Who has the time to Read?

When you travel a place, it’s necessary to know something-even if it means a tiny share of the pie-about the history and culture and popular movements that have occurred that in that particular place of interest. It basically complements all the sights and the smells and the flavors and all the prickly heat and bustling neighborhood noise that the place had to offer.  All those HD data flowing into your nervous system so adroitly sent out by your sensory organs then finally start making sense. After all, those crucial elements were the cause for your senses to sense it in the first place. If you know what I mean.

Summer Palace, Beijing
I had basically gone over some of Vietnam’s chaotic not so long past-most of them now all packed up and locked up somewhere in my brain- and got hold of some books about Hanoi’s architectural heritage but never bothered to complete them. Since China was already on my list now, I felt the need to go hunt some books on china down and dust them off the bookshelves of our central library. At the book counter, however, the lady in charge refused to lend me my books.

“You have overdue fines to pay” she said half looking at the computer and half looking at me. 
“So how much do I owe?” I said.
“3000 won”, she said half expecting me to take out my wallet.
I started searching my pockets and the best I got out of myself was 250 won.
“Is this enough for now?”, I said with a big grin. I waited for a while for a quick smile only to be greeted by complete apathy.  “Sooo do you accept card?”
She looked at me as if I was kidding.  I had to quickly add, “Of course, just a joke. I will come next time then.”

I had to give up book reading for the day.


What I see these days is that we are so indulged on electronic media and doing other time wasting stuff that I feel we hardly set aside time for literature. Everyone’s so busy. During semesters it is hardly possible to keep pace with what’s going on with classes as they race in NASCAR like speed. It's like your car has a Maruti engine which forces you to always play catch up.  Reading literature during semester thus imposes higher risk of getting your grades all f*&^ed up. Believe me, I have gone through that shit ridden road quite a few times.

Central Library
Back in Budhanilkantha though, things were rather different. We were encouraged to read literature and friends could be often seen competing in reading. It was natural to see kids carrying around books and reading them in top and bottom pitch areas of the school. Our library had a pretty decent amount of books on offer and I think, students made most out of it. Besides football and girls, guys could be seen talking about what literature they were engaged in over the past few days. There were also those guys who would stay up all night and finish a book in one go. I remember 973 Kaustuv (now studying at Oxford) taking a torch light after light out hours (it was a residential school) and reading the shit out of books he had just got hold of all night long at that tender age. That guy was a monster I tell you.

There were also crazy, slightly insane guys like me who tried to take on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in grade 8 just because it was the biggest, fattest and most badass book I had ever seen.  I took it to my English literature class one day and my teacher Mrs. V. Kharel (she was obsessed with history but I liked her) took a good look at the book and a very long and good look at me.

“You borrowed this?”
“I actually got it from my uncle’s collection”
“Good choice”, she said.  “I have not seen a 8th grader pick up that book. Let me tell you something…” and then she started talking about the book.

What was most important here was she never criticized me for being over ambitious. If I was in a different school, I would have been mocked for sure. I mean, if I see a 8th grader kid pick up that same book, I would have mocked him prettyyyy bad. But I wasn't.  I eventually ended reading it although I had to skip quite many a few chapters. That’s what she instructed me to do anyways.

The whole ambiance was such that reading habit came naturally to us. Not only books though (not books related to subjects, they were utterly shit), magazines to newspapers everything was gulped down in big amounts. Our periodical section was probably the best in the country (not trying to boast here) and so forth, we had access to wide range of magazines and news articles. Most of my lunch time was spent in the periodical section.

But things have changed since then. We seem to get so much out of the electronic media these days and through blogs and other related contents that we prefer more to linger around in webspace. I feel that has, in a way,made us all restless. Although I do read books these days, I don’t seem to have the patience to see it through.  Not that I don’t complete some, but most end up in my “there should I keep these?” labeled box.

Not surprisingly, this week’s issue of Beijing Review had a survey done in China saying that people at the present read considerably less than what people did about a decade ago. Also the concept of “fragmented reading" was gaining momentum. People just don't seem to complete what they start. The offline habit is in decline.

I am not trying to say that reading has to come through purely non-electronic basis. Kindle did a fine job too. What i am say here though is that we should..

Never. Stop. Reading. (books lol)


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