The Common Tongue of the World

While reading the immensely talented and committed fellow bloggers the other day, I realized that they all belong to so many different parts of this huge world. Asia, Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia – name the continent and you will see someone piecing together his thoughts in words and posting for us to read. This is wonderful. The world has been so evolved that languages change the moment you cross some miles, yet it has been brought together on the same platform by one single common tongue. You might hate it or love it but English has brought us all together. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the amazing ideas that you all have, had it not been for this language. While we all have great respect for our different mother tongues, we can’t deny the importance this one language has in the connected world of today.

It is unbelievable that so many like-minded people exist in the far away states of the remotest countries. It would have been an impossibility to even know that let alone connecting. While English was received by us Indians in heritage from the British, many people learn it especially to be able to make their point and express themselves to a wider audience. We, here, aren’t even considered educated without this knowledge. It would leave us jobless and humiliated if we can’t make other people understand in English. Strange and cruel, I used to think. We have our own language here. Why can’t we just handle affairs internally without artificially leaning so heavily on a foreign language? Whatever sore feelings I had, evaporated the day I started reading books. The treasure that these books brought along from all the corners of the earth overwhelmed me. I thank God that I know this language. I know how to understand what the greatest people who walked the earth have to say about the most perplexing situations we face everyday.

Though we have no dearth of writers in our own mother tongue, the awareness of this common tongue takes us beyond borders, mountains, nationalities, and communities. That introduces us to new ideas, strange customs, interesting thoughts, creative art work, and much more. And the fact that so many people around the world pen down their work in English has contributed to its richness. I know there is nothing like being a native speaker, but I believe more than that the dynamism and consistent improvement in this language has been a doing of people living beyond. People who carried it to the farthest corners, even if for the purpose of colonization, spread it for all of us to speak and understand one another.

This common platform provides us the opportunity to connect, to earn our livelihoods, to learn, to express, to entertain ourselves, to roam around the world, and in the end to ink it all down to share with others. The fact that I have been able to share my thoughts with you all using this language reinforces my belief in its usefulness and the freedom it offers to the individuals like me.

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World Book Fair in New Delhi

Book Fair – Does that excite you?Book fair

Well, when I first saw the title above, pasted on top of a bus stop, I screamed inwardly in exhilaration, and immediately fixed a date with myself and the books on the stated date. You will agree with me that for a book lover a mere sight of a stack of books can be a trigger for adrenaline rush. A book fair, thus, is a deluge of excitement. Though in today’s world where everything is available online, and where Kindles are gradually replacing books, I was not sure how many people would really turn up. That was none of my concern, I realised, and I set off for the fair, refusing to be held back by the recent surge in winters here. The very idea of books – shining, colourful books – in all the shapes and sizes, from all the publishers you can think of, was too much of a motivation for me to stay indoors.

bookfair759

The best feeling that I get when I visit such places is that I am not alone. There are thousands of people who would rather read than spend time doing anything else. They feel like a part of my family – the reading community. Their smiles appear familiar, the sheen of their eyes seems understandable, and natural. People of all ages checking out stalls, rummaging shelves, and reading the back-covers of the books feel like my own world.

 

The halls were huge, and stalls were many,

Still many were the shelves,

Just pick and choose any!

 

But where to start? How to start?

I just followed the most instinctive approach and slipped inside the very first hall and the stall I could see. It turned out to be devoted to medicine, and I gave a quick uncomfortable look at the pictures on the books, all organs, tools, bodies etc. and left in a hurry fearing that someone might ask me a question or two about the subject. Right ahead, there were all big publishers, and many small ones too. People had flocked the big ones as if books were being distributed for free there. I soon realised that checking books, shelf by shelf, was not going to help. There were millions of them. Discounts weren’t good either, so I glimpsed at them randomly and bought a few, and took pictures of the rest – to buy online later on, with hefty discounts.

world-book-fair-2016

All in all, I loved the ambience, the presence of books all around, and found some really helpful books there. Some I bought, some I will. But it reminded me of the days when my father would take us to book fairs. It was enjoyable then, and it was pleasurable this time too.

Reading To Kids, It Does Work.

While out shopping as a company to my dear wife a few weeks back, I happened to stumble over to the kids’ section of a shopping mall, trying to get hold of my four year old completely-out-of-control son. As usual, nothing but the artificial divinity of this section could calm his nerves down, and he so predictably came to a halt in awe of the surroundings, and got lost in the colourful walls, huge stuffed toys, and for the first time perhaps –  books. Though if I think back, he might not have been as serious while throwing a glance at the books as was made out by me (you know parents pay attention to what they want to pay attention to). Nevertheless, I hauled him up in my arms affectionately, and landed him right in front of the books he now seemed somewhat unsure about. In the end I feel I ended up buying a number of books, more to my liking than his.

Most of these books, just as their earlier relatives now occupy a designated and neglected section of our room, however, we started reading the new story books to him, just to check, yet again, whether he has inherited the love of books from his parents. And to our great surprise, he listened. He listened, and asked questions, and got excited, and related that the elephant or the rabbit or the fox in the story met him the other day, and they even shared food. The crux is that his imagination was given a way out when he listened to the stories. More importantly, ever since that day he keeps picking up the books and pointing at the pictures to urge us to read him another one. Or the earlier ones again.

Of course things do not remain that dreamlike uninterrupted for long. The activity is not as smooth as we would like it to be. During the process,he keeps jumping around, behaving like the animals in the stories, asking us to roar like a lion, stopping us midway and raising back the issues from a previous read. Also, he often wants us to rush on the stories to know the end, right at the beginning, and gets somewhat annoyed by the colour of the eyes of the rabbit, who according to him is more like an alien, as rabbits are like what he has seen in another of his books. Hard to argue with that! But we agree with him, and now we have two types of rabbits, the real ones, and the alien ones.

All in all, I see the point why so many people suggest reading stories to kids. It is effective, engaging, and quite fruitful. It might not establish control as kids are rather excited while you narrate to them. But they do use their imagination and creativity, and they learn new words, ideas, possibilities, and even tricks. The idea that books are fun is registered to their minds in this early age, and that helps in the long run.

Now, I love it when at bed time he goes over to the book-rack and starts throwing away all books till the time he finds the one which has the picture and story of an alien lion. Yes, we have that too!

Love Reading Books? In Their Original Paper Form? Me Too.

Books have always attracted me. Even when I didn’t read much, I would often find myself halting in front of a book shop, and staring through the glass at the stylishly stacked books – all colourful and beautiful; each one ready to tell a different tale, each one exhibiting a different font style – peering out at me, glorifying the name of the author. Books, I felt, whispered to me in a language I didn’t know I knew – to be picked up and taken home. And, it appeared, that not many people were capable of hearing that inviting plea, or perhaps, only a selected few were spoken with. Duly brushing aside my imaginations, I would shake my head off these sounds, and move ahead. Only a deep corner of my heart knew that it was a plea, and a whisper, but not from the book store.

Today I know I love reading and read as if my life depends on it. I don’t stop when I am travelling, I don’t stop when I am in office, and I don’t stop when people around me talk in high decibels. And, this is made even more convenient by my kindle. Hundreds of books are available to me all the time now. Words demystify themselves at my command. The bookmark makes itself available at the slightest touch of my finger. Highlighting passages, lines, and words have never been easier. And I can read in dark too; it comes with an inbuilt back-lit screen. It is as close to magic as anything can get where reading is concerned! It truly is much more than a book. Though a constant fear of losing it all or getting it damaged keeps hovering over my head, but that isn’t such a big issue, if I am careful.

Having said that, books in their physical and original form haven’t yet released me from their clutches. I still order books in the form they were meant to be, and wait eagerly for the delivery when these can easily be downloaded by a click of the mouse. Just a look at the cover of a newly arrived book and its heavenly fragrance send me into a trance. Some people might declare me psychologically unstable, if they witness me looking at the front and back cover of a book several times, before I go ahead and open it. Unlike many other readers, I like to start the book from the very first page, and even read the section where copyright infringement laws are mentioned.

I find a book so much more personal. I scribble down on its pages – thoughts that might well be considered useless, ideas that I am sure owe their genesis to some or the other movie, new goals as the deadlines for the older ones keep expiring all the time, and even grocery items to be bought. I don’t just read these books, I interact with them. I confide in them.

I am not really advocating books over e-books; I love reading from my kindle. However, I might never shift to it completely. My study table is full of books littered all around, and that sight howsoever untidy makes my exhaustion from the day’s work vanish away immediately. And, it somehow even inspires me!