There was a time when I always carried a book in my bag. There was always a book by my side on the bed. I took secret breaks during work hours to read a couple of pages. I willfully chose to travel on bus to steal some more time to read. Sama despised me for I sat in the restroom for hours. Amma thought that she had given birth to a genius. Krithika believed that I was a snob. Appa reckoned that I would go places. Thanks to the books that made me look like an intellectual. It made me earn respect, offered a world that I could effortlessly escape into, drove me to realise that I was not alone in this wicked planet, connected me with new friends, gave me more words to write and cleansed my brain. Books were an integral part of my life. Yes, they ‘were’!
Reading was not a fascinating hobby for me, till I completed school. But a couple of years later, I slowly began to read a few fictions. Then the addiction gradually grew on me. I began to read a bit more. For the last three or four years, on an average, I managed to read 15 to 20 books every year. I used to wait for the annual book exhibition like how I would happily wait to buy the best clothes for Deepavali. Sama reserved a part of our salaries to buy books and very fittingly, he said, “It’s not an expense. It’s an investment!” When we visited Express Avenue or Citi Centre to watch movies, we started quite early to hang out in Odyssey or Landmark for a while. Visiting Landmark was a monthly ritual. Seeing a huge room full of books was ecstatic. When friends wanted to gift for my special days, I shamelessly asked for books or gift vouchers to buy more books. Getting ready to work was so excruciating when I was engrossed in a book. Spamming Facebook feeds with quotes from my favourite books was one of my hobbies. The wait to receive books through Fipkart was painfully sweet. Books, books and books! Books were synonymous for ‘Good life’.
If I were asked to identify myself, I would say that I’m a bookworm. I found immense pleasure in keeping my head buried in a book. But life is a cruel-master, isn’t it? It chose to malnourish the bookworm in me. It gave me a better job and ruthlessly took away one of the simplest joys, reading. The change in my occupation cast a shadow on the only good habit that I had. My focus was on getting a hang of the new role that I had taken and put the blame on my poor time management and stress management skills, it resulted in sacrificing one of the finest pleasures of life. If I have to confess barefacedly, I have managed to read only four or five books this year. And we are already in October. I am so red-faced that I have stopped myself from logging into ‘Goodreads’.
The new job has given the biggest opportunity of writing every day. But I work for six days a week. The sixth day seems to be a time-robber. But every beautiful thing that we earn in life has got its dirty side too. The dark side of my new job is that it has looted my quality ‘me’ time. Although life seems to be on-track, the heart thinks that life has lost its sheen. While the brain is celebrating life’s course, the heart whisperingly reminds that this celebration is transient and the eternal pleasure lies in gathering knowledge.
I wake up every day with a decision that I will start reading today. But the day flees. I crash into the bed with a heavy heart for not reviving my lovely relationship with books and I curse myself for not keeping up my words. I pity myself for not being able to cosset my soul. I repeat the cycle every single day and deep down the heart, the thirst to read is intensified. While I whimper to Sama about my inability to wield the wand, the budding psychologist deems that my problem is conscience incompetence. I agree with him as I understand only a wee bit and wonder about what holds me from taking a dive. I think harder to get some profound thought and realise that I am walking a tightrope. I am trying to give my best to both worlds – professional and personal. The loss that I have had this year is justified if I presume that I have managed to settle in quite decently in my new job. Is this how life works? Yes, life is not a bed of roses. I get it!
I worry about all the time that I have lost this year. I think of all the books that I have missed to embrace. I question myself about when I would compensate for all the quality time that I have wasted. I log into Facebook. I scroll, scroll and scroll mindlessly till I find this beautiful quote of A.A. Milne, who is one of my favourite authors. Who doesn’t like Winnie The Pooh?
I read the quote. I reread the quote. I sigh. I smile. I feel light. ‘We shall get there someday. Rivers know this.’