Books are the way to see the world without moving an inch, said the sedate Mr. Ashok Ganguly in The Namesake (saw the movie, haven’t had the good fortune to read the book as yet, and kudos to Jhumpa Lahiri as well).And it is true to the last letter. Not just see the world, but know it, feel it, love it, hate it, fantasize about it, ruminate over it and be aware of it. Books coupled with an aggressive imagination are the gateway to a plethora of thoughts, sensations and emotions. Reading brings out the best human trait of all, the power to think. When I ponder over Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf with an aim to explore his psyche, when I am lost in Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky’s Russia in his Crime and Punishment, when my ribs are tickled pink by the characters created by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (Jeeves & Wooster, Uncle Fred, Mike & Psmith et al), when I was enthralled by and enamoured of Gregory David Robert’s Shantharam, when I could relate to the lost and outlandish Agastya Sen, courtesy Mr. Upamanayu Chatterjee, when I was in awe of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark, when I got entangled in the magical, mystical and fantastic world of Eragon created by Christopher Paolini, when I was completely bowled over by the mental prowess and perspicacity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, when I am befuddled and beguiled by Fritjof Kapra’s Tao of Physics, I am ALIVE. When my brain is gushing with blood, when there is an avalanche of thoughts, when I can feel a warm glow in my cranium, when it’s whirring, I am proud of being human. And I thank God for bestowing with me this wondrous and inimitable gift. A book is like a jungle for my mental peregrination, I try to penetrate it with my limited intellect and it impregnates me with limitless thoughts.
I guess reading is in my blood. My father was an avid reader, and he still reads when he can. The same can be said for my mother. I am lucky to have an aunt who encouraged this habit of mine, and brought me my first set of Enid Blyton and encyclopaedias. I read to improve myself, to know more, to learn about things I have never heard of, to put my imagination to test, it is not just a hobby or an activity to engage at leisure. It has been a significant contributor to my weltanschauung. Those who read to pass the time don’t read at all, they are just whiling away with the state of their brain hovering just above the level marked inactive. Amongst all the mediums of communication man has at his disposal, the textual one is the noblest and the most powerful. The pen is mightier than the sword was not said in jest. Not everything in this world can be understood and known through audio and visual means, one has to resort to books.
But sadly, reading is a dying art. TV, movies, video-games, mobile phones and a host of other things have contributed to a decline in the number of book lovers. TV must be at the top, and I think even the cell-phone syndrome is responsible for it. Why not chat to your friends using cool sms lingo (which I absolutely hate)? People would rather watch a 2-3 hour movie at the nearest multiplex than pick up a good book and plough through it. I often come across people who are looking for a suitable gift for someone near and dear, but rarely does the suggestion of buying a book seem to work. It only brings out a disapproving no, and that saddens me. The fact that books are expensive is also responsible. Apart from the classics, the Wordsworth edition of which can be purchased at circa 100 rupees only, you rarely find a book which costs less than two or three hundred. And the better they are, the costlier they get. The number of public libraries in India is an indicator of the reading habits of the populace. In my hometown there used to be a British Library, but alas, it’s no more. And not just here, they are closing down in many other cities as well. Any guesses why ? Where is the person who wants to read but cannot afford to, supposed to go ? This will inevitably lead to , in most of the cases, the death of this habit.
A friend of mine went for an interview, where he was asked about his hobbies. Reading was one of them, and he mentioned that the last book he finished was The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. As soon as these words left his mouth, one of the interviewers got visibly excited. He was surprised to find readers of Dostoevsky in the Generation X, and lauded him for it as well. And guess what, my friend cleared the interview as well. Moral of the story – Read Good Books, they help you in ways known and unknown .The digital age that we live in has introduced us to e-books. They may be eco-friendly, cheaper and easily available, but they can never surpass the feeling one gets out of holding a book, rifling through its pages, its smell and touch and the associated pride of ownership. Books are not furniture, but what better way is there to furnish a home, said some great man. To summarise in the style of the amicable Mr. Micawber, from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, “in short” , Reading ROCKS !
A single book at the right time can change our views dramatically, give a quantum boost to our knowledge, help us construct a whole new outlook on the world and our life. Isn't it odd that we don't seek those experiences more systematically? - Steve Leveen
A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East. - Henry David Thoreau
A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. - Edward P. Morgan
Reading confirms your aliveness. It's very validating. That's what book groups ultimately are; you get validated in the human condition--the conditions and puzzles, the good stuff and the bad stuff, the aspirations and hopes and despairs. You're not alone out there. - Rachel Jacobsen
When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me . - W. Somerset Maugham
I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx
A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks. - Mick Foley
P.s. – No, I have not been sponsored or hired by any bookstore or chain of bookstores to write this. I wish they had . Could have made some moolah out of it to buy a book . J