Saturday, January 28, 2012

Since When Has Reading Become a Skill?

Now the hullabaloo has settled down in Jaipur, dust and all, those peoples who consider telling and criticising stories as their bread-and-butter occupation can rest content. Rest content because, as so many things happen in India, it has gone into oblivion after the initial posturing and hype. We create our own brouhaha and then sit and laugh a hysterical "ha ha, I told you so."

Be that as it may. One lesson learnt was the amount of interest a banned book can create. Rushdie (actually the name is pronounced "Rooshdie") is now a celebrity twice over. Not that I mind. I like his writing and have read almost all his books. His sort of magic realism is what I try hard to re-create in my fiction writing. I think India can only be explicated in terms of magic realism. Just a generalisation. How else do you explain a scenario where an author is not allowed into a country because of a book he wrote a decade ago. That, too, not because anyone has really read it and analysed it, but because the title seemed provocative. 

A little pontification here. Just venting ire. Books and the ideas contained therein have changed lives, governments, societies in the past. At least, that is what Das Capital, Origin of the Species, and A Summary View of the Rights of British America (by Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of American Independence) did. And to consider that books aren't that important is to say that we don't value learning and information. 

In India, I find the reading habit declining. On the commute to work I find most people glued to their music devices emitting a tinny sort of sound. Why don't they read something? When I am reading (I am reading "The Story of My Experiments with Truth") they ask to see the book, admire its jacket, turn it round and round in their hand, peep into a few pages and sort of mentally say, "No, I can't read it." Their minds are blocked.

Of late (I think this is a fall out of the television obsession) reading is considered a skill. Whoa, come on, a skill? When has it become a skill? I thought it was something that came naturally to a literate person, as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping. No, no, no, reading is not a skill, it should come to one as naturally as existing in this cacophonous world. We talk, talk, talk, rubbish. We don't read. That's where all our troubles start.

Amen to that!

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Hear, hear!

John P Matthew said...


IndianaRonaldo said...

Reading certainly is not a skill, but the attention-span required for that is rare and commendable. Great post.

John P Matthew said...

Hi Ronaldo, certainly, when commitment to read exists then reading and the attention span is automatically adjusted. at least that is what I believe.

Ahmedabadonnett said...

Reading is not only skill but it's also an art...