I caught the reading bug when I was about six. And since then, there has been no looking back. A book in my hand is enough to keep me occupied for hours, if not days. Every time I see a book, memories of hiding out under the shade of a tree in the garden to finish my reading, haunt me. It feels like yesterday when I was introduced to the world of Enid Blyton, then P G Wodehouse, Nicholas Sparks, Cecilia Ahern, Alvin Toffler and others. It was a world where I was most comfortable – a world that made me dream; a world that made me want to write.
This week, the Delhi Book Fair is on in New Delhi. Held annually at the Pragati Maidan, this is indeed a treat for everyone: bookworms or not. This fair is quite similar to the renowned Kolkata Book Fair. All the big book publishers were there: Harper Collins, Penguin Books, Grolier International, Little Books, Oxford Univ Press, S Chand & Co, Random House, Sage Publications, etc.
However, as I walked around, I realised what it is about books that catches on, and stays right there, in the heart and mind of the discerning reader. Read on to see how powerful a single tome can be:
- – Reading makes time stand still. What I absolutely love about reading is the way it can make time stand still. It replaces the need to record, dissect and put forth. You become the part of a journey and before you know it, morning turns into evening.
- – Evade boredom. In this day and age of rapid fast moving everything, we seem to have forgotten how to while away time without the aid of technology, food or retail therapy (just to name a few). The Delhi Book Fair showed me that boredom can be happily ousted from our collective memories if we take to reading. Never again will there be a restless child who says to her mother, “Mama, I am bored; let’s go to the mall!”
- – Imagination, here we come. It is proven that watching TV or any other form of multimedia is indulging in a sense of passive imagination. A child’s imagination is literally activated when he or she reads and plays. In media-related entertainment, the images are moving for you. When you read the same scene off the pages of a book, you actively exercise your imagination to create the scene, the furniture, the characters and their freckles. And this helps a child understand, question and understand some more.
- – Write. Reading helps people write. This is an obvious side-effect of the habit of reading. When you read, you visualise and ideate better. And why do you need to write? Maintaining a journal has long been hailed as a major stress buster and the most effective form of “self-therapy”. Writing, expressing and creating are means of self-expression, which help us evolve and grow even as we indulge in the same.
With a visit to the Delhi Book Fair, I realised how important it is to read, not only as child, but also as an adult. As a writer, reading is one of the foremost activities that helps me keep my craft well sharpened. For many professionals, reading is a medium that can help in the evolution of craft and information. This in turn, proves as a vital step in career progression.
Take the Army for instance. Reading is a mandatory thing in the Forces. Not only do you have tons of course material to catch up on, at any given point of time, but you also need to submit a list of books you have read in your lifetime thus far, when you get commissioned into a regiment. Of late, many regiments have taken to presenting the newly commissioned officer with a book to start a reading habit, if it did not already exist. And in remote postings, books are in any case, all you have to keep you company!
Today, with the TV firmly banished from our home after the arrival of our first child, we happily sit up and read before bed time, and reading is a favourite weekend activity. We haunt bookstores and buy books as a matter of passion, and storytelling is a regular occurrence during long drives and at dinner time. With a visit to this Book Fair, came the poignant reminder that reading is something that evolves with you as you grow up. Although, that does not stop me from devouring an Enid Blyton on the sly, as and when time permits!