THE ETIQUETTE ONE SHOULD HAVE WHEN ONE BORROWS A BOOK FROM ANOTHER

There are people who are so rich that they would not mind lending their books and sometimes experienced having them un-returned by the borrower. There are people like me, who are so impoverished; they value each and every single book they have ever owned because they actually have to save up their allowance to buy books. The concept of starving yourself each month just so you would have enough money to buy that romance, and this thriller, and that mystery, and this literature is the concept which is quite alien to most! But this particular concept is all very, very familiar to me. In the light of that situation, I would be gravely annoyed and shall become quite murderous if anyone who borrows my book turns out to be one of those ingrates who have this lackadaisical attitude about their responsibility towards me, the owner.

Some people may have impeccable social skills and splendid table manners (what size of spoon to use with which meals, and they actually use napkin!) but they have zero etiquette when it comes to treating a book-owner the respect that he/she deserves for having been generous enough to actually lend a book to them in the first place!

I used to tell my parents that other people would weep with heartfelt gratitude if their children ever indicate a mild interest of reading novels for a hobby. Here I was, blatantly flaunting my wild passion for books, and my parents snorted, as though to say:

“Rest assured, I would most certainly weep with gratitude if you have just as wild a passion in reading math books as you have in reading novels!”

Passion for math? (eww, seriously!)

What’s the chance of that happening? If we go about this statistically, the chance of my having a passion for math is…a mathematical impossibility.

Yes, that’s what it would be.

Any passion I ever have in association with math would be that of passionate loathing and mad hatred!

So, having assessed the hopelessness of the situation, I never again pester my parents to buy me any books. I have to use my own money! And considering how much I love food – second only to books – starving myself is actually too noble a sacrifice! One that should not be viewed lightly.

So, I hope everyone would understand why I make such a fuss about book-borrowing etiquette! I have had at least five people losing my books (and no wonder too, since they find it fit to pass my book around as though it’s theirs!) and considering how very seldom I lend my books to people, five books missing is quite a high statistic.

And before anyone look down their noses at me, thinking I am so stingy with my books, let me get one thing straight; It’s not a question of generosity here, folks!

It’s a question of trust!

I can’t work up enough trust to lend my books to just anyone! And half the time I was right, too.

The problem is not just about books missing. Sometimes, the book would look so lasam and worn out because the borrower opened the book so widely! (You know what I mean?) And the corners of the pages were folded! When things like these happened to my books I was like, come on! A bookmark is not invented so that we will feel compelled to forego their use!

You see, I love buying books. I love wrapping them up in plastics and then have them displayed on my shelves at home. There are some books I just cannot part with and they go wherever I go except one day when I die buried in my grave. (my books will be in my will. I shall decide which of my children shall inherit them) So I would love to display them in the bookshelf of my hostel room. (Books can be very attractive ornaments if you know how to go about arranging them). But I find myself unable to do that because what if someone comes into my room and having seen my displayed books, ask to borrow one?

If I decide to deny her, she would think I am stingy. But if I grant her wish, there’s a high possibility I would never lay my eyes on my books again. It’s a dilemma that I don’t want to spend my time pondering, so I never display my books in my hostel room. I hide them! And in doing so, I deny myself one of the pleasures that comes with owning a good book.

So here is the list of favourable etiquette I want people to have when they borrow any of my books.

1) Guard my book with your life!

– And no, I am not being hyperbolic. Guarding my book with your life means that my book should not be harmed in any way. No tears, no pages folded, no worn-out look, no coffee stains.

-My books are my babies, okay! Whenever I reluctantly lend someone a book, I feel the same anxiety any mother would feel when she knows that her child is somewhere out there in the wilderness and in the mercy of harsh weather.

-Yes, you got it; the wilderness and the harsh weather are referring to the borrower.

2) Do not pass my book around!

– For God’s sake, my books are not public property! When I was forced by social circumstance to lend my book to someone, I am not, in doing so, giving up my ownership of the said book.

-Let me give you a comparison. What I feel towards my book is exactly what a gentleman in the medieval time would feel towards his wife. If he finds out that his wife is being unceremoniously tossed around by other gentlemen, he would propose a duel because he is feeling rather murderous. Well, I am sure the comparison is quite apt.

-But in case it is not yet clear, let me say this in plain monosyllable words. The same person who asks me for my book should be the same person returning it to me. It is the only acceptable thing to do. If you choose to show disrespect by passing my wife – I mean my book – around, be prepared to meet me at the crack of dawn at twenty paces. My seconds will call yours to arrange the date.

3) Books should be hastily returned!

– If they don’t pass my books around, they would keep it for months under a stack of other books and papers. Perhaps, they think they are giving my book just the conducive environment needed for hatching an off-spring. Several people have used this method but to no avail. Perhaps, they should try starving themselves up and actually buying one if they want to keep the book so much. And then, they would have all the time in the world to conduct an experiment of whether or not a book can reproduce when it is placed amidst other junks in their room.

-But the last time I check, the book is very infertile. It is my suggestion that they should check out fertility treatment.

All right, those are the major points I want to emphasize. There are others but not as annoying, so why make myself any more unpopulour than I already am, right? I am sorry if I sound so bloody condescending but I have put up with this for years. I only have a small amount of patience and I have run out of them altogether.

People always borrow my books in an extended period of time. And I am a person who hates having to ask for any of my things that are borrowed. I don’t know how to go about doing it without embarrassing the borrower. So, I would procrastinate the task and end up asking for my book at the end of the year or when we are about to have long holidays. By then, my books vanish into thin air. And these people do not have the courtesy to act contrite when they say “Oh, hari tu this girl pinjam. Cuba tanya dia.” I mean, what rights do you have to lend my books to others, the books that I let you borrow in good faith? And they sound as though they did nothing wrong in the least! How is that for infuriating?

And then some people would keep the book for weeks, even months. When I asked for it, they would say “Oh, tak habis baca lagilah. Banyak kerja. Banyak homework. Nanti bila aku dah habis baca aku kasi, ek?” It took a lot of effort for me not to roll my eyes. Come on lah! What is it with these people?

I believe in paying for every pleasure I take. Reading novels, included. The price is my growling stomach but I am prepared to pay for it. When I borrow a book from someone, I would feel so grateful that she/he trusted me with it. I would finish it as soon as possible and try to return the book the next day. I mean, my elder sister can finish a novel within hours. I do not read as fast as she does but I took only one day to finish a Dan Brown. Once I borrow a book, I would not stop reading until I have finished it. If it means I have to stay up later on to finish my homework or burn the midnight oil to catch up with studies, that’s what I would do. That’s the price I would pay!

Please respect the book-owner. She may not consciously realize it, but she would feel as though a heavy burden has been lifted off her shoulder every time her book is promptly returned. If you are not prepared to put off some works or some studying, then do not borrow! Meminjam ni ada adab, ada tatasusila dia! If you care so much about not procrastinating your works or studies, try to find the time when you have less work to do (for example, the last day of monthly exam) and only then you borrow.

Then, please return it the next day! Or better yet, the very same day! Establish a good record and I would lend you my books every single time you ask for it if it’s available!

So, I hope a lot of people would read this very long article. In fact, I am toying with the idea of printing this out and lend it along with my book to the borrower. I know that most people were not conscious of the distress they have caused me. I mean, I know they don’t intentionally mean to annoy me. So, I can’t really blame them. Different people have different values. Please, I hope nobody is annoyed with me. This article is pretty condescending but I had tried to inject as much humor as possible to placate any injured parties.

My circumstance of having to pay for my own pleasure gave me these values. And I want them to be understood before I let anyone borrow a book. Think of this article as a printed online visa with terms and condition. Yeah, a visa before having access to my books.

I find myself smiling at the originality of the idea of printed visa! I hope, others are smiling too. To all my borrowers, don’t be mad at me. I will let you borrow a book. But you better behave, my dears! Or we can have that date I mentioned at the crack of dawn.