Reading has been the constant friend I have turned to whenever things have gotten wobbly in life (which is most of the times) and also when there’s been nothing to worry about. It’s been a friend for all seasons, for all emotions. Getting lost in the world of fiction, or gaining some much-needed knowledge from the pages of non-fiction – both have been equally therapeutic for me. Books have always allowed me to escape the realities of this world, or to understand realities different from mine.
And yet with growing academic pressures and the increased pace of academic life, reading books became a luxury that was difficult to afford. Oftentimes, I would start reading and never get around to completing the book because other more pressing needs arose.
And then, on the 17th of March, I returned home, without any idea of what would happen ahead. As the realisation set in that this return home was growing more and more permanent – my regret too increased. In the last minute bag that I had packed, I never thought to pack all the unread books in my hostel room.
From Taslima Nasreen’s French Lover to the Anand Teltumbde’s Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva, all still remain in my closed, dark hostel room, gathering an amount of dust I don’t want to think about.
Now, at home, with no hopes of going back to college anytime soon, the days began to blend into one another. There seemed to be no end in sight to the pandemic, and every news article increased my inner panic. I was anxious, and panicky with the uncertainty of it all – and then I decided it was time to find a way to alleviate this panic and anxiety. So I turned to the one friend who had never let me down – Books.
From The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides to Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Love, Loss and Longing in Kashmir by Sahba Husain to The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by Bell Hooks to Exit West by Mohsin Hamid to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath to Shesher Kobita by Rabindranath Tagore – and many more have kept me constant company.
As I watched myself slowly but steadily increase my reading pace and getting back to my old self who could read one book a day – I felt more and more at peace with myself. Reading is what helped me get through the lockdown and is still helping me cope with the changing realities around me. And so reading remains my most trustworthy friend, helping me through these difficult times.