Many a self-proclaimed bibliophiles have listed reading in their top three hobbies on dating apps. We wouldn’t know if the person concerned last picked a book when they were still in school.
Reading does not come easy unless it tickles your fancy. It needs dedication and submission. Words have impact. Even if it’s a crispy description tucked in on a shampoo bottle. You read because someone has written it, or you want to know what the hype is about. Once you have read it you tend to believe that your hair will get thicker, and smell of citrus fruits from the tropics. That’s the magic of words.
Once you start reading you read everything. You find daily subtexts in regular affairs and routines. From the pamphlets handed out to you in buses promoting water pumps, to the sticker on the backrest of an auto rickshaw driver’s seat promising permanent cure for diseases you didn’t know existed. Your eyes trace words to like moths to the flame.
Like a marathon runner, you go all in and pick all kinds of books to read. Reading one book at a time could be a huge commitment, especially when the book is a mood-shifter. So, you read 4-5. David Sedaris to make you laugh, William Dalrymple to make you wonder, Rohinton Mistry to make you slow down, and may be, may be a Sydney Sheldon to race through the pages. Did you frown at the last name? Sydney Sheldon is a page turner and many intellectuals may twitch their noses at his writing, but he does keep one up in the night reading. You have to know the countdown to her revenge.
There are different books that one reads at different times of the day. While you are commuting in public transport you might want to be spotted reading an autobiography of a successful person. Becoming? Open? When you are at work, Blue Ocean Strategy seems like an ideal pick to keep the seniors impressed and in a corner. Nothing makes work-life bearable to a chronic reader than a well written book. One where gems of craft are sprawled in every sentence like flowers in a meadow and you can’t stop collecting them. Memoirs of a Geisha comes to mind at this point. But when you snuggle up in the bed at night, a book to soothe your nerves and give you the required dose of philosophy, is essential. That’s the timeto pick The Untethered Soul. I have read it twice from cover to cover. And on multiple occasions I have read its chapters at random. There are some books that you go back to often, and always. It feels like home or a Neverland of your own. Every few months, you have to visit. You have to pay your respects. I have a list of such books, the ones I keep going back to. And if you are one of those who reads everything, I am sure you have a mental list as well.
That brings me to the curious case of bookmarks. There are many kinds of bookmarks that you will find embraced within pages of books. The most obvious category is the true-born pure-blood bookmarks. They were born to mark books and they meet their destiny. The other category is of product tags that come off clothes but go in books. They are thick, sturdy, not jarring in design, and stay in their place. The third category is that of bills. The thin sheet of newspaper bill is folded twice and then slipped in without any resistance. The fourth category is post-it notes. When you can’t find a thick enough piece of paper, you pull out a post-it note, fold it and voila! A makeshift bookmark is ready. There might be a fifth category that I haven’t discovered yet but sometimes even my scarf or glasses do the job. A plethora of bookmarks are available in the world of readers, because dog-eared books are not. A true reader never ever folds the pages. It’s a heinous crime. It kills the appearance of the page. Defining a true reader is not my aim here. It cant be, and I know better.
A very important tradition in reading a book is smelling its pages. The new ones smell like fresh sheet of paper mixed with fresh ink. And how can you not touch the pages after you have smelled it? Some books have slippery smooth pages. They feel like satin, but are made of paper. As you turn the page over, your fingers caress it a little longer than it needs to. And your hand reflexively runs over the entire fresh page you have just turned to. Preloved books have their own charm. The small note on the first page with a dedication to the receiver. Or the name of the owner, along with the date or city. It makes for its own story, that which ends on the first page.
Though people might slot it as a hobby, I feel reading is a lifestyle. Stamp collection is a hobby. Reading is a habit. You read everything, every line of the electricity bill too. And the currency bill too. As the chocolate melts in your mouth, you read the packaging. You chuckle at the wise-cracks a copywriter wrote to be read at that exact moment. You know all the store locations because they mentioned it on the carry bag. You know the warnings that come home with a pack of superglue. You know if the curtains can stand a tumble or need to be dry cleaned. You read and you know things.
Essay/Article commissioned by: TDLM Editorial
Written by: Ritu Sinha [Writer; Advertising-Creative; Founder/Entrepreneur]
Graphics/Art/Illustration by: TDLM Design Team
‘How to Read Instructions for Dummies’ First Published in The Daily Life Magazine on December 23, 2022