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




An Ode to the Summer Afternoon

As I type this post, I can feel the hot sun’s wrath crashing through my window’s resistance and warming my back. I feel my skin heat up and beads of sweat tingling behind my ear. The fan’s promise of providing cool has long been rendered defenseless as I look up to it, circling with a defeated sense of duty. I look around the room, the sunlight doing a victory dance all over the furniture, floor and walls. I smile and turn back to my computer, elated at having my afternoons back, however briefly it may be.

An Indian summer has a tumultuous relationship with Indians, a one which starts on a sweet note but sours as we age. As a child, summer was something I looked forward to all year. It was a period of total bliss and abandonment of routine as my friends and I spent all our days outside the confines of our homes and schools. It was a period which could make or break friendships. Those sipping of cold lemonades, running all day and inventing games, mindless gossip and chattering. It is a period every person reminisces about with nothing but pure fondness and joy. As we grow up, a certain degree of dread fills our senses when we talk about the dawn of this season. No longer children and crushed under the trappings of adult life, we actually start planning ways in which we can combat this torturous season while maintaining our daily routines. We try to reach our offices and take refuge under the centralized air conditioning before the heat reaches its peak, put off everything until the air is cool outside, change our wardrobe to include lighter clothes as an armor against the brutal onslaught of the sun. Every action is a defense against the season.

To be fair, we cannot be blamed for this. This blazing, hot fire spitting body successfully torches every romantic sentiment anyone may have harbored for this season, especially when we no longer have the liberty to divorce ourselves from our routine. But fortunately, I have had an opportunity to do so over the past few weeks and I am enjoying it to the hilt.

I have always had this highly romantic, unachievable notion that summer afternoons should be a time devoted to ourselves. As I started working, I realised what an absurd thought this was as it would take skills beyond my power to squeeze in a siesta with client calls and meetings. For the past four years, I spent my summer afternoons under artificial lighting and air conditioning. Unsurprisingly, these four years made me highly appreciative of natural light, which explains my happiness at being simmered in this unflinching summer at this moment. I have been very happy, spending time with myself these few weeks. I have escpecially loved the afternoons, a part of day I thought was being gradually dissected from my life. I especially like to read during this time of the day and love the unhurried pace this time provides. It makes me feel that I would be reading till the end of time, an idea I am not really opposed to. Afternoons have always provided me a quiet reassurance that the day still has plenty to offer. It also reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, “The Great Gatsby”, when all the characters are relaxing in a particularly hot summer afternoon, fanning themselves and drinking lemonade. I think this is an especially poignant time in the book one can sense the simmering emotions underneath the idle chatter. It is the last point of calmness in the book and everything which follows is a flurry of activities and emotions. Maybe unconsciously, I have started seeing afternoons in the same light. There is activity during this time but everything is muffled. Everything is a preparation for coming of the evening where the day comes alive again and the intimacy is gone.

Henry James once wrote, “Summer Afternoons, Summer Afternoons; to me, those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Needless to say, I think he was absolutely right and I am couldn’t be happier at rekindling my romance with the glorious summer afternoon.