Last year, in December, my grandfather was kind enough to take my sister and I to an annual book fair. It is safe to say that the three of us returned with empty wallets but hands full of books, and shiny grins on our faces. It pains me to confess that of all the new paperbacks, since then, I have managed to read only two. An exaggerated traitor, I have resorted to the realm of online reading. Sure, it is quite convenient to not lug around the weight of a physical book, but the experience cannot possibly be the same.
Reading a paperback book allows me to appreciate the delightful punctuation used by the author – the carefully placed semicolons, the graceful commas; which is a rarity on the Internet. When you have the soft, white pages before you to savour, a smudged screen peppered with fingerprints can’t even begin to compare. When you read a book which is particularly heart-rending, your salty tears are invitingly soaked by the paper, almost as if to say, “there, there darling; let it all out.”; what makes you cry also dries your tears.
The art of reading books brings the idea of “six degrees of separation” to a whole new level: you and a complete stranger are merely six books away from getting to know each other. To me, the idea of a second-hand book sale is wondrous. Novels that are carefully preserved over the years and have traces of another book-lover’s presence. Dog-eared pages tell me that line sixty-three on page five hundred and seven is close to the previous reader’s heart. A note on the first page that reads, “Happy birthday, love. I wish you the best in life and hope you reach for the stars!”
A few weeks ago, I watched a play which introduced me to my favourite line: “Kaash hum ek lambi saas le kar keh sakte ki zindagi mein koi mushkile nahi hai.” (I wish we could take a deep breath and say to ourselves that in life, there are no troubles). Why else do we read books? We read to forget, to imagine, to create, to believe in a world apart from the troubled one that we live in and to have an adventure without leaving the warmth of our cozy comforters. My parents have always encouraged me to read; a major chunk of my childhood was spent reading Ladybird books rather than hosting makeshift tea-parties. While I don’t always remember the plot of each book I have read so far, it is almost impossible to forget what I felt once I finished it.
When I finished reading Thumbelina, I felt happy that the little thumb-sized girl had finally found a home for herself (and a tad bit envious that she had had so many adventures within just fifteen pages!). When I read The Kite Runner, my heart was heavy and my eyes refused to dry. Once I finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I was in awe of the author because never before had I witnessed such creativity. It was this three hundred and sixty-eight page novel, one of my all-time favourite books, that made me think ‘I want to write a book of my own.’
My first outing since I moved to Delhi was the visit to Pragati Maidan to see the annual book fair. I bought three books and the next time you hear from me, the conversation would begin with a happy, satisfied sigh because I would have read my first paperback book in a very, very, long time.
Written by Sukriti Lakhtakia
Image by Sheena Kasana