I don’t know how to read a book anymore. No, it is not because I suffered a sudden concussion, nor is it because of a cinematic memory lapse. It is because of how dependent I have become on consuming information instantly rather than savouring the experience.
I started reading comics when I was 8 years old. That was when globalisation had ballooned and offered me a plethora of options ranging from our desi compatriots to modern heroes clad in spandex. They were quite the experience, I was addicted to the lavish illustrations and pop-out speech bubbles that made it quite easy for me to finish quite a few books in one sitting. The nerd culture swept me well before the arc of Nolan’s Batman movies or before Marvel attempted to start a movie universe.
As I grew, my reading space started shrinking. The onus not only rests on the growing academic curriculum that I had but also on how I was becoming adjusted towards understanding key points and summaries rather than the entire context. It was taught that key points underlined in blue or black would get me marks and that is all that mattered.
Allotting time to read books remained only in self-made timetables and in the columns of hobbies that rarely graced the truth. Books had become soggy, clunky and uninteresting by the time my attempt to secure the usual course of education dragged to a close.
‘The art of reading’ – I heard that term for the first time when I attended the class of an interesting social observer and paraphraser, Shiv Visvanathan. What started as a class ended up as a laboratory for many of us. The art of narration, storytelling, the power of the oratory sense, all these factors showcased the inter-twined layers of fine reading. Something that made me understands that we are slowly forgetting the importance of the art of reading for easier summarisations.
“Who buys a book when you have an audio-book?” remarked my friend who was thoroughly enjoying his Kindle e-reader. The pocketable device changed how books were read – the tangible nature of pages shifted to eye-friendly digital ink and the comfort of a thousand books that can be purchased and stored in one single device seemed magical. I started using the same only to realise that my pattern of usage was shrinking slowly, I started using it less and one day entirely stopped using audio-books. I could never identify the reason but I think it has to be indirectly related to how easier I found consuming videos where both my senses were getting entertained.
‘Entertainment’ made me take a sharp 180 on the essence of savouring experiences. Shamelessly, I devoured everything that came my way for hours, exceeding and re-subscribing for more data as the need to be entertained grew. It became necessary to consume more videos, podcasts, 30-second pop-up ads – anything and everything at every step for carrying on my daily activities.
Last month, I picked up a new book after exactly a year, it is been a while since I bought one and I selected one that seemed like the perfect portal back into the world of reading. I still haven’t’ finished it and interestingly, I have tried to sum up the jest of the book without experiencing all the 376 pages. Is it because I carve for instant gratification? Or is it because I have forgotten how to read? I tried cracking the code and it seems I have lost the skill of reading a book. Sometimes I wonder if it was better when we did not have a plethora of choices and when we did not have boredom as a selling point for product pitching. It seems evolution has caught on with the humble book as well because I found the same book’s summary on YouTube, and I clicked play.