Everyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I am a voracious reader. As I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs, I inherited the reading habit from my late grandfathers – from both sides of the family. Both were avid readers and exemplary writers, (though their writing was quite limited). If blogs and the internet existed during their times, I am sure both would have been published many times over. I do remember the times when my maternal grandfather used to dictate official letters, while being amazed at the way he structured and worded it. He even had a manual typewriter on which he used to type some of the letters himself. My paternal grandfather would read the Time of India from the first word till the last, and would remember almost everything that he read. Every time we cousins used to announce our class results, grandfather would only be interested in the marks we scored in English!
I personally prefer purchasing printed books (rather than the currently ubiquitous eBooks). I was part of a library a long time ago, but I found that it made more sense for me to buy books and read them at leisure. The smell of freshly printed pages, the thrill of holding the book in your hands and physically turning pages as you read, can never be replicated by its electronic equivalent. Though I am a hardcore fiction fan, I also read other genres, including non-fiction, autobiographies, mythology (Indian and global), inspirational and self-help books, newspapers, and even comics (which are suavely termed graphical novels these days). In fiction I prefer thrillers, murder mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi – I believe that life in general is tough anyways, so a little bit of escapism through such books is always welcome. Thrillers (James Bond, Modesty Blaise, Jack Reacher, Gabriel Allon, etc.) and fantasy (Game of Thrones series, despite GRRM’s wearisome style of character building to move the story forward, Conan the Barbarian, Hobbit series, etc.) are some of my favourites. In mythology I am an avid reader of Devdutt Pattanaik, a modern mythologist who cleverly draws parallels between Indian and world mythologies, subtly drawing the reader into contemplating the similarities while appreciating the differences. In autobiographies the best I have read so far is Mahatma Gandhi’s, “My Experiments with Truth” – a brutally honest self-evaluation, laying bare all the warts and sores that the great man had. Though I am not his biggest of fans, the autobiography is an eye-opener for anyone who wants to understand the man. It also shows how good autobiographies should be written. This is so unlike the recent over-hyped one of a Hindi movie producer / director, which is a contemptible exercise in mediocrity, repetitiveness, balderdash and inanity. But then these are apt adjectives to describe our vacuous Hindi movie industry anyway! One exception is the recent autobiography of the erstwhile leading romantic hero, which I hope to complete soon. I do not have a huge bookshelf with aspirational books kept for show – like you see in most people’s homes. People who like show off such bookshelves have hardly read any of the books on display – this becomes obvious when you ask them exploratory questions about some of these books.
Reading is one habit which I always encourage children to cultivate. This is easier said than done, with many people not really interested in reading tomes. But reading does not mean only books – reading comics (the ones that are meant for children) is a good beginning. There are so many books written specifically for kids these days – take the Harry Potter series (though I am not such a big fan), or better still any of the children’s books written by the inimitable Roald Dahl or Ruskin Bond. A daily reading of the newspapers will be extremely influential in your life. Not that in today’s age of post-truths and half-baked information, reading newspapers is such a good idea, but these are excellent methods of inculcating the reading habit in children, teenagers and adults. Even a studied skimming of headlines would give enough material to keep one updated enough to be an erudite contributor in any discussion on current topics. I sometimes even read movie scripts (as and when I can get hold of them online) to understand the vision of the writer, and then watch the movie to see how the director has translated it onto the big screen. One script I would love to get my hands on is that of Bahubali – it would be didactic to delve into the movie script of India’s biggest blockbuster.
Reading is a habit that opens up phantasmagorical pastures of imagination for children in which they can play to their heart’s content. It enriches and enhances mental growth, while opening new perspectives for a child to indulge and partake in. For children, it throws open doors while adults see only windows that they fear to look through. And you will agree that the good habits you develop in your nonage stay with you till dotage. I would like to end with the quote from one of my favourite writers, George R. R. Martin, which is very apt for all of us – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives only once”.