We are groomed in a system where books are treated more as an academic tool than a life enriching experience. We see only a minuscule percentage of people who treat reading as hobby beyond student life. When I undertake train journeys, it is appalling to see few people with books. In this respect, our Western counterparts are a wiser lot, because their society is more knowledge centric. This behavioural deficiency can be cured by taking a conscious decision to nurture the habit of reading as a daily dose to make life more blissful.
“Books,” according to American critic E P Whipple, “are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.” Through reading, we get the endurance to accommodate the view point of others. Reading is more a sort of exercise to the mind. A book will give the necessary impetus to withstand the pulls and pressures of life. Books are messengers through which a person’s ideas, experiences and insights are shared with the whole world.
The great people of past have already recognised the importance of books. The Catholic archbishop, poet and writer François Fénelon sagely said: “If the crowns of all the kingdoms of the empire were laid down at my feet in exchange for my books and my love of reading, I would spurn them all.” The wisdom lies in choosing a good book. We should not be deceived by the title of books but be rather intelligent enough to choose a book.
Then comes the task of ‘reading’. The ‘how’ of reading a book is better interpreted by Sir Francis Bacon: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested”. Reading makes a complete man. Moreover, reading is not a passive activity. To read a book, we should prepare the mind in that direction and a conducive atmosphere needs to be created. The decisive factor involves in choosing a good book. A gaze into the reviews will form a central plank into deciding the fate of the book. In fact the holistic approach for book reading is to take important notes in the course of reading that will aid when we start writing. Book reading is not for sensual pleasure. The books that kindle our imagination and elevate our thoughts are the right kind to read. “No entertainment is so cheap as reading” says 18th Century writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. We cannot bring any radical change in people’s perception regarding ‘books’ unless we first achieve cent per cent literacy.
According to the 2009 UN Human Development Report, adult literacy rate of India is pegged at 66 per cent. We are also in shambles with regard to the human development index which is 0.612 lagging behind Sri Lanka at 0.759.
A multi-pronged approach is needed to achieve the objective. Yearly book fairs that are now held only in some cities need to spread to every district headquarter and a coordinated approach is required to attract local people. Moreover, state libraries need to be strengthened with adequate funds to mould them as ‘modern temples of knowledge’. School children must be nurtured to go to libraries and parents need to ensure that books should be given to them as gifts. There is also a need for ‘self-knowledge groups’ among students for the sharing of knowledge.
Other than governmental interference in the form of financial aid and policy planning, a parental approach will only bring a perceptible change. Otherwise we continue to remain in dirt.