The book I am reading these days is ‘The Siege: The Attack on the Taj Mumbai’ by Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott-Clark. The ‘these days’ in that sentence doesn’t sit all that well with me. It is not as if I am reading a big fat boring reference book. Still, there you have it. Apart from the fact that I am no longer a speed-reader as I used to be in my younger days, there is this other, rather peculiar thing about my reading habit in the present. While there are days when I am reading during whatever free time I can snatch out of a busy day (preferring to prop up the Kindle against the water jug and read rather than watch TV while having meals), eyes literally bulging in their sockets poring over the words, there are also days that I wouldn’t touch a book much less think about reading, not because the book is uninteresting, but simply because I don’t feel like reading. Strange, huh? Does it happen to any of you?
What a contrast from college days when I just refused to let go of a book until and unless the last page had been turned. But then marriage puts an end to that kind of love for books and reading for many, girls, let me add. At least it did in my case. There was the mother-in-law who felt she *owned* not just me and my *working* hours, but my free time too. I kid you not. I have already mentioned it elsewhere, but will repeat again, one day while I was immersed in a book (so seriously immersed that what she said did not register at first) having finished all work, she decreed that I stop reading right then. “This is not a library!”
I was a people-please-r par excellence, and obedient to a fault (isn’t that how we bring up daughters in our culture, as useless beings?!), enough anyway to shut my book and stare vacantly into space instead. Well, it was her house, and her rules. That is one reason I dislike joint families, the inordinate power the seniors wield over those younger and which power they use without shame, for no reason other than to feed their personal hungers and inadequacies. So who cares if it affects the lives of the younger lot? But I digress.
With the arrival of kids (and thankfully, living in a nuclear family), though reading took a backseat due to sheer lack of time, I found ways to keep alive my love for books. Whenever the baby cried to be breastfed, the first thing I’d walk towards was, no it was not the baby, but the book on the nearby shelf. While the baby guzzled milk, I ‘guzzled’ printed words. Then of course there were the loo visits, where books accompanied me. All I got to read was just one page or two, but I persevered and even finished whole books this way, one/two pages at a time. Some dedication, what?
Everyone (and their great-grandparents) blame the internet, social networks and electronic media for every ill in this world including the (supposedly) dying habit of reading. Not me. I think people who do such blaming are clueless idiots. Yup, that’s my personal opinion, in case you were wondering, and if it feels unkind, so be it. It really and royally pisses me off, this scaremongering. To me it looks like those whose favorite hobby is reading lose sight of the fact that there are many other hobbies in the world, different perhaps, but equally as interesting as reading to those who practice them. Anyways, it is the much maligned social media and the rest that got me back to reading regularly again. Like I said earlier, I am no longer a speed-reader, but read at a more sedate pace, much akin to that of Beach the Butler while he goes about his duties at Blandings Castle.
By the way, my special reading trait is that I always, but always, finish a book (I feel guilty if I don’t) that I have begun, however boring or uninteresting I find it. Have you got any?
©Shail Mohan 2015