Monday, November 1, 2010

Books, Books and more Books!

What do you do when you go to a railway station to receive somebody and have to wait there for an hour or so for them to arrive? I usually pass my time wandering the full length of the platform, looking at different shades of life there. I have a belief that, in India, if you wish to know the culture of a certain region, the best place to look for that is the railway platform of that region. The kind of diversity in the life form that one sees there is just unbelievable. Anyways, I was talking about my time-pass at a railway station. Actually, one doesn't need to apply too much effort in order to pass time there. Trains come and go and with it hundreds of faces also come and go. You don't really get a free time that you have to pass. This goes about the railway platform but what if you have to wait for an hour or more at a small domestic airport like that of Patna?
Today was a kind of evening for me where I had to wait for more than an hour for the arrival of my cousin at Patna airport. I waited at the airport hall. Being a small domestic airport, it has nothing much to offer for waiting people like me. A restaurant that I can't afford, a small canteen and a small shop for books, gifts, etc and a small hall with some seats is all that it has got. Wandering in the hall up and down and occasional ogling at the air-hostesses bored me after a few minutes. Buying a can of coke and drinking it near the canteen occupied me for another few minutes but what after that?
The small shop that had gifts, books etc remained the only other option where I could spend some time. But, the shop was too small for comfort and just couldn't attract me to inside it. There were books on display towards the outside through the window pane. I chose to stand there and look at them. Books and books and more books! There was Chetan Bhagat (If you are in India and at a book store, you just can't ignore this man even if you want to), Agatha Christie, M.K. Gandhi, Ayn Rand, Naipaul, Rushdie, Paulo Coelho and not to forget the self-help gurus (In Indian literature these days, if someone is worshiped just after Chetan Bhagat, these are those people) amongst others. The list neither signifies their relative importance, nor my choice of authors nor their abundance at the store. It only signifies my poor ability of remembering names. Standing there and looking towards the shop made me realise why exactly the term 'Window shopping' is called so. Its not that I hadn't window-shopped before but living at a place like Patna where there are no malls yet (it doesn't mean I don't like Patna, I just love it!), you have to agree that people here are not so familiar practically with the term. Window shopping is one of the thing that the mall culture has inculcated into us. Anyways.
Standing there and looking at those books, reading their title and the name of the author, I suddenly started feeling frightened by them. Faces came out of the cover pages and started to give me looks, strange looks, staring looks. They were asking me from all the directions why I don't read them. I couldn't answer them because they wouldn't hear me.
I managed to run away from there, terribly frightened and obviously thinking. Thinking again all those things that led to my last post here. I realised, I don't hate these books. In fact, at some corner of my heart, I even love them. I have always wanted to befriend them but have always failed too, sometimes out of paucity of time, most other times out of paucity of interest. I recollected all those times when I had motivated myself towards these books and found out that I still want to be a reading buff. In my last post, I questioned the necessity of such readings and here I admit that they might not be necessary but as a hobby, these readings are awesome. There is a definite hope that, in future, these books would become my friends.
With this hope, the announcement of the arrival of the flight came. I received my cousin and headed towards my home. Such a great time-pass where I rediscovered my love for these books was totally unexpected. Unexpected again was to find, just after reaching home, at my blogger dashboard, this blog from my following list which, in some way or other, was concerned with this habit of reading. Roberto Bolano, in his collection of short stories, The Insufferable Gaucho, has an essay, 'Literature+Illness=Illness'. A beautiful excerpt:
 "travel, sex and books are paths that lead nowhere except to the loss of self, and yet, they must be followed and the self must be lost, in order to find it again, or to find something, whatever it may be - a book, an expression, a misplaced order Rodin anything at all, a method perhaps, and, with a bit of luck, the new, which has been there all along".


nidhi said...

gud one....superlike.....that's one of my pledges too...will read as much as possible as soon as life settles....this is the only grudge i have against my made me compromise with my hobby.....waise i'm happy whatever names u have mentioned i have read them...

Alok said...

Sorry couldn't comment on the last post yesterday.

Here is what I think. First, one can read just for the sheer pleasure of reading. you can get pleasure from the plot, characters or the situations described in the book or at a much deeper level one can get pleasure from the way language is used to express complex thoughts and emotion. As someone who tries his hand at writing, I am sure you understand how difficult it is to express a thought or emotion clearly and precisely and without losing any of the real complexity. So when you read a great writer or poet, you marvel at their skill.

Second, reading can also be for self-improvement and edification. You read in order to learn how to think about an intellectual problem. Books may not give you answers you seek to the problem but they will make you learn how to think and how to imagine. Most of us really don't care anything beyond the humdrum of our daily existence, books will teach you that there is more to this life and this world than just going through the motions of life like an automaton.

Books also help you get an insight into other people's inner lives, thought processes and their experiences. You learn that your way of thinking and looking at the world may not be shared by people around you. And so, it makes you appreciate the uniqueness and individuality of other people.

If you read books just so that you can regurgitate other people's ideas and opinions (probably like your friends debating on the facebook) then it will not really serve any purpose. You should read to learn how to think, and how to imagine.

Aashu said...

@nidhi: Thanks!

@alok: I agree to all your points about reading and maybe , these are the same factors for which I want to develop reading as my habit. Maybe, as Nidhi said, after life settles!!!
Thanks, btw, for the comment!

संजय भास्कर said...

दिपोत्सव की शुभकामनाएँ
ईश्वर से कामना है कि यह दीपोत्सव आपके जीवन में सभी मनोकामनाएं पूर्ण करे।