I have read 53 books, my eyes don’t hurt anymore
It was December 2019 and the resolutions fever was in the air. I don’t believe in resolutions made at the EOY, but incidentally, I was itching to resolve some issues like watering eyes, bad body posture, and poor sleep cycle. Also, piles of books were staring at me, having never being read, but bought with the promise of devouring. I had three of Haruki Murakami’s books (on the nightstand, and I was certain even he, a Japanese author, would scorn at the idea of an avid reader getting all Tsundoku-e, which means buying reading materials and piling them up). But importantly, I was restless with the realisation of the mindless, unbroken hours of sitting (followed by reclining) in front of a screen. Hitting the ‘play’ button on the remote was a default activity after a long day at work. Yet, each time I finished watching a series, the pressing question was, what did I accomplish after spending many hours of my life watching a crime series? I was entertained, yes. Sometimes we need to switch off from the world and be in the Netflix-ed zone. ‘Dear Purva notifications’ from the apps of streaming services added to the misery. If there were a reply button I’d have typed out, “So, another 56 hours of me in the next ten days?” In short, I was restless to get back my life. I resolved to limit my romance with the screen. But little did I know that just like there are five stages of grief, there are stages of detoxing from streaming services, too.
Denial: This can’t be happening to me. I was left out when it came to conversations on trending shows. Life was meaningless as I had no clue when the second season of Dead to Me was out! My response to the society-inflicted FOMO pain was to binge-watch the first season of Money Heist (13 episodes X approx. 45 minutes = 5,845 hours) over two weekends.
Anger: I was furious at myself, just as I memorised the lyrics of Bella Ciao and was listening to the number on loop. The dictionary meaning of binge is a period of excessive indulgence in an activity, especially eating, drinking, or taking drugs. Yet, here we were, fondly sharing our experience of binge-watching. Why were mental health experts not writing excessively on what happens to our brain when we binge-watched?
Bargaining: I reached this stage rather swiftly. I decided to reach out to the remote control only on weekends. And did an extremely good job at that for weeks.
Depression: But then Covid-19, followed by the lockdown played a spoilsport. As part of my job and otherwise, I read and write all through the day, and after a day of WFH and household chores, I no longer had the will to read. I craved a mindless form of relaxation, and what would be better than a few episodes of Sweet Magnolias? I was bound to fall down the rabbit hole, but I didn’t! Amidst attending to deadlines, baking cakes, and worrying over my future, I revisited an old hobby of sketching and re-charged my Kindle to read books of smaller length. The Kindle tricked the brain to think it was still not completely technology devoid. Amid the pandemic and zero-socialising, my partner and I began to look forward to watching something on weekends that we both wanted to and somehow demarcate our weekdays from the weekends as we stayed at home in pyjamas.
Acceptance: Today, whilst shows are leaving Netflix, Amazon Prime, OSN Streaming, Apple TV…. I have an edge over them.
As a human, and also a performing artist and author, I still highly recommend that we savour the extremely good content just as we relax, however, coping with loss is a personal and singular experience, so I suggest you carve your path. As for me, as I pen this down in November 2020, I have read 53 books, my eyes don’t hurt anymore (and I am still a lot on the laptop and mobile for work and otherwise) and I cancelled my Netflix subscription last month. And because I am OCD, I happened to count that in the 310 days of 2020 gone by (thankfully), I have had a date with the screen for just 33 nights.