Books. Something everyone loves to say they love but rarely find the time to actually read. Paperback, hardbound, the ever divisive E-reader, there’s no shortage of ways to read now, and with disposable income higher than ever, there’s no real reason not to, if you really wanted to that is. But of course there’s competition, TV, online content, music, the ever addicting social media and what not. And while,I too had given up my childhood reading habit a long time ago, it’s something I’m slowly rediscoving, both out of interest and to some extent out of need.
My love affair with books began at the early age of 10, when my reason for getting kicked out of class changed from he’s not reading the assignments given to he’s reading comics in class. You’d think all the extra reading I was doing would be appreciated but nope, out of class it was. From the humble beginnings of have my dad read me Asterisk comics at bedtime, stories I still remember by-heart, to the crazy book a day reader I became in high school, reading was something I enjoyed enough to blow off meetings with friends for.
What helped me a lot was my dad’s love of reading and his insane collection of books at home. He had a habit of buying second hand books at stores and book fairs from a young age. While being too poor to actually afford a lot of the books he wanted new, he still managed to build a library of hundreds of books at home. Including every Asterisk comic ever made and the entire bibliography of P. G Wodehouse (an author whose work I never really got into, much to my dad’s disappointment). It’s a prized collection he still maintains meticulously to this day. The man really is an inspiration.
I followed my dad’s way of getting books. Book fairs and second hand stores. Borrowing from friends and lending out in return. We even started a little lending library in our class at school too. Weirdly, I’ve never actually joined an actual library, though there were at least 2 within walking distance from my house but I never felt the need to become a member. From starting out from the whimsical world of Enid Blyton, to the exciting, if a little cookie-cutter stories of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, to the literally magical world of Harry Potter, my highschool life was a vivid and interesting one.
Then came college. Given the fact that my college was 22 km from my house and my only means of transport at the time was an over crowded and slow bus, reading had to take a back seat to struggling to comfortably travel. The workload I was given and the exhaustion from it all ensured that all I did at home was eat and sleep. I was now an official part of the rat race, Woohoo! Getting my little 125cc commuter bike did little to improve my situation as the exhaustion still stuck around. It was a dark time for my little reading habit.
Joining a corporate job brought in disposable income and surprisingly a little more free time. Being part of the tech brigade, I hopped on the e-reader bandwagon and got myself the ever debated Kindle. The basic one of course but I loved it. As someone who’s only had second hand books books I had little nostalgia for the much loved new book feel and smell. Most of my books smelt like an old library and were usually held together with tape, prayers, hopes and dreams. Though getting back into the habit took a surprising amount of effort. I just didn’t have the time like before and constant use of computers and my phone had ensure I was used to more immediate content of a video or TV show than to the slower more methodical process of reading a book. This actually took a while to change.
One of the primary drivers for the switch back to books was the fact that constant screen use, especially at night was messing with my ability to sleep. While the fix for this was obvious, stop using my laptop and phone after work, what to do with that time was not. Then during a random cleaning spree I found my dusty old kindle in the corner of my room and the solution to my boredom was at hand, assuming it still worked of course. It had been well over a year since I charged the thing. Thankfully, It still worked.
Finding the peace of mind to read hasn’t been easy. Emails and whatsapp messages are ever present distractions I struggle to ignore for fear of missing something important. Time is still a scarce commodity and so are quiet places to sit and read. But, I do put in the effort to try and read at least 50 pages a day. To get back into worlds long lost but never forgotten, to stories about American Gods and Indian villages, with happy endings, sad endings and no endings at all, who knows maybe I’ll finally understand my dad’s love for P.G. Wodehouse too.
The issues I face in the world have changed, the stress of exams has now become the stress of work deadlines, my anxieties have increased like there’s no tomorrow and moments of relaxation and peace are few and far between, but my old escape to new worlds has always remained, just waiting for me to rediscover it. And so, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read.