Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bitten by the Reading Bug

I know a lot of people who love to spend their spare time reading a book - reading is a passion for them. Almost all of them picked the habit as a kid. In that respect, I’m more of an exception. The reading bug never bit me as a kid, though my parents, especially my mom, were always strong advocates of reading as a habit. They would take my brother and me to Book Fairs and buy a lot of books for us, but while my brother took on to reading fairly early – making quantum jumps from Enid Blytons to Hardy Boys to Ludlums by the time he was 10, the habit never really caught on with me. If at all I read anything, it was only due to peer pressure; I didn't want to feel left out when my brother and our friends discussed the latest Hardy Boys adventure. I didn't enjoy reading as a kid. I didn't have the patience for it.

It was fairly late in life that I truly discovered the pleasure of reading. Actually, it was the writing bug that bit me first. It started with a diary that I maintained very religiously, then I moved to the next logical step of shaping my diary into a semi-autographical book, and finally I found my passion - poetry. And when I started writing, I was naturally drawn towards reading. Since I had chosen Hindi and Urdu as the languages of choice for my poetry, I mostly read classical Hindi Literature and Urdu poetry. After a while, the language didn't matter. I was hooked and would read just about anything I could lay my hands on.

Books have been my constant companion for many years now. They have been with me through thick and thin. There have been times where I have neglected them due to pressures of time, but like a faithful friend they have never left me. The kind of comfort and solace one finds in friendship, I find in books. If I'm not in the best of moods, if I'm depressed, if I'm lonely, or, for that matter, if I'm in high spirits, if I'm elated – books have always been with me. They are with me, yet give me the space I sometimes yearn for.

When I'm in a depressingly philosophical mood, I think books are in fact better than people. They don't have the power to hurt you, or have expectations that you can't possibly live up to. If you aren't able to give them enough attention, they don't accuse you of being detached, or insensitive, or inconsiderate. On the flip side, if you spend a lot of time with them, they don't question your motives, or look for intentions where none exist, or undermine your feelings, or demand their space, or want to cut-off, or expect a realignment...They remain with you unconditionally.

I'm amazed at the number of books I've read in the last 2-3 months. And these books don't fall into any particular genre. I've read poetry (Ghalib, Gulzar, Vikram Seth), biographies (Ghalib, Two Lives), short stories (Gulzar, Jhumpa Lahiri), books about relationships (An Equal Music, A Misalliance), family saga (A Suitable Boy), magic-realism (Shalimar the Clown), chewing-gum fiction (Chetan Bhagat variety), thrillers (Dan Brown type), and even Harry Potter books all over again. Right now I'm reading Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Namesake'. And I have already bought a few more books that I would read after that. I've enjoyed reading each of these books despite the inconsistency in their literary value. More importantly, they have helped me tide over the tough times I have been through. They have been my true friends, my soulmates.