Books tell us what we should be like. Whether we seek in them the relationship of a friend, a sibling, a lover or a guardian, they take us on a stroll to differing realities of subjective and objective nature. Books provide a vision of some other dimensions of possibilities, giving us a new hope for favorable probabilities, taking us by a whirl of laughter, a storm of sorrow, a flood of joy, or a strife of actions and faults.
There was a time when I was entirely into books, escaping from my monotonous reality and flying to interesting heights of imagination and story-telling. I didn’t have to take out time to read books; it was there in all the voids between any two and every two consequent actions of my day. I read while brushing my teeth, while having meals, while going from home to school and from school to home, while walking, and in between my classes of not-so-interesting subject or not-so-strict teacher; I read before, after and in-between all actions of my day. There were many hours of the day when I had to read secretively, under my blanket, beneath my text books, or while keeping the book in a cupboard and pretending to rearrange the shelves whenever someone would enter my room. This was something that I understood better through Umberto Eco’s words “I work in empty spaces,” which he once said in an interview. He called these spaces “voids”.
In those days, I was living two simultaneous lives. One was the life that the books gave me, and the other one was mundane in relative terms. Both these lives existed in each other’s empty spaces like the molecules of sugar merge with that of water. Or like cheese, sauces and veggies sandwiched between grilled bread! Bread was my reality and the rest belonged to my world of dreams, thoughts, imagination and perceptions. It is just that, my reality was lesser fundamental, and more of an illusion that only existed in my head. It was the books that started dominating my personality and my being.
When I said in the very first line that books tell us what we should be like, I didn’t mean to say that we ought to become the characters we read, or to adopt the lifestyles they portray or to live on the fundamentals of the writer itself, but about the characteristics of a book, in general. In my relationship with books I have noticed that the books don’t complain to me for what I am, they don’t tell me how I should feel or how I should react, they don’t feel bad if I am unable to take out time for them, they don’t care if I criticize them or even if I appreciate them, they don’t change in order to please me, they don’t have to live up to my expectations. Books are the perfect beings!
A book is an amazing companion and gives me the space to seek its companionship when I would feel like. It speaks, it talks, and it tells with full consciousness of its mind the deepest trembles of its heart. It is honest. It says the things that even I am afraid to confide to myself most of the time. It introduces me to the things that are unknown to me. It talks through many different minds and not-so-different hearts. It improves my understanding of the people, nature and world around me. It reminds me of myself. It lets me be. Soon enough, I began writing too.
But then I read this quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I started living my life, trying to minimize the relative difference between the two lives I was living. I understood that life could be as wonderful and as happening as we read in the books. My frequency of reading books was reduced (comparatively), but I was still happy. And the books I didn’t read didn’t complain! This was what I got from my affair with books- a life of my own!
Talking of the inspiring moments of my life, it would be wrong on my part to miss out what I once read somewhere over the internet. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like- what we transform into, in next five years, depends on the people we have spent our time with, and the books that we have read during this time. It was part-reading this line, and part-realizing this experience on my own.
Today is World Book Day. This day is for me what anniversaries and festivals are for other people. Trust me, friends, books are the best pals you may have.
Read, read good. But don’t forget to live either.
Write your own life so you may have the best book to read just before you die.