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No Books Allowed in the Library

This past Saturday, Isabel and I (or Sophie and I, depending on who you are picturing reading this story) took a trip to the Banaras Hindu University library. After another long week of chaos, rickshaw rides, and deep fried sandwiches for breakfast, we decided our hours from 4-6 could be no better spent than at the library.

Earlier that day, we had gone on a group excursion to Sarnath, the site where Buddha gave his first teachings. We had the morning to explore the museum and escape from the pointless honking of the streets, in the Garden of Spiritual Wisdom. It would have been the perfect opportunity to read my book, had I not (uncharacteristically, I might add) left it at home. Upon returning to the program house, I picked out a new book, while Isabel in her stereotypical Isabel way (ask her to demonstrate it sometime, because no amount of descriptive terminology could capture the nuance of the arm movement) hailed a thuk-thuk.

The ride to BHU was fairly uneventful; only one minor collision with another motor vehicle, incessant staring from the driver in the car next to us during a traffic jam that lasted a solid three minutes, and had an amicable interaction with the police officer who gave us a ticket for an unknown reason. We arrived in one piece, and that’s all that really matters.

The BHU campus is charming and the library is magnificent. A tall yellow building with red molding, it is almost reminiscent of a castle you might have seen pictured in a storybook. We clutched on to each other when we saw a singular peacock, teetering haughtily on the patches of grass near the entrance.

Once inside, the security guard asked for out I.D’s. He gave mine back to me after a quick glance, but thoroughly inspected Isabel’s and asked her to write down her information in the visitors log. He searched her bag, and closed it tightly, surely noticing the three books she had brought with her. He removed my singular book, and through our jumbled understanding of Hindi, we figured he thought I was trying to return the book (I was not.) “No, it’s my book,” I said as he took it away. “Mera kitab!” I insisted, reaching for it. The guard signaled for me to wait while he went to fetch an English speaker. “He wants you to leave the book with him, and you can get it back when you leave.” “What? Why?” I asked.

“Because,” said the English speaker, smiling, “no books allowed in the library.”