It is a lazy afternoon, in a high school in suburban Bombay. It is not even a school, just a residential building converted into a school by adding chairs and blackboards in it,but like all small things in this great city, it has its own idiosyncratic charm. The Hindi teacher seems to be adamant about teaching “Ramlal ka Ghoda” in a class that was actually supposed to be a “free period”.
The girl besides him takes out a pen, the nib pointing at the teacher and murmurs ‘Avada Kedavra’. He smiles,”Neh, too painless” He picks up his , aims it at the gullible teacher and mutters “Crucio”, “Sectumsempra” she says,” Incendio” he continues and in that moment a lifelong friendship is born. Nothing like roasting a tortured bleeding man, to seal a friendship.
This is, ofcourse, a long time ago. A time when memes weren’t cool yet and there were better things to do in life other than dissing Rahul Gandhi and Chetan Bhagat on facebook. It was a time when 7 headed snakes, and aliens drinking orange juice didn’t feature in the evening’s breaking news and Cartoon Network still had its 14 letter logo(although its decline into the abyss of darkness had begun). This was a good time.
I remember these days because it was the time of my life when I was always learning, always exploring new stuff and expanding my realm. And in this journey, books were a constant companion. I’ve got my dad to thank for this. Being the avid reader that he is, he cultivated the habit in me pretty early. “Johnathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, was probably the first book he had got me. It was a small book, like less than 200 pages, and half of them were filled with images. But it was, and still is, the most profound book I’ve ever read. The simplicity, elegance and clarity in his writing, and the ability to get his message through, has always inspired me.
From then on, it was a spiral. I had finished almost all books in the students section of the library, and even a few of the teacher’s section books , by the time I was done with school.
It was fun, losing myself, sometimes for days at a time, in the varied worlds that hundreds of these geniuses had crafted, and learning when I emerged from them, that maybe I was a changed man.
It has been more than a month since I last touched a book….
Yesterday I logged in to facebook and quora 4 times to check the 40 odd likes and 150 odd upvotes I had got on a stupid IIPM joke I had cracked. I also spent an hour watching “Roadies” .Meanwhile a really good book committed suicide.
Books are a lot like Sridevi’s performance in English Vinglish( from the utter lack of a better metaphor). They are spectacular, brilliant and enriching in every way possible, but for some reason under-appreciated. A good book can do wonders for your life. There is too much to see and know, and one lifetime is too short a period, the least we could do is try. Start today!!! There are tonnes of them to read, and time, like grains of sand is slipping from your hand. I know it can be tough in this day and time , where everyone scrambling to get something, and nobody having any idea what that thing is. But even a book a fortnight could get you to 25 books a year![ And that puts you way ahead of the curve. 42% of college graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Very few things make me feel this sad. ]
And there is, ofcourse the “One last thing!!!” Everytime you get bored reading it, there’s always that smell… the smell of a new book. That beautiful smell of the pages that can be superceded by only 3 other things in life, the smell of– petrol(I have strange fetishes!!!), mom made fish curry(I’m hungry already! ) , and petrichor (scent of mud after the first rains).
On that note I bid you farewell. It’s time for some reading!!!! “Notes from the underground” will be my date for the days to come. I hope you find yours too. Soon.
The book sits there, waiting on your table, wondering to himself…
” I know I’m kinda weird, but they say I can change your life, so read me maybe.”