Sunday, September 6, 2009


Today morning, I was reading this in THE HINDU literary review. The first Sunday of every month is always special because of the literary review, one area in which this news paper, I am sure, cannot be beaten easily. Navtej Sarna writes about Old Delhi - "Her new fancies stare me in the face, I notice her love of brick and mortar, of steel and glass; I rue her fascination with glitter. I watch her flaunt, with an imperial sweep of her overly bejeweled hand, her soaring new flyovers, the rising stadiums, her shiny new metro, her crazily crafted road corridors, her multiplexes and malls. And I shield myself against the callousness with which she has rejected so much that we once shared - my flower-laden roundabouts, my little theater cafe, my corner shop and even my favorite bookshop, owned by an owner who knew his books."

Now, this is writing of very fine quality that, reading it becomes an act of indulgence. What is beauty? Is it only about physical perfection or only about the pleasure of the senses? Apart from the sensuous aspect, is there anything more to it? To me, the answer is a resounding yes! Indeed, as the dictionary says, it is a "combination of qualities giving pleasure to the sight, mind etc"; "an excellent specimen of something."

When I read good books, what I am in fact doing is indulging in beauty - a fact that is lost to people who say it is boring and monotonous to sit in a corner with a book. How I wish they knew what they are talking about so carelessly! How I wish that they partake in this indulgence and experience the pleasure themselves! The pleasures and advantages of reading are multitude.

To sum them broadly, I would say:

  • Reading expands the horizons of the mind. In helping me imagine far off lands, cultures and customs, not only does it introduce me to whole new worlds, by making me every bit a part of the unfolding stories, it broadens the knowledge of the world.
  • It has helped me empathize with others readily. To be able to acknowledge the feelings of others and see them for what they are requires a conscious effort to observe minutiae and perceive with a keen attention. I am indebted to the books for this more than anything else.
  • Books as companions - this is something wonderful particularly when loneliness threatens to engulf. I pick a book and forget the world around. At first, I thought I was escaping reality and getting cocooned elsewhere in the confines of an imaginary landscape, but with age, I have brushed aside these thoughts.
  • Reading good works, as the first few paras of this post demonstrates, is to the intellect what sensuality is to the senses. Beauty is more often than not, elusive. In imagining that it is obvious to the wandering eye, we deceive ourselves. It is in the detail, often deceptively petty, but on a keener discernment, quite evident. When I chance upon an especially good work, I get the feeling that I am blessed and relish it with happiness.
This post is inspired by reflections on reading the article quoted in the first para. When words transcend their perfunctory existence on paper and assume greater meanings that our intellect assimilates, there is no greater joy to the reader. Great authors never seem to take an extraordinary effort; instead there is an easy rhythm by which we are swept away. In being moved by writing, we exhibit a sense of humility and surrender which is so pure. Perhaps that is why - since books give so much and demand little - mankind will continue to be fascinated by them as long as the written word exists!


The Layman said...

I'll tell you another advantage of reading books:

It improves your language!
And your blog is a testimony to that fact! :)

Shiva said...

Thanks Layman! I do owe a lot to books...