Read in order to live said Gustave Flaubert. That was almost two centuries ago and something almost ludicrous in our day and age.
You may wonder why I chose to right a post about books.
It all began when sometime back a dear friend and supporter sought our help and advice on a project whereby 50K books in English needed to find homes in India ( institutions, public libraries, schools, NGOs). For someone addicted to books this was fantastic. Or so it seemed at first.
After the initial excitement and as one sat down to think of the nitty-gritty it did not take long to see that the matter was not as simple as one would have liked. After all were we not a society where books had taken a back seat and lost its battle to the ever invading world of television. Today's children had scant place for books, barring the school ones, and reading was synonymous to boring, dreary and irksome. The sad reality was that children of today did not read books for pleasure. And if we were to talk about slum kids, then many had never seen books other than those in their school bags. So where would these 50K books lands even if they reached institutions, NGOs etc.. And who in today's day and age went to public libraries, Come to think about I do not think there is a public library in the vicinity of where I sit!
I belong to a generation where books were oft the only source of entertainment we had. They were our friends and counselors and a garden you carry in your pocket to quote a Chinese proverb. Even today, when I have practically no time, I devour books as I travel from one place to another in the pwhy three wheeler!
Reading is a habit that needs to be revived. And to do so it is necessary to place a book in the hand of a child as early as possible. And yet the reality stares at us large as even the poorest home in a Delhi slum has a TV and cable connection. The battle is unequal but needs to be fought. Was it not Groucho Marx who said: I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.