ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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​On Reading

As our lives are increasingly taken over by electronic gadgets and screens, we should remind ourselves how reading can change lives and bring us unfathomable hours of happiness.

Reading, as an act independent of books in its essential process, has never been so all-consuming, as it were—at a time when all of us are reading more than ever before, or almost always staring at the phone or computer screen to read messages, memes and news. This is not to suggest that the internet is nothing beyond being just an unending pool of information (and entertainment) and neither is it claimed that there is a conflict between books and the internet in the process of knowledge construction. It is rather a fact that the question “what books to read” is replaced by “which sites to visit.” Both the questions, as everyone would agree, can be answered by a trained mind, which can also effectively work out ways of how both the mediums can complement each other in developing robust learning resources. It would also be improper to consider it an impudence if people like me, on the wrong side of 50, who have grown up on a regular diet of books, show a little good-humoured bias and romance towards books and keep talking about books as if they were real characters, which have the potency to change lives and bring hours of unfathomable happiness.

Philosopher, orator, and writer Arindam Chakrabarti, while speaking of the idea of “home,” suggests that one’s home is that which one has left for good. As an example, he says that he always tells everyone, when asked, that his home is Calcutta, precisely because he has left the city for good, to live in Hawaii where he lives and works. The fate of a lost book presents a case which is almost the converse of this idea. A lost book finds its true home in the shelter of the person who picked it up to read, never to return to the owner, who may or may not have read the book, or to the library shelf (where it may have originally belonged) to return the book to a state of a mere catalogued entity. A true reader is, primarily and entirely, a reader who runs the risk of being labelled a thief. The celebrated Bengali language writer, Syed Mujtaba Ali, in the first piece of his iconic Panchatantra (a collection of belles-lettres), relates the story of Mark Twain’s enormous collection of books kept in total disarray in his library. On a friend’s suggestion of buying shelves to keep the books in place, the writer apparently said that shelves could not possibly come to the library the way the books came in—they could not be borrowed!

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Updated On : 6th Oct, 2020
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