Monday, April 03, 2017

B is for books

For someone who was obsessed with books as a child, the number of books I have read in my adulthood is rather embarrassing. Appalling, actually.

In my school days, as soon as I'd get home from school, I'd pick up a book. It didn't matter that it was my fourth time reading it or the eighteenth time. It didn't matter what kind of a book it was; I was always surrounded by books. I grew up largely in small towns all over, and so whenever Dad would go to 'cool cities' like Bangalore or Calcutta on business trips, he'd come back armed with loads and loads of books. My sister and I would literally fling ourselves at the piles of books.

Unfortunately, when adulthood struck, for some weird reason I felt a total disconnect with books. It must have been the damn Engineering textbooks. Ruined me for life, I tell you.

I used to dread being asked the question, "So which book are you reading?" which some people ask everyone they know (or don't know, or just met). As if you're always expected to be reading a book. Hmmph! "I deal with enough books at work, thank you." This had been my (rather lame) excuse to myself all this while. Of course, when it comes to work, I'm surrounded by books, but they are curriculum-related. Textbooks, assessment books, revision guides, etc. Stuff that parents purchase and kids loathe. I possibly couldn't answer a "So which book are you reading?" question with "Oh, I just started on the Science PSLE Revision Guide. Deep stuff. Makes you really question the idea behind the PSLE. Also makes you die a little on the inside." or "Oh, I just finished Process Skills to Ace Your Science Exams. I feel like it has really helped my, er, process skills."

Of course, I've been reading to Xena since she was three months old, so that way, I've still been surrounded by books. But it's different. It is indeed joyful reading to/with her (and now, listening to her read to me for a change), but the joy comes from her and the process, not from the books themselves. I'm not reading them, or listening to them being read to me, for myself. Our weekly library trips are all focused on the books she'd like, books she'd find funny, books that would influence her in a good way.

Last year, when Viv's sister told me she's in a book club, I was quite psyched out. "And what exactly do you do in a book club?" I remember asking her. So she told me all about her book club sessions and even took me through some of the discussions they'd had on particular books. I suddenly felt curious. Interested. Maybe the book-loving part of me that I had left behind in my pursuit of adulthood had suddenly woken up from a deep slumber.

So when one of my neighbours started a book club, I was the first to jump in. I wasn't sure if I would survive it, considering we only get about three weeks to finish each book and with my work and Xena and thirty thousand household chores, I just wasn't sure I wouldn't end up at the book club meeting like Rachel from F.R.I.E.N.D.S talking about Jane Eyre, the feminist cyborg.

Well, surprise, surprise -- not only did I end up finishing the first book (Gone Girl) assigned by the book club before time, I realised I'd loved the feeling of getting back to books. I couldn't wait to read the next one. In fact, I started on another book before we were even assigned the second book. My book club meetings happen about once a month, and somehow, I've been able to find time to read two in that time -- one for the book club, and one for myself.

And when do I read them? Ah, good question. When Xena has her swim lesson, I sit by the poolside and read. When she's at her dance class (more on that in another post!), I plonk myself on a bench outside the classroom and read. Not having data on my phone really helps. When I'm out and about, with time on my hands, there is nothing else I can do but read.

And I'm loving it. I feel like that kid again who would rush home from school, looking forward to her books. I had, in fact, a rather alarming moment when once I managed to finish all my office work by 11:30 am, and I had about an hour before I had to go pick Xena up from school. Two choices faced me -- I could either get back to reading my book or I could watch an episode of Koffee with Karan (I'd not had any time to watch the new season at all). I started watching the first episode, and within 5 minutes, despite the presence of SRK (whom I worship) and Alia (whom I adore), I'd switched to my book. I couldn't believe it. I, the big Bollywood fan, had skipped KWK, the big Bollywood show with the big Bollywood stars, for... a book. Me?!

In many ways, reading a good book is like watching a movie by yourself in the theatre (in terms of the grandeur), but infinitely better. One, it doesn't seem like a sad thing to do (though I have to admit I have gone solo to the theatre rather proudly one or two times, but I did come out thinking that it would have been much better with company -- irrespective of whether the movie was cool or crap, more so if it was crap). With a book, solitude is not just welcome, it is necessary. Not only do you use your imagination to colour the story as you're reading, no one else is involved or interfering with the process, so there is no pressure to laugh, cry or show other emotions at expected places. You can feel and think whatever you want. You can go at whatever pace you want. You can love it or hate it or be unaffected. It's all between you and the book. It's also interesting how a book you love can be loathed by others, or vice versa. Makes you really think about how different people are from one another.

I'm loving this phase of my life. Xena seems mildly amused at the fact that her Mama now "has her own books to read", but I hope it's setting a good example for her. Once in a while, we sit down next to each other with our respective books and read. What bliss.


Charan Deep Singh said...


It is strange, I was planning to write on Books too. I mean is it even allowed :-) Ofcourse my experience with Books is different, so may be I will go ahead with it...

About watching films alone, given the lifestyle I have, i have no choice but to watch them alone. And i enjoy the process. I love watching films with no distractions. Though watching films with a company is equally cool...

Charan Deep Singh said...

and here is my take on the same topic

Kavity said...

Have been following your blog for years, and your A to Z challenge series as well. Last year, I cooked up the courage to participate in and complete it too, and it felt really really good. So, firstly, thanks for the inspiration! And, I am doing it again this year. Fingers crossed.
Isn't reading the purest of individual joys possible? What are you reading now?

Kavity said...

Incidentally, I wrote B for Books last year

Arun said...

Do you like science fiction?

Sayesha said...

Charan Deep,
Great going, bro!

All the best for the challenge! :)
I'm currently reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. It's hilarious! :)

I love science fiction movies, but I don't think I've read much science fiction. Any recos?

S said...

Jumping in here: if you are going to read science fiction, i highly highly recommend the Three Body Problem. It's am marvelous book!

Sujata Ravi said...


Arun said...

Hey, I was going to suggest Cixin Liu. and

Anonymous said...

So, what are you reading now? :D

Sayesha said...

Thanks! :) I've added it to my to-read list.

Hehehehe! :D *high five*

Added these to my list too, thanks! :)