Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The reading, where eet eej?

Where do you do your reading? Propped up on a pile of pillows in the dark, the lamp focused just off the page so you don’t get blinded by the light bounce? In an armchair, feet up on the table, with a glass or a bowl of munchies close to hand? Or on the pot, locked in from the world and undisturbed (until a Small Person starts banging on the door and asking, “Papa, WHAT are you doing”[1])?

Different locations, different reading. Different times of day. One of the nicest feelings in the world is to wake up in the dark before dawn because I’m excited about a book. To light the lamp (and keep it shaded so I don’t wake up Certain Other People) and lie back against the pillows, turning the pages till first light filters through the curtains and the Resident Moron is kind enough to bring me my coffee. Such a thrill.

Somehow it’s more satisfying to start the day with a long read than to end it in bed with a book. Bedtime is our own time, after all. We’re supposed to read ourselves to sleep. Of course, I love that too. It’s a wrench when I realise that sleep cannot be denied any longer and I have to put the bookmark in, put the book away and switch off the light. The morning read, however, is pure indulgence. A hint of sin … avoiding the morning run, the gym, the planning of work for the day, all for the love affair with the printed word. Blissful. Last night and this morning it was Terry Pratchett, The Night Watch. These days, Sam Vimes is definitely who I want to be. (I flatter myself that we have little bits in common. No, I do not wear a helmet or smoke panatellas. Or elbow people in the nose. At least, not any more.)

The next stop is the Undisturbed (well, almost) Read. I do not subscribe to The Economist or the EPW, all I read is India Today and Outlook. (Those nauseating supplements on the world’s most expensive watches and what the designers eat for brunch? The Very Small Person reads those. When she really learns to read, I shall throw them off the balcony.) And oh, another retro publication. TIME magazine. Standard reading On the Pot.

The Throne has its own unique pleasures. In terms of reading, that is. But reading on the pot is like canapés. Bite-sized pieces. A novel or a treatise does not belong in The Room where Everybody Goes. Magazines are ideal. Articles fit into mouthfuls of time. Or languid books, books of rambles and anecdotes and musing and little bits of sniping. Currently, Auberon Waugh’s Way of the World and Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence.

An important question – are newspapers best savoured on the pot? Personally, I’d say no. The morning papers are best savoured lying in bed, the curtains opened so the morning light pours in, the supplements spread out around the coffee tray. The Throne is for “some few to be tasted”.

And where does one read books that require a little more application? My place is in my study, sprawled in my treadle chair (my feet up on my rocking footstool, such delight), perhaps with my pipe beside me for the tactile pleasure when I clean it and go back over something that needs thinking through. Rarely do I read novels there (one exception being Kostova’s The Historian, read through one long Saturday when I was alone at home). Right now? The Argumentative Indian. Heavy stuff. Our good doctor is, after all, an academic. The donnish style is rarely transmuted into the story-telling lucidity of John Ronald Ruel or Feynman.

One last refuge of pleasure. Some afternoons in office, when I’m fed up of meetings and negotiations and union demands, I switch on the “Busy” light, reach back over my left shoulder for something from the bookshelf and bid the world goodbye for a while. A book that I wouldn’t make time for otherwise (The Mammaries of the Welfare State, such a poor encore after English, August) or again, something I can dip into and mull over. (Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue, a delight when taken in small doses).

There is, of course, one more kind of reading that has increasingly eaten into my time. To the extent that I consciously limit it to twice a week.


Oh well.

[1] In my college days, my room was up on the terrace. The bathroom had the Pot with the Smallest Hole in the World. When I was enthroned, my great-aunt (rest her soul) would come up to water her roses and INVARIABLY ask through the door “What are you doing in there?” Excuse me? What the hell do you think I’m doing in here? Building a robot? Negotiating peace in the Middle East? But people WILL ask. Gah!

**** ****


Falstaff said...

Wow! Two posts in under 24 hours, and footnotes in both. Careful, JAP - you're turning into me.

Also, Sam Vimes? Humph. Getting a little ahead of ourselves aren't we?

Personally, I do almost all of my reading in bed, except on sunny fall days like today when I take a backpack full of volumes of poetry and go sit on a park bench.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

I just cannot read in the bathroom. Unless I'm taking a soak in the tub. But even then, it's the Independent on Sunday or Vogue. Perhaps it's the smell of the pine air freshener that puts me off. Places to read - in bed, on trains and sometimes when a book is so hard to put down - leaning against the kitchen countertop as dinner burns.

as always a lovely post.

30in2005 said...

A lovely post - You always seem to say what the rest of us a thinking - and eloquently at that.

If one is not in the most comfortable of positions reading can become a distracted activity. In my new flat I am yet to find the correct spot with just the right light and just the right form to make reading a pleasure.

On a London summer day there is not much that can beat a park bench or a blanket thrown on the grass.

udayan said...

Have read all my books (yes, most of my text-books also) while lying on my back. That's why I like paperbacks more than the hard-bounds. Those damn big ones slip.

And yes, newspapers in the loo. Bombay Times cannot be read anywhere else.

However, currently all my reading has been restricted to the car. Bombay traffic is such a darling !

Sam Vimes is my FAVOURITE character. Most of my corporate life has been like that. Trying to make sense of something which is beyond me !!

Prerona said...

everywhere is the best place for me :D

Vivek Kumar said...

For most of my reading: Lying in bed, on my side, propped up on one elbow (which itseld is propped up on a pillow). When one elbow starts to complain, I switch to the other one.

Never In The Pot.

Rarely (if ever) on my desk at work. That is reserved for The Files.

Ravi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ravi said...

Nice post. My tiny cubicle sized Mumbai apartment doesn't afford me the luxury of deciding where to read.I stick to the bed or the loo.
Reminded me of an old post I had written on the joys of reading in the loo.

The Marauder's Map said...

One of the other nicest feelings in the world is dying to get back home because you are excited about a book. I've always, always wanted to stick that in a blog post, but here is good enough I guess.

And I'm luckier than most people in having most of my evenings completely to myself, when I can stretch out on the bed and read myself silly. Being incapable of watching TV for more than 10 minutes at a stretch (and never alone) also helps.

Neela said...

What about reading in local trains? Ideally, the train journey should be at least Bandra-Churchgate though the one hour twenty minutes (or the longer two and a half hours) it takes from New York to Philly is sheer bliss.

Of course there are rules to train reading. One must only read the novel on the train. And when one's station is called, one is stoic. One marks the page and puts it in a dark corner of the bag where it cannot tempt one to read it off the train.

For me, fiction works best for this kind of serialized reading. I find non-fiction hard to take in instalments. And the thought-to-words ratio that poetry requires is too much for train reading.


Veena said...

Hmm...how come no one mentioned the balcony? Surrounded by amma's dear plants, on my back on a comfortable mat right under the shade of the coconut and jack fruit trees, and amma dear sending up snackies every half hour! Is there a better place to read?

Priya said...

I did most of my reading before the dawn broke and the sinful pleasure of it is quite unsurmountable;) When I was on a book I just couldn't put down,(which was invariably when exams were round the corner:P), I used to get under the quilt with the torch, after the lights had been switched off! These days, I put myself and G to sleep over fairy tales, but wee hours of the morn it still remains for my reading.
Thanks for reviving the memories.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Veena - stop rubbing in the fact that you're at home enjoying the adoration of your parents. WE GET IT :p

eve's lungs said...

The eet eej changes with age and time . I've had various favourite places - one such was my gran's bed where I could do a lot of illicit reading undetected (i'd drop the book down the side ) ; then it was the garden in Jamshedpur - for a long time later it was the bed ,with my neck propped on the hard bedrest- now its a wide deep cushionless chair which makes for a comfortable read ( with my feet propped up on a foot stool).
On your choice of current material - Sam Vimes and Encore Provence make an esoteric combination !!!

bodo said...

they're right. falstaff and 30in2005. sundays, on the park bench. with a box full of muffins. eet wins hands down.

and of course, my favourite has to be this huge over stuffed armchair in my house. plenty of space to fold your feet up and get lost.

progga said...

In my younger avatar, I could stay in the loo for hours, having finished my ummm... business there, but too caught up in what I was reading to be able to actually get up. (I'm told that this is genetic, my brother did the same!) And of course, in bed. Lazy Sunday afternoons, esp in winter, with warm sunshine on your feet. And on trains - long journeys criss-crossing the country, the rocking motion removing everything but you and the book from existence. And on a rain-sprayed balcony, under glowering skies.
I've never been much of a morning person... late night or deep-summer-afternoon reads are my favourite - the world sleeps, nothing disturbs you, except the sounds of birds or crickets or (if you're exceptionally lucky) distant trains jhug-jhugging their way across the land.

Bengali Guy said...

Fall is the perfect season to read books outdoors. The colors, the weather, the long late afternoons. the whiff of fresh cold air all create a pensive, thoughtfull environment. Also the perfect time of the year to go over what you achieved, what you didn't. Love to take long walks with friends I grew up with amongs the red/yellow leaves which just fall and fall and fall.

My fav place to read a heavy book is on my back, on the grass, under a tree shade, looking at the book or at the blue blue sky. A few 0 calorie snacks around. Bottles of water.

For light/romantic stuff its the bathtub, warm water, and a good bottle of cabernet.

Life is worth it ...

Lahar said...

I vehemently disagree with your opinion on "Mammaries". It is one of my favorite books by an Indian author- wickedly funny, not at all full of itself, etc. I seriously thought English August was over-rated, and reading it was painful- like finishing off weak, watery dal with rice. Mammaries, by contrast, is a treat for our Inner Cynic ;)

TerritorialMale said...

I have a severely one tracked mind. I cannot do two things at a time. It's either one-or-the-other with me. But I did try The Pot once at a friend's place, a very engrossing book, then I turned on the inbuilt-spray-thing and continued reading. Ah! Twas bliss. Now I don't remember what I enjoyed more, the book or the spray.

I think JAP should move his PC in and try blogging from there.

Finally, savour the free ebooks these guys have on offer.

Sue said...

I love asking V-the-husband what he's doing. I don't get an answer, but sometimes I can make out a long-suffering sigh from inside.

It's a rhetorical question, you understand.

Aishwarya said...

Prose fiction is read in bed, nonfiction on the chair by the window in my parents' room and poetry while pacing my room.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Very nice. Reading is obviously still rated higher than (f'rexample) sex. I am not alone!

F'staff, YES, Sam Vimes. You want to take this outside? (This is mainly because you conjured up the park bench idyll.)

Manolo Person, I just cannot ... ummm .. use the room unless I have something to read.

30, my sympathies for not having found the place yet. (Would it be indiscreet to address you as '31' this year?) (That, again, is peevishness about the park gloat)

Udayan, I don't remember reading too many text-books, but those I did, I read in a chair. And welcome to the Sam Vimes fan club.

Prerona, I envy you.

Vivek, I would certainly hope that you never get IN the Pot, let alone read there.

Ravi, nice post.

Marauder, I posted about that feeling once. Long ago, on another blog (and besides, the library's dead).

Neela, one is ALWAYS tempted to continue reading.

Veena, you're just gloating. Hope the weather is humid enough to drive you indoors again.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Priya, pleasure.

Eve's Lungs, I so agree. Don't start me off on the many places over the years.

Bodo, WILL you stop about that park ALREADY? It's over 30 Celsius with 95% humidity in this city!

Progga, that should be a post. We await your version.

Bong Guy, I shall so go over to your blog and post a gloat-worthy comment. I shall, of course, wait till you're off guard ...

Lahar, you live in an alternative universe.

T Male, how do you know I haven't posted from there already? And I LOVE the bum-spray thingy. Very efficient.

Sue, I do NOT understand. That is the time when a man should NOT be disturbed.

Aishwarya, I must try pacing the room with poetry.


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