On the occasion of International Literacy Day, I wanted to talk about bookish ardours… but then I thought about the special love I have for freshly minted comic books, essays, articles, reports, stories & memoirs. There’s something so fascinating about newspapers & magazines hot off the press with their covers glistening on the newsstands! My tryst with the print media began in childhood & the hunger for information was instilled not because of constant nagging but by observing people around me.
My mother had a huge trunk of Amar Chitra Katha from her own childhood (each issue cost a mere 3/-). It was a treasure of knowledge in true sense of word – from Indian mythological stories to the Indian Freedom struggle to the stories of scientists, saints, artists, sportspersons… these stories are still engraved in my mind & every moment spent with those classic oldies is special (Anant Pai, you are my hero). To top it all, my mother subscribed to Champak, Chandamama, Tinkle because of which there was always something to read (& never enough space to keep the books!). Now, I miss the arguments between my mother & me, as to who got to read the issues first as soon the postman had delivered them (sometimes I think the arguments were her Reverse Psychology technique to make me look forward to reading).
When I reached my teens my parents stressed on the importance of keeping abreast of current issues. It was slightly difficult to get into the habit as my first impression about reading newspapers was “it’s so boring!” but then reading newspapers became as habitual as brushing my teeth every morning. As a resident of Nagpur city, newspaper reading started with The Hitavada with some great bonus reading on Saturday (Twinkle Star), Sunday (Insight) & Tuesday (Education). (Here, I’d admit that a few years of subscribing to The Times of India still feels like a kink in my neck.) I also read Competition Success Review for a year but it turned out to be too heavy for me. As of now, I feel highly satisfied with the quality of content I get to read in The Indian Express & The Hindu.
My paternal side is a sucker for books & magazines. My grandfather had subscriptions of Reader’s Digest, India Today & Outlook & visiting his place always meant something new & radical to read. His brother (i.e. my father’s uncle) had a separate ‘library room’; the library had some really rare books & journals owing to which his knowledge was so vast that I fall short of words here. But the most impressive was my grandfather’s sister (father’s aunt) – at ripe old age of 80+, when other women of her generation were interested mostly in gossip, she used to read newspapers for hours & remember every news article with an elephant’s memory. She could discuss politics & world issues with the men in the family with such ease & strong headedness; it always startled & inspired me!
It’s because of these people that I have a distinct respect for books & novels as well as magazines & newspapers. Of course now, there’s so much more variety in magazines… Every month some chunk of my leisure spending goes on at least one of these – Femina, Vogue, Elle, Inside Outside, Good Homes. I feel weirdly incomplete without a monthly dose of one of these. (Ah, the smell of a fresh copy & the pleasure of turning a crisp page!)
J. P. Rangaswami has said aptly in a TED talk that ‘information is food’. If we strike an analogy of information with food in all possible ways, we’ll be forced to think if we are giving the proper nutrition to our brain every day. Isn’t there so much to read? … food for thought.