A Passion that Needs to be Fed

A Passion that Needs to be Fed

Have you noticed that when you’re headed, willy nilly, in the wrong direction, life—or some superior force—inexplicably opens up a U-turn for you? It’s happened to me time and again.

I had stopped reading. Actually, I hadn’t stopped reading; I had faltered in reading books. There I was instead, poring over newspaper and magazine articles brought to my attention by friends posting links on social media.

And then I went to visit an old friend. We hadn’t met for a while. We talked of current affairs and revisited old jokes; we gossiped about people we knew. And then he got to the issue that mattered: he asked me what I was reading. It was bound to happen. We were sitting in a room drowning in books. The smell of printed pages, their feel, their look engulfed us. There were tomes on politics and poetry, of classics and classical music. Shakespeare lay around with Sarat Chandra; Edna St Vincent Millay dallied with John Donne. He picked out one book, then another and another. We each read out our favourite bits. Time slipped by; we didn’t notice. We were drunk on words, intoxicated by the ink; overcome as much by context as content.

“I often drift off to sleep on the sofa in this room,” my friend said. “And wake up in the morning to the glorious aroma of books, to the feel of their spines.” So much more pleasurable than a human spine, and so much more rewarding, I thought as I caressed one myself. It’s a rare individual who can keep you as excited, as immersed as a good book. Fewer still can engage you in just the same way when you return to them two decades later. Unless, of course, they’re literary characters. Those can creep into your head and never leave; their phrases and follies permanent residents of your heart. 

Anthony Trollope said reading was the only enjoyment he knew in which there was no alloy. “It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.” I was lucky to get a quick start into that world of unalloyed enjoyment, where cows jumped over the moon and the dish ran away with the spoon. I was (am) blessed to have parents who handed me, early on, the space and tools to experience language and emotions at the same time, and showed me that a book could also be a plane, a train, a destination and a journey.

I left my friend’s house suffused with emotion, the power of the written word pounding through my veins. The next evening saw me at my favourite bookshop. I staggered out hours later with my arms full and my heart fuller. My friend, my saviour, had recharged my passion for print. If only he could create a zillion avatars of himself, to do the same for other lapsed souls.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express


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