I am used to a lot of reading and for several years now, I am used to reading a few pages at night lying on my bed until sleep takes over. Sometimes, I can almost see sleep tiptoeing towards me in which case, I still have the time to keep the book aside and lay down my arms in delightful surrender. Many times, however, sleep creeps up so swiftly and silently that I am literally caught napping. On such occasions, I can be found sleeping with an open book lying on my chest.
I am careful of what I choose for my reading in bed. I avoid a politician’s autobiography, specially, if it has been released after his death – the skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard make so much noise that sleep can be chased away. I avoid leadership and management. There are some things I just can’t take lying down any more. I cannot handle those thousand-page tomes – if dropped in sleep, they could crack open the rib cage.
I love accompanying Ruskin Bond to the Himalayas, soak in the scenery, breathe the refreshing mountain air, and drink from the mountain streams. I love to meet the people he introduces me to – simple folks like the ones I am used to meeting in my travels to far-flung villages. I love R K Narayan’s extraordinary writing about ordinary people and situations. I have met many of those people and situations in my own life. Once in a while, I pick something deep and philosophical. It helps to juxtapose my simple existence with something as grand as the cosmos and put things in the right perspective.
There is so much pleasure in such random reading. There is no expectation of any continuity. I could switch books half-way. I need not complete a chapter. I can read the same chapter again and again. There is no test to appear for. I love staying on the same page, reading some passages again and again, especially true for books on spirituality or philosophy. One may not get it right the first time or one may get it right but the import of its meaning requires several readings. In the morning, sometimes, I don’t really remember what I read…and that is fine. I can go back to it tonight. What a pleasure!!
As winter approaches, the pleasure of reading in bed while being tucked under a rug is very special. Doha winters can be quite harsh and getting the razai (quilt) to reach the right temperature can be quite a challenge and one could slip into sleep in this process without having turned a page. Sometimes, in Doha, it is so cold that keeping the hands out of the razai to hold the book may not seem worth it, given the book’s contents. The Mumbai winter, in comparison, is mild in temperament and requires just a light rug or blanket.
However, life has not been a bed of roses. There have been interruptions.
A few years back, serial killers entered my bedroom through a newly installed television. My reading had to wait until the prime-time serials concluded. Some of them are continuing even now but they got my wife so upset given their plastic surgery-&-leap-forward routine that she finally gave up watching them. Incidentally, I also got hooked to one of them. Fortunately, it ended abruptly – I don’t think the producers had enough unity (a.k.a Ekta) with the authorities to keep it going.
Now interruptions are history. I am in a great place now. The set top box has a recording facility and my wife watches her programs when I am not around. God bless Tata Sky!! Incidentally, my wife has also developed a similar reading habit. We exchange notes on our reading and recommend books to each other, sometimes reading passages to each other aloud while the set-top box is at work, recording another tear-jerker.
We always shared a life. We now even share a reading light. It is now two of us being rocked to sleep by prose and imagination.
Well, we are now on the same page on yet another aspect of life. Howz that ... ?
More, right after I conclude my current read.