A Book-Sniffer’s Lament

I have something to confess.

It’s pretty bad.

Swear you won’t judge me?

Okay, here goes. *deep breathing*

You know those awkward introductions you’re made to give at the beginning of the the year? The list changes its size according to my whims and fancies. But the beginning of every list is invariably reading. Always.

I’m no wannabe reader either (Was, at least, but I’ll come to that later). By books, I don’t mean my favourite books are HC Verma. Or Chetan Bhagat. Or even Twilight (I’m no hater, either.).

I have different favourites for different categories. Favourite children’s book?¬† The Very Hungry Catepillar (Sorry, CS Lewis. I just found out that TVHC was literally written in the Summer of ’69). Favourite romance? Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, hands down (Haters gonna hate, hate, hate). Favourite book nobody’s heard of? The Chaos Walking Series (Who knew teen fiction could be so good?). Favourite book everybody’s heard of? It’s a tie between The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’ve even had phases. The Thomas the Choo-Choo Train phase (Between this, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I’m not sure which one my mother hates more). The British girls in boarding schools phase. The NancyDrew/Hardy boys phase. The boring-girl-and-mysterious-messed-up-boy-romance-wala phase. The Harry Potter phase. Scratch that- that’s a lifetime obsession. Fortunately, I skipped the crazy-messed-up-girl-and-boring-boy-romance-wala phase. And regretfully, I was sucked into a short vampire/faerie/vampyre/fairy phase by my peer group. And ah, the dystopian fiction phase – Hunger Games/Divergent, anyone?

I like to believe I’ve grown up as a reader, incapable of blind love or hatred towards shoddily written best-sellers (I could go on and on about this, but that’s another story for another day). Willing to read classics, modern classics, contemporary gems with as much gusto as, I don’t know, whatever.

That’s all right, but what’s your big confession, you may ask. Am I trying to shame you for not being real readers? Or decry the advent of e-readers?

Nay, my friend. My sorrow is real. In the past 12 months, despite not having the JEE to worry about any more, I- I- I’ve read a total of…. 6 books for fun.

*bursts into tears*

I’ve asked around. The few other book-sniffers I know, too, are dormant. Why, I ask, for it is easier to analyse a neighbour’s transgressions as opposed your own. One says fest ka kaam. Another says the Internet. Another says she’s moved onto music. One even blames a heady mix of youtube and 9gag.

That is, of course, after the standard answer of “I haven’t the time any more.” I needed a bit of probing to get my answer too. My vice turned out to be articles. Articles by the dozen. Not those silly Scoop-Whoop listicles either. Big ones, on random cool/snobby magazines. Probably adds up to a book a day. But nay, articles it is. Medium-HackerNews-Yahoo-Quora-AdiosBarbie-Vice-Forbes. And that’s just off the top of my head.

I saw a connection. No more 700 page wala books. Not even 300 pages. Just 3 page articles. Four minute songs. 3 second posts. The internet has been an able facilitator in helping us take the adage/defensive-short-girl’s-tumblr-post “Fun comes in small packages” way too far. Dairy Milk shots over fifty rupee wala Dairy Milk. Ice cream samples over the whole damn bucket.

As a discerning reader, you should’ve seen the decrying of something or the other coming. I could cry some more, while I fondle the unread Ramanujan biography and Sherlock Holmes collection on my bed, but I snap out of it. I need help. I’m checking myself into metaphorical rehab, and I need to read more books.

E-pub bhi chalega.

Sneha Reddy

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