The last book I read cover to cover was a book called 'The scenes we made' by Shanta Gokhale. I was very affected by the passing of playwright, Girish Karnad, whom I had had the great fortune of meeting on three occasions. Reading, how he and Shyam Benegal went looking for Satyadev Dubey to stage Karnad's first play, Yayati, and many such stories of experimental theatre in 60s India, felt like an apt homage to the theatre doyen.
That was eighteen months ago. The reason I mention this in such detail is because I haven't finished a book since then. I am extremely embarrassed to admit this fact.
I don't read enough books (if you can't already tell from my writing).
I start books and leave them unfinished, mid way. I've been doing this, at least, for the past ten years. I can spend an entire day on the internet, reading. But hand me a book and ask me to sit at a place. I start to twitch.
And having a Kindle doesn't help. I've owned one for eight years and have read exactly three books on it.
Things weren't this bad before I owned a smartphone. But even then, I never crossed three books in a year.
I was never a big reader. I think it's safe now to declare that I don't read.
Although my parents owned a lot of books, reading was not necessarily an activity that everyone engaged at home, growing up. Now, if I even mention so much today, my dad starts quoting Thoreau and Sharat Chandra Chatterjee– "What do you know of what I read in my youth before my life was taken over by.." the travails of a family life and everyday existence.
It's a touchy topic.
My sister, somehow, took to reading in her teens. I watched her pore over books and scowl at me when I teased her, as she read. She was given to being unreasonable like that.
I did all the required reading for school and exams and did alright in academics. But you would never catch me lost in a book on a Sunday afternoon, sprawled on the floor of the living room, on my tummy, in everyone's way; completely oblivious to the loud guests who had overstayed their welcome, like you will find my eight year old nephew today.
It didn't help that I never made a single friend in school who was inclined to reading. I read the odd Famous Five, Secret Seven, a few Enid Blytons, some Nancy Drews. No, I didn't read Hardy Boys.
We shifted three houses and the books followed us everywhere. That is how I learnt that books are special. Dad would fix a rack on every new wall and the books would find their new home, as we settled into ours.
I passed by these racks all day and remembered names as I grew up: Dostoevsky, Walt Whitman, Bertrand Russell, Tolstoy, Tagore, Oscar Wilde, Vijay Tendulkar, Madgulkar, Irawati Karve, Khalil Gibran, Ayn Rand, Kurundkar, Amrita Pritam and a lot more names that could be dropped. We had all their books. And I have read none of these people.
As a teen, I was too preoccupied with the exact way in which my hair would set, since I was certain that that is all girls cared about. In my early twenties I made a few friends who I believe read voraciously, but then again, I was too busy being full of myself. How, then, would I have the time to sit and chat about 'reading' of all things.
Once I got over myself, I noticed myself feel intimidated by anyone that was well read. Their language especially. I tried hard to sound smart in conversations. I used obscure words incorrectly and made a fool of myself: why say 'tip' when you can say 'emolument' (or is it the other way around?)
Reading helped thinking, speaking and writing. I knew that. That didn't mean I was going to read.
I was going to buy books.
So I bought books; One after another. And I didn't finish reading any. Some I didn't even start. I've been doing this for years. Even though the Japanese legitimise this behaviour, I don't think I want to keep going on with this.
I won't buy any book till I finish reading the ones I own. I know this is ridiculous. I know this is not 'how it is done'. I know everyone owns books they may not have read yet.
But allow me to try this. Please. It's 2021.
I want to clear my reading backlog from almost a decade. I have to.
There are atleast 40 books.
(I will send the complete book list in this weeks newsletter... so you can judge me. Hint: the picture isn’t a stock image.)