Hate as I might, to admit this, I sold my soul to the digital world recently. I put the last nail in the coffin. I bought myself a Kindle.
But the story begins much before.
I remember vividly my trips to the Fazilka (a small town in Punjab, India) library when I was a little girl. I must have been three. Mum would walk me down to the room with these olive green shelves and I could choose one book out of the rather limited supply of children’s section. But choose I would and be thrilled and hop on home. She would then tuck me in at bedtime, read to me about fairies and goblins and I would be lulled to sleep.
It is to my mother that I owe my love of reading. And what an all-consuming, passionate love story it is. I remember so many phases of my life so vividly because of the books or authors I was reading. While the younger school years were devoted to ‘The Faraway Tree’ and Enid Blytons, the teenage was more about the classics- Austens and Brontes.
College found me appreciating Toni Morrison’s lyrical prose and during our rather turbulent courtship years, apart from my husband, Kafka held my hand. When I imagined my life partner, I thought we would bond over Chekhov’s plays and Camus’ philosophy. Throw in a good measure of Bukowski to keep the conversation flowing and perhaps walk through life with Faulkner and Coetzee. Who knows he may even like Llosa?
Not my husband. As he reminds me, he reads for pleasure and not to torture his mind into jumping to higher planes. His philosophy: if you have to think while reading a book, it is a waste of time. Really?!!For him the Macleans and Crichtons will do just fine, thank you very much.
What I am trying to say in as many words is that I love books. When I started looking for employment in Bangalore, post my formal education, I had a head full of idiotic notions. The primary being, that only if I suffered in poverty would I birth intelligent storylines, spout credible ideas and be worthy of some respect as a journalist. Smart Alec that I am, I took up the lowest paying offer out of five, much to the chagrin of my professors and while I did earn some credibility as a writer, it did nothing to my bank balance.
In those years of sticking to my foolish decision, when I barely was left with funds after the rent was paid and the bills were cleared, I would buy books. Down to the last rupee and if that month I happened to have my heart set on a new release which would surely leave me in utter penury, I would eat potatoes and rice only. After a couple of years, I just got bored with being poor and took up a decent job that paid me well. And just bought more books.
For someone who loves reading as much and not just the act of reading but the whole hallowed process that it is – the decision to go digital was a big one. The first time I heard about an e-reader, I brushed off the notion as some rich kid’s fancy. Remember, I was poor then.
I mean why would you ever replace the touch and feel of paper with the tapping on screens? No musty, nutty, woody smell greets you as you switch it on. What about the charm of yellowed pages or dog-eared books? I finally laid all arguments to rest by just taking the plunge. If it worked out then good, else the trusty bookshelf could hold another relic.
I think it was the best decision I ever made. This Kindle thing is my new best friend. With an adamant toddler who has to be forced to sleep every night, I can continue to read while she is twiddling her toes. Best of all, I can carry so many books on vacations without wasting space. While the romance of cradling a book, turning the pages, smelling that musky fragrance of old wisdom between pages, holding it fondly once it is over and you are lamenting the loss of a temporary friend – will never die. For all practical purposes, Kindle is there.
And as for my husband- we found our common ground. It was magic.
It was Harry Potter.