster friend, another from an adventurous neighbor and one from my father remained prominent in my memory. Even though I kept them lined on my book self I never realized the true value of the notes that were handwritten and addressed to me until the demise of my father– Friends it was the death of my dad which made me look at them afresh.
Much of the mail we receive daily consists of either bills, catalogs, or solicitations. Two years ago , during Christmas , I received an out-of-the-blue, completely unexpected gift. It was a book in a gift box sent by a friend from my Toastmasters club. The book was accompanied by a neat handwritten note. I remember replying to her heartfelt gesture but I hastily looked through it before leaving on my bookshelf unread , untouched. The next book I received as a gift was through a slightly different circumstance. My next-door neighbor was an adventurous man who after retirement bought an RV and became a traveler. I was fascinated by him – he called himself a lifelong learner whose never ending quest to see and experience new places led him to every corner of the United States. Whenever I did not see his motorhome for an extended period of time I knew he was somewhere - in a United States Presidential Library and museum researching history. Every time he returned home , he would narrate to me the dramatic events, historic artifacts and fascinating interactive exhibits associated with these much admired America’s leaders. When he published his book I was the first recipient; I vividly remember that day – after signing and presenting his book , he asked me “Would you visit those Libraries?” and I excitedly nodded but again I put his book on the book self unread , untouched. The third important book I received was from my dear father. For eighteen long years ,this one also remained unaccounted for .
My father was a professor of English. Along with his teaching profession he indulged in his passion for writing. He was well-known as a book critic and various newspapers in my town and city published his books reviews. My father was much sought after, and authors and publishers often approached him for book reviews. The image that shaped me most when I was young was the memory of my father at his writing desk, arms folded, sleeves rolled , staring at a blank sheet of paper , thinking. Nothing could distract him during the time he spent writing his reviews. If the phone rang, he did not hear it; if my little brother appeared seeking attention, he did not see him. His strong arms would unfold , his hand would pick up the fountain pen , and he would start writing – rapidly, more rapidly still , words flying onto the pages ; he wouldn’t rest until his promise was fulfilled.
When I was writing his obituary, I picked up the book he presented me eighteen year back. books. On top of the inside cover page I saw his neat handwriting, his signature with his favorite blue ink pen, date December 10th and year 2003 – the same year my daughter was born. Then I turned to the next page and read his words -this book is dedicated to my granddaughter Anvi. I was stunned, the book was lying unattended , uncared for on long eighteen years and when I showed to my daughter it was too late , my father was no more.
Link to the speech video
That day , I made a promise to myself –anytime I receive a note of appreciation from someone I will live up to him or her. Michael Bayes my Toastmaster friend had presented me a book – “The Difference Maker” ; I was reading her lovely note – will you make a difference in the world? My neighbor Dan Nelson had gifted me his book “Presidential Leadership” ; his words resounded “ Will you visit the Presidential libraries and enrich your life ?” And my father Rabindra Chandra Bora presented me the book of his life journey – “ Will you tell my story to my granddaughter.
I made a quiet promise to my departed father, “ Let the phone ring , I will hear nothing , let the Television play , I will see no one; I will work to make a difference in the world, I will choose to enrich my life and I will tell your story to your granddaughter. Friends , I am working on my promises ; the road is deep , rocky and steep but I have promises to keep and I wouldn’t rest until they are fulfilled.