Sneaking in books at parties is not a bad idea!
In the past couple of months, I spent more time in complaining about how I wasn’t reading enough than actually doing much to change the situation. Reading here would involve a book; any genre, any form. It was not a fight between Kindle, Hardbound or Paperback, but for the lack of time, rather the lack of scheduling the activity in the routine life. For months, I blamed work and life for disconnect with fiction and non-fiction. Until recently, when at a social gathering I spotted, if I may say caught, a woman devouring a book, hidden underneath the table. Atop the table was an assortment of the finest bite-sized treats — spinach and goat cheese tartlets, olive and pistachio pies, and toasted ravioli with grapes. Around her, it was us, an interesting mix of friends, acquaintances, and strangers. In short, she was in the midst of good food and not-so-bad company.
On noticing her flipping pages, secretly, I decided to strike a conversation. “It must be quite an engaging one,” I said. “Actually, quite the opposite,” she smiled. "But, you look hooked?" I asked. And we got talking. I learnt how she’d been struggling with devoting time to reading and hence coming up with plans like these; at times even excusing herself to go to the washroom just so that she could read. “Yes, it’s not the most polite thing to do,” she agreed. “But, I have my reasons.” Soon enough, I learnt that she carries three books with her, at any time. On traffic signals, she pulls out one and reads a page or two. When her colleagues, take a coffee break, she stays back at her desk and reads.
I have to confess that I did find her reading habits quite bizarre, but by the time I left the party, she had convinced me that I needed to work on creating a personal system of reading, which was the only way I could bridge the gap. So, here’s what my work-in-progress looks like.
Short stories — I can do that, I told myself. I’ve borrowed a rather bulky title called ‘A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces’ from a friend, with an intention to read just one story, a day. That’s doable. Also, borrowing a book helps — I’d not want to embarrass myself and return the book, a year later. In my bag, is a lightweight title, 'Set Me Free'. Last week, when a friend kept me waiting for a coffee, I didn’t fret but read. And more.
I don’t know for how long the system shall run smoothly or how soon podcasts, articles, blog posts, and listicles will (yet again) win me over with their capsule traits, but this is my chance of reviving my romance with the written word. For now, I am not sneaking in books at parties, but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea — especially when everyone in the city shows up fashionably late, hence ensuring there’s enough time for a tale to be consumed.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.