Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bibliophile is the Word !

Today I am in a fairly good mood, after a really long time. A project that I have been working on endlessly since the past few months has finally started showing some results. Today I don't want to use my brains. I don't feel like thinking much. I want to relax a bit. What can I do? Sleep? Naah. I do that everyday. Watch a movie? Sounds good, but then when most of your day is spent in front of a computer screen, your eyes start giving the middle finger to such ideas. And this brings me to one of my favorite hobbies ever since I was first introduced to it as a kid (reluctantly, if I may so add). 


Now before you start labeling me a "nerd" or a "bookworm", wait for a moment. I already have those labels so you won't really be adding anything new. The correct term is Bibliophile. 

The other day, I entered my apartment (which I share with a few other people) with a heavy bag. I was beaming with joy at what I had managed to lay my hands on. No prizes for guessing that it was a book. I took out a hard-bound 900+ page novel and was ready to dance with it. 

"What the hell is that?" my roommate asked.

"Dude, its the second book of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. Had been looking for it for ages!" 

His expression was as if I was speaking Latin.

"It is an amazing series that I wanted to read."  I added, trying my best to convince that it was an awesome catch. Didn't really work.

"When the hell are you going to read that giant? Its the middle of the semester." he asked.

"This is my way of relaxing after studies." I said. 

He thought I was the biggest idiot in town. After all, who in their right minds would read for relaxation, when you also have to read as a part of academics? Isn't relaxation something that you do for your mind to feel different from what it was feeling all day?

For me, reading is and will always be one of the best mode of relaxation. This post is my attempt to convince you why.

Everybody is fairly familiar with Harry Potter. The book described the Hogwarts school as a big castle with vast grounds and a lake that housed a giant squid amongst many other things. Now if we keep aside the visuals from the movie, what do you imagine it to be? Hard to imagine something different from what you have been shown in the movie, right? I will try giving another scenario. Imagine a beggar sitting down in the corner of a street in the heart of the city. What do you visualize? Is the beggar in your mind a man or a woman? Is the city Mumbai, Delhi or Chicago? What else is there on the street? How many vehicles are moving about?

In the first case, since most of us have watched the Harry Potter movies, our mind is already filled with the visuals from it and even if we read the whole series again, it is difficult if not impossible to get rid of them. However in the second scenario, our mind was an empty canvas that we filled with our imagination. We did not know who the beggar was or in which part of the world he belonged to. Each person's visualization would be different, and each as valid as the other. Remember the high that you got when you painted your first painting or cooked your first dish? That is the exact high that I and so many other bibliophiles like me get when we read a new book.

The sad part of our education is that in majority of the cases, reading is equated with studying and implicitly that is not supposed to be fun. As a child I was a huge fan of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I had my own versions of each of the five cousins and I always felt a part of each and every story. My imagination knew no bounds and such stories made me believe that if the characters could achieve feats like these, I can too. And it was hell lot of fun letting your imagination loose.

I am lucky to have a family that loves the smell of a book and still reads for fun. Reading for fun does not involve trying to grasp the meaning behind each and every sentence (which is what we do while "studying"). Sometimes you even skip some of the boring sections of a book and you don't really miss out on much. You live the characters of the story rather than watching them from a distance like we do while watching movies. Reading is a very intimate experience with your mind and it is very personal. The author describes his version of a character in the book and you paint your own version in your mind, how it looks, how it expresses emotions. For example, when I read the HP series before watching the movie, the version of Hermione Granger in my mind was completely different from what Emma Watson looks like. But once I saw the movies, I always visualize Emma instead of the version that I earlier had. Not that I mind visualizing Emma (my not-so-secret crush), but it disappoints the reader in me to not be able to use my own brush to paint a picture.

Some of you may get the high that I was talking about in other activities, like music or sports. But equating reading with "studying" or "stress" is something that I vehemently oppose. Each child needs to be exposed to it at an early stage to see if he/she can see the fun part of it before they start relating it to boring or stressful activities. Because once you get it, it is an addiction that can only enrich you. Any bibliophile can tell you that it is difficult to leave even the most boring book in the middle. You get good ones, you get bad ones. But its the journey from the first page to the last that gives the experience of having lived through a story. Even an emotional wall like me had a tear in his eye while reading the letter written by Hassan to Amir in Khaleid Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" because I could feel the emotions being conveyed. Movies rarely give that feeling.

So if you've reached reading till here without calling me a fool in your mind, I can congratulate myself. Give it a try guys, it can be fun. I can only wish that in today's world of 120 something characters (yes, I do mean Twitter) people can experience the joy that the 400+ pages can give.

Today I want to relax. So off I go. A cup of coffee, a comfortable bed, and a book. Heaven is definitely on Earth! :)