A House Filled With Books by Dipika Mukherjee

My first blog for AE was about my brother's accident. What a bittersweet year 2016 turned out to be, with accolades for my writing coming at a time of terrible personal tragedy.

It has been two and half years now since my brother, Professor Amit Mukerjee, was hit by a bus in Kanpur while cycling with a group of students. As the days pass, the hopes for a complete recovery diminish. He is able to move only a thumb and forefinger in response, and is under 24 hours nursing care in my parent's home in Delhi.

Over time, we have started to accept that he will never be able to teach in his classroom again; it will be a miracle if he is able to sit up and feed himself.

We dream about a day when he will be able to turn the pages of his beloved books again. Hope springs undaunted, as long as he still breathes.

Earlier this month, the family finally made preparations to bring his belongings to New Delhi from Kanpur, closing that chapter of his life. The truck with his belonging trundled into our Delhi home past midnight, weighed down by more boxes of books than anything else.

My brother was a Professor of Computer Science with a PhD in Robotics, but he read voraciously. Over the past week, I sorted through books on Eastern Philosophy and the Indian Mutiny, world literature translated into English and an extensive collection of Indian English Poetry. Besides a collection of books in Bengali, there were books in Spanish, and books that drew out scripts in Eastern languages. He has a calligraphy set.

This was the first time I lost weight during a trip to India. Despite the constant feasting, the feat of transferring books into thematic units, climbing high bookcases and down staircases, had an effect. On most days, my activity tracker showed more than 22 thousand steps.

Now his books are the jewels in an apartment in my parent's home in Delhi; there are books in every corner, below tables and over them, tucked into low seating areas.

We wanted to set this up as Amit's home, someplace he will return to, and be surrounded by his beloved books, the vivid colours of Jamini Roy paintings, and the sonorous tibetan singing bowl he loved to play. There is his ektara in a corner, and underneath, brainteasers in wood and metal collected from around the world. There are brass figurines and woven lamps.

We are going to be renting out this apartment for short term sabbatical or writing retreats. It is a peaceful meditative place, fronted by an ancient mango tree. I hope that bibliophiles who revere books as much as my brother did, will find the place inspirational.

But more than anything else, we hope Amit will come home some day, substantially healed.

Dipika Mukherjee is the author of three works of fiction: Shambala Junction (Aurora Metro, 2016) Ode to Broken Things (Repeater, 2016) and Rules of Desire (Fixi, 2015); two poetry collections, The Third Glass of Wine (Writer’s Workshop, 2015), and The Palimpsest of Exile (Rubicon Press, 2009) and has edited four anthologies of Southeast Asian fiction. 


Umberto Tosi said…
Your vivid and moving words honor your brother, your parents and all who create and read here, sharing a rich personal narrative of the kind that fill those books you lovingly shelved to await your brother's full awakening. We join you in hoping that your brother will someday soon recover enough to sit up and read those books again - along with all of our humble blogs.
Bill Kirton said…
What a picture you paint, Dipika, and what a wonderful tribute to your bother - clearly a fulfilled man with so much to offer. His tragedy is cruel but the evidence of how much his family and friends care for and love him must sustain him in his enforced bleakness.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for sharing this story, Dipika - all good wishes for more healing for your amazing brother.

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