What would books be without readers? Like the question of whether the noise of a tree falling exists even if there is no one to hear it, will books still be written if there was no one to read them? Still, imagine a world where no one reads, why would there be writing? Will man still seek to express even if there is no way for it to be received? Beyond such metaphysical questions, it’s fascinating how the concept of reading has changed over the last few decades.
Not a long while ago, one had that exquisite time to curl with a book and just be lost in a new world. There was no mobile ringing near your heart. There was no apple watch tapping you on your wrist. No status message to post. No profile photo to update. No need to post a message saying “ Awesome ‘The Twins at St. Clares’! #NowReading”. You were content with your inner ‘you’ interacting silently with the characters and their conflicts. It was just you and your book. Yes, your mom was often heard shouting, asking you to sit up straight. Yes, you didn’t know what the food on your plate tasted like, caught in the conversation between your beloved characters. Still, that was a pleasure you had the privilege of enjoying. Personally, I’m grateful for that. That has undoubtedly made me who I am. That gave me the power to understand emotions, complicated and contradictory. The layers to what a person thinks, says and does, all revealed in beautiful writing, which I had the time to delve into.
Fast forwarding to now, every minute, there seems to be an overload of things to catch up on Facebook, Twitter, Quora. One seems to be in an urgent need to digest information bombarding from multiple directions. Bring to your mind all the books you have read and have the titles of each chapter of those books flash at you, all in an hour’s interval. That’s the current situation for readers now. Where is the time to let go of yourself in books, given that you’ll lose a day’s worth of Timeline updates?
In many ways, I see the fate of reading similar to that of listening. Once upon a time, we knew how to be completely silent and let the speaker do the talking. We learnt that from our long hours with books. Now, it seems so hard to listen to someone. The pressing need to critique, comment, opine instantly, exert tremendous pressure on your head. You feel distracted by thoughts racing up there- things you want to say in reply, things you think are related to this, things someone posted regarding this, and you end up losing the nuance of what is being said and how it’s being said.
A hurried world, indeed! From 1000 page novels to 1000 word blogs to 144 characters tweets, our attention spans have shrunk to XS size. Perhaps, a day will come when future humans will consider even those tweet readers as having phenomenal patience. Perhaps, all they will be able to digest will be small words and emoticons. If an emoji is the Oxford Dictionary’s word of this year, it isn’t too hard to imagine that future. Still, what a loss! No matter how much more information I seem to receive now, no matter how much I’m updated with all that’s happening all over the world in a single glance, everything seems so superficial and transient. Deep reflections are fast fading. I long for those days when I could be one with a book, lost to this world but observing another one, creating those landscapes and ‘mindscapes’ in my own mind. All that breaking into goose bumps, dilating of pupils, shuddering in fear, shaking in anger, tears pouring down and the minute bands in the entire spectrum of feelings that can never be simulated no matter how long one spends on social media.
This is also an opportunity for a heartfelt tribute to the readers of my blog, who have stayed with me, whether I wrote or not, even during times I got lost in the pursuits of my life, waiting for me, writing to me, persisting and insisting that I write again. They moved me and brought me back here. Such is the preciousness of a sincere reader. Long live!