Millennium Post

Dissipating bookworms

Is book reading on the decline? But, of course, it is. With the emergence of gadgets from the digital world and so many other diversions, this, perhaps, is how it was destined to be. Indeed, many of the current generation are blissfully ignorant of some of the great works that used to be treasured with so much care, not too long ago. When references are made to these works, they do not, in the least, hesitate while betraying their ignorance. Most, in fact, are happy that they try and read their immediate texts. And, therein lays a sad tale. One does not have to go back too many years to recall the craze for the books that had been making news for all the right reasons. There used to be intense discussions in the Coffee Houses on, among other things, the works of the latest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other works by other authors, dominated discussions with as much zeal. One recalls an exceptional bureaucrat of great merit and integrity who was a great book lover. Known by his well-wishers and friends as a "bookaholic", three rooms of his house had every conceivable space filled with books on virtually every subject including, of course, literature. Some brilliant students were known for their passion for books beyond the recommended text. Even during these "happy times", came an eye-opener in the form of Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'. That was quickly made into a film. The film by Francois Truffaut, understandably, turned into a classic that was discussed at all major International Film Festivals. For some wondering what 'Fahrenheit 451' was all about, it is the temperature at which paper burns. Both the story and the film talk about a futuristic time when book reading is deemed a crime. So, anyone discovered reading or storing books finds his place raided by a very smart set of firemen. They pull out books from all the places they had been hidden in, make a hillock, pour blue petrol and set it on fire. The government of the day is totalitarian and even housewives, fiercely loyal to the ruling dispensation, report on their book-loving husbands. This is what happens to the leading man who is betrayed by his wife. He manages to escape and finds himself on an island where he discovers others roaming around murmuring to themselves. All these murmuring individuals have transformed themselves into books. This is how the classics are kept alive. Even if Bradbury's book was written several decades ago, it was a futuristic satire. The emphasis is not so much on the ruling dispensation but on a world virtually without books. Whenever people are left wondering how to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills, they are advised to read, read and read even more not just the time-tested classics but works by other recommended authors too. Some have opted for "electronic" reading. But dependence on keeping the eyes glued to mobiles and personal computers for long may lead to radiation hazards. Be that as it may, there is no gainsaying that the habit and passion for book reading is not just a part of our growing up but of life itself.
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