OVERCOMING READER’S BLOCK

Read more, watch less. This was the one resolution of 2017 which I was able to keep successfully. In 2018 too, I resolve to read more.

From 2008 to 2016, for almost a decade I read less and less, being ensnared by the world of cinema. In fact, for a couple of years in this period, I wasn’t able to finish reading even a book the whole year. It was a difficult period of fighting to overcome reader’s block. No, I don’t regret that whole decade of movie watching, despite the fact that it took me away from my first love – reading. That intense period of watching cinema, made me a lazy reader. Watching cinema is a relatively passive hobby and demands less patience. Once you press play, a movie starts and you can lie on a couch for a couple of hours, admiring the histrionics of the actors, vision of the director, the play of life unfolding before your hypnotized self. When the movie ends, generally it evaporates out of the viewer’s mind.

Reading books is a whole different pursuit. You actively conjure images from the printed words. Reading demands patience, and an active imagination. Sometimes, while reading, you reach a higher plane of consciousness, floating far above the mundane, trivial things, and you can laugh at the way we humans lead lives brutalized by the petty things. Something similar happens to a connoisseur of almost every form of art, including cinema, perhaps the highest and the most complex species of art. I won’t conceal the fact that similar epiphany happened when I began watching gems of world cinema. That 1945 Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, melted a cynical me, made me cry, and appreciate the value of my life and of others. I was stunned by hope amidst the grim reality of Scorsese’s telling of Taxi Driver. Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, & Ingmar Bergman spoke directly to my soul. I rode with the cowboys in the lawless terrains of Wild West of John Ford, Clint Eastwood, & Sergio Leone. Yet, watching movies deteriorated into a mere ritual for me somewhere at the end of 2014. Cinema stopped speaking to me, made me into a dull animal. I desperately longed to go back to reading but could not penetrate the books. It was as if the one-film-a-day dose of technicolour drug had numbed my reading instincts & sensibilities. It was difficult to leave the thrill ride of the emotional roller-coaster of cinema for a soothing swim in the placid waters of a book. I tried to read novels, but couldn’t go beyond the first two chapters. After the slow paced beginning of a typical book, whatever inclination and motive I had of rekindling my love for reading, used to wither away at the first sight of a screen of any type or dimension. The Reader’s Block lasting for years had taken the dreadful shape of guilt seeping into my soul. The guilt intensified whenever I watched movies, and wasn’t able to scale the earlier highs of cinema viewing experience.

In 2017, suddenly my reading mojo returned after I tried three simple things: Start with short stories, cut screen time to half, & read while travelling. I, who used to watch one-film-a-day for eight years, watched about 20 films and two miniseries in the whole of 2017. There came periods when I had those epiphanies and reached those heightened states of being, which I had forgotten to associate with reading. Carver’s minimalistic stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love made me fall in love with his prose again. Kafka’s Metamorphosis made me realize the loneliness gnawing at human heart. Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens was the book that made me realize that we individual humans are but tiny bugs caught up in the cobwebs of myths created by fellow sapiens.

Though I was able to read much less than what I had resolved to do at the beginning of 2017, yet I was able to rekindle my love for reading. This gives me the belief and strength to read more books, read books of diverse genres, re-read a few old favourites in 2018 and beyond. My reading goals for the coming year are:

  1. Read at least one book every 7 to 10 days. My final reading goal for the year is to read somewhere between 36 to 52 books.
  2. Read books belonging to genres I seldom read.
  3. Read & re-read a few dystopian, & sci-fi books & stories, as I wish to write stories of this genres this year.
  4. Try to explore works of writers, I have never read.
  5. Read some of the old favorites again.
  6. I resolve not to buy new books in 2018, till I have read the books from the old unread pile.
  7. Watch less, read more. I resolve to spend more time peering at my Kindle Paperwhite screen than all the other digital screens combined.

As for the books I wish to read or re-read, here’s THE LIST:

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott,
  2. City of Djinns by William Dalrymple,
  3. Autobiography of a Yogi by Parmahansa Yogananda,
  4. Bhagvad Gita,
  5. The Bible – King James Version,
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline,
  7. Our Moon Has Blood Clots: A Memoir of a Lost Home in Kashmir by Rahul Pandita,
  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley,
  9. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro,
  10. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman,
  11. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak,
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood,
  13. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson,
  14. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang,
  15. Rag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla,
  16. Saaye Mein Dhoop by Dushyant Kumar,
  17. Stories by Ritwik Ghatak,
  18. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbag,
  19. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim,
  20. The Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allan Poe,
  21. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri,
  22. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath,
  23. 1984 by George Orwell,
  24. Animal Farm by George Orwell,
  25. War and Peace by Tolstoy,
  26. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam,
  27. A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif,
  28. Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer,
  29. Volga se Ganga by Rahul Sankrityayan,
  30. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty,
  31. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid,
  32. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro,
  33. Love Poems by Pablo Neruda,
  34. If on a Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino,
  35. Dark Matter by Blake Couch,
  36. Ek Duniya: Samanantar edited by Rajendra Yadav,
  37. How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market by Nicolas Darvas,
  38. Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami,
  39. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman,
  40. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
  41. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

I have left 11 slots empty for books that I might pick on impulse. And I include in my list, the perennially unread Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace as a kala tikka, the black kohl dot to ward off the evil eye. Vaise, I hope to read it this year.

Happy Reading!

©2017, Bhupendra Singh

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