Reading the Old Fashioned Way

As tech savvy as I am, I find myself frequently embarrassed by my level of dependence on technology even for trivial matters. Technology is definitely a boon, especially to our frenetic, time pressed generation. Sadly, this boon comes with a price; it is making our lives somewhat bereft of charm. When I was younger, I was under the impression that automating our daily lives was a good thing, scoffing at adults who chose to slave away, go that extra mile to ensure that things were perfectly cooked or cleaned while the same or perhaps better results could be achieved by machines. But as I grew up and was introduced to the realities of automation, I understood that mastering it would make my life easy but will not necessarily satisfy me. For, my lifestyle would be so synthetic and generic that one would think that it just hopped off a very well oiled assembly line. At times, I get amused by the desperation with which we are ready to replace all our activities and interactions with something as inconsequential as a touch of a button. What is even funnier is that we are so far ahead in the automation time line that the idea of something being hand made is now a novelty and seen as a dying art.

In most areas of my life, I have allowed myself to become a slave to technology. However, there are a few aspects which I consider too sacred to let technology invade it. Reading is one such aspect. I love to read and frankly, new developments in this area makes the act a lot less charming. I have tried reading novels on phones and tablets but like an insatiable romantic, keep returning to the good old paperback. A lot of friends tease me saying that I read the old fashioned way. To them, an ebook reader is the perfect gift technology could present to me. It does solve a lot of problems, the biggest one being that it saves space. My house would be a lot less messier if I bought myself a Kindle. But it is just not the same, is it? I love my Ipad and the fact that it is so sleek and stylish. But I hate reading on it. I read the entire Game of Thrones series on my it but the entire experience left me underwhelmed. In the beginning, I was baffled by my aversion to reading on my many gadgets. In fact, when I bought my first smart phone, I was sure that I would love reading on it. I quickly realised that I was highly mistaken.

Even after so many years of reading novels, I continue to be in awe of literature. Lately, I have come to realise that the pleasure comes not only from reading the wonderful words written in the book, but also from holding the source of the said wonder. There is a lot of magic packed in the pages of books. The smell of a new book, the pleasure of the paper brushing against my fingers, the wearing of the spine as I progress through the book; how can a gadget replace that? I love buying books and take a lot of pleasure in building my book collection. At times when I cannot sleep, I just go to my bookshelf and just gaze lovingly at my books. It is therapeutic indeed. Scrolling through a list of titles on an LED screen does not provide the same thrill. Not to mention the immense strain in puts on one’s eyes.

My books are like my friends who have joined me at various stages of life but never left me. Their pages are the confidantes of my many emotions I had while devouring them. I recently finished re reading “Love in The Time of Cholera”. The words of Marquez capture inexplicable magic but the pages of my copy of the book also capture my astonishment at his genius and sincere sadness at his death. Just as the pages of “The Great Gatsby” preserved my grudging sympathy for Jay Gatsby and the pages of “Jane Eyre” recorded my resolve to adopt a certain brand of feminism.

As much as I fight it, the process of reading is evolving with the changing time and will reach its consummation. Perhaps the next generations will see books as a relic of the time gone by. They will never know the pleasure of holding a book just we will never know the pleasure of doing so many other things. But this is the price we pay for evolution.

Written in response to Daily Post – Handmade Tales

 

 

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Forever…

Until recently, large bungalows made me nervous. Having lived most of my life in the secure enclosures of flats, the individuality evoked by a mansion was lost on me. Life in a big city has a certain obscure air to itself and perhaps the flats dotting the cities are it’s most powerful symbols. A person’s house is their oasis, mirroring their deepest attributes and loves; a haven for them and their children. But from the outside, it is just a tiny little box, cramped between millions of others; all identical and soulless to a passerby.

When I was a child, my mother talked fervently of the house she was born and grew up in. She grew up in a little village, in a large family and an even larger house. Such is the pull of that house that she becomes a little girl again at the thought of revisiting her first home, even after almost three decades of leaving it. When I visited it as a child, I used to be flummoxed as it came nowhere near my urban, ignorant definition of a house. To me, it looked like just a series of rooms bordering a massive courtyard. I had never seen a house not bound together by walls or a roof and genuinely found it strange. Years later, when I stopped visiting the house and my summer memories were all I had left, I realized how beautifully the courtyard brought the house together.

That house, the sentinel of my mother’s childhood now stands in ruins; its occupants having long deserted it in search of a better, more vibrant life. Perhaps, I was too late in appreciating the charms of an expansive house in a quaint little place. I really wish for it be to be renovated for its a shame to watch it lose the battle with time. To me, that house characterized a certain kind of bigheartedness; as if the house welcomed me with outstretched arms. With a spacious porch at its entrance and an immense courtyard at its heart, that house is just not meant for a life behind closed doors. It is instead meant to host a large, boisterous family; entertain their constant chattering, capture their peals of laughter, seal the aroma of family recipes. If it were up to me, I would convert the house into a vacation home; a place where my parents would look forward to visiting and reuniting with their brothers and sisters. It would be a crime to not use the courtyard to its fullest. If I were in charge of that house, I would pass a law to always have dinner in the courtyard, under the country sky and infinite stars. I would set up a large dining table for this. I would also set up cots in the courtyard for star gazing afterwards. I would keep the rest of the place as rustic as possible, doing justice to its surroundings and my mother’s childhood. I wish I could renovate that house and convert into a fantastic getaway and a reunion spot.

I am rereading “Love in the Time of Cholera” these days and as usual being hopelessly drawn into Marquez’s eccentric and magical world. I somehow relate my mother’s first home with Marquez’s universe. For the house seems to elicit a degree of quirkiness; firmly rooted in the past and flaunting its curious hues. As that timeless edifice crumbles today, it does leave warm memories in my heart which I will remember for as long as I can. Or as Florentino Ariza said, “Forever”.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Reviving Bricks

Of Cake and Introspection

Much like the circle of life they mark, the significance of birthdays too evolve as they occur every year. For a child, they are the most anticipated day of the year; friends milling around in your house bearing shining presents, a big cake, wearing a brand new dress, mom cooking her best dishes for you, dad fussing with the camera to capture every little moment of the day. It is the annual day of exclusive attention. As the child grows, the novelty of birthdays diminish gradually. While still special, it is also a notorious reminder that they are getting older. And with that reminder, kicks in the excruciating self introspection; have I made the most of my life so far? Nevertheless, I love birthdays and I am looking forward to celebrating mine in sixteen days.

Come July and I get all excited and can’t wait for the 20th of the month. I get so excited that I start reminding everyone I meet that my birthday is coming up. As thrilling I find the countdown, I don’t plan anything special for this day. All I care about actually is eating a big chocolate cake and good food; and of course, spending some quality time with family and friends. My friends made my last birthday very memorable as we spent the entire day together and they showered me with presents. It was pouring on that day and I drove them for lunch but got stuck in a nasty traffic jam instead. But we had great fun as we were in really high spirits. We were laughing and singing the whole time. On the top of everything, my parents sent my sister and me a big bouquet of flowers and a huge cake in the morning getting the day off to a beautiful start.

I don’t have any specific idea of a perfect birthday. I just like to be busy and surrounded with people I like, eat good food and respond to birthday wishes on phone and Facebook. I have a few friends who are close but whose voices I get to hear only on my birthday. We have all chosen to build our lives in different cities and its a massive shame that I cannot see some of them everyday. So we use our birthdays as an excuse to reconnect. It is something I really look forward every year and I find it heartening that they still bother to wish me. But if I do have to plan a perfect birthday, I would like to be travelling on that day. It would be nice to celebrate it in a place I have never seen before.

As I have grown up, I have begun to see birthdays as a chance for reminiscing at how far I have come. I have a tacit understanding with myself; to get better at something every year. As my birthday approaches and I launch myself into my annual self introspection session; I do realize that I have matured a bit, although in subtle ways. I have become a bit more independent and a bit less confused. As I prepare to surge into another year of my life, all I can wish for is to keep getting better and better in as many ways as I can. And of course, a big chocolate cake.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – It’s Your Party

 

Finding the Way Back

The idea of getting lost terrifies as well as fascinates me to no ends. What alarms me is that how easy it is to get lost; one wrong turn is all it takes. A single lapse of judgement and we find ourselves in an alien territory and all our insecurities come to the fore. I never got lost as a child. I find that strange as every person I know has at least one childhood story where they got lost. The best I can do in that area is tell people about the one time my sister got lost when we were three. But I must have be an obedient kid; tightly gripping my parents’ hand, never straying away from their sights. I do have a faint childhood recollection of dreading the idea of getting lost. I remember visiting a beach once when I was around fifteen. It was night and the sea was particularly turbulent. There was a sense of menace in how the waves rose and crashed against the stark, black sky. It was a beautiful sight to my fellow onlookers but all I could think was how gut wrenching frightening it would be to get lost in that dark, choppy sea.

As I grew up, a pleasant blend of curiosity and confidence crept in. I started liking the idea of wandering in an unknown place. Probably that is just an offshoot of my love for travelling. I am perhaps at my boldest when I visit a new place. A pressing urge to explore that place possesses me and suddenly, the idea of getting lost doesn’t seem that scary. Discovering a place I have never seen before, touching its walls, strolling on its streets, taking in the sights, absorbing its story; getting lost in them is the best way to do it.

I have been lost in the literal sense a few times as an adult, thanks to my terrible sense of direction. I have taken many wrong turns while driving or given incorrect directions to cab drivers. But these situations don’t bother me any more because well, smart phones. Last January, I got lost at Ellora Caves, a series of a thousand year old rock cut caves and the most spectacular monument I have ever visited. For a very long time, I did not realize that I was separated from my family as I was so engrossed in the exquisite carvings all over the walls. I did not have my phone or money with me; I just had my camera. Surprisingly, even when the realization dawned upon me, I did not panic and somehow found my way back. Now that I am writing about it, I am wondering again how I found my way back to my family. I don’t remember exactly how I navigated through the labyrinth that was the caves. It must be quite a feat for someone like me, who took months to memorize the route from work to home. I guess this is how adversity works; pushing you to rise to the challenge.

As I have grown up and formed my own outlook towards life, I have always looked at adversities with an optimistic eye. Although I am no lover of pain or suffering, I cannot overlook the profoundness it brings with itself. I know that its not welcome but it is an excellent tool of self discovery. Getting lost is doubtlessly terrifying but making one’s way back must be equally rewarding. I certainly don’t want to be lost in that violent sea but if I do, perhaps the experience will make a swimmer out of me.

We all get lost, in one way or the other. Sometimes we lose our way while driving; some of us feel lost when in wrong company; we all at some point feel lost in our own lives, caught between the multitudes of worries and decisions. When we are lost, we are temporarily deprived of our greatest comfort – security. This is as terrifying as it is liberating. We all would go to great lengths in order to retrieve our sense of security, which is why we find a way back. This process may reveal a few things about ourselves; perhaps a skill we never knew we possessed or a hidden aspect we didn’t know about our character. As long as we have our optimism with us, we will be fine. Well, optimism and smart phones!

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Wrong Turns