Parents of today ask a very funny question: “Why should we go for the pleasure of reading when there are several other things around that are made purely for giving pleasure?” A very valid question indeed. We cannot expect the parents of today to ask a different question, especially when their minds are all boggled by the advent of several electronic gadgets. These are days when even elementary school kids have their own e-mail ids and browse happily in internet cafes, if their yelling and howling fail to fetch them their daddy’s laptop or mum’s iPhone.
Reading has a pleasure of its own. That sets the ball rolling and the next question that crops up is ‘Why do we read books?’ As a reader and lover of books for a little more than four decades and as one who has moved with several voracious readers I feel that people read books for four reasons at least.
To keep our mind away from worries and problems is the major reason for reading books. That is to say, by reading books we can enter a different world away from reality that is bothering us. In short, books give us ample chance to escape from the world of reality and wander in fairylands forlorn.
The second kind of readers who go through books are the hapless lot – businessmen, school teachers, college professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, auditors and all those of their ilk. Their profession invariably makes reading mandatory. Poor fellows! Theirs is only Hobson’s choice. This happens because they understand that they do not know. And without equipping themselves, they cannot flourish.
Reading for status… that is racing to keep up with the books ‘everybody’ is reading. When I have read the latest on the bestseller list, how can you afford to stay away from the book and thereby betray your ignorance? Shame on you and your status! These are the third kind of readers. Only the Great Creator knows what this bestseller pulp is capable of doing to its reader? Time passer, eh!
Finally, those who read for pleasure. They belong to the fourth category. These are the people who love reading and belong to that clan that can boast of having the most satisfying hobby in the world. Most booksellers rely on this category of readers when they publish a book. Most book exhibitions are aimed at this sort of readers. They are the Lord’s chosen few. Blessed are those who read for delight with no ulterior motive. That is to say reading for the sake of pleasure and pleasure alone.
Reading for pleasure may not help us in getting through interviews or score a few marks over others or get a better job or even to run the race with Bill Gates. But this hobby, like a friend in need, comforts us when we are neck deep in troubled waters. It may add a new dimension of enjoyment to all our leisure activities. We must understand that works written originally for public entertainment are in no sense the private property of English professors. Having spent a lifetime of four decades as Professor of English I maintain that the bulk of what generally passes as literature belongs to the people for whose pleasure it was surely written. Literature is for the people, by the people and of the people. That may be the only one reason to call literature as the mirror of the age.
People who read for pleasure are those who care to read for the sake of reading, and for the epicurean enjoyment it provides. The true friends of literature are those who manufacture books with a view of giving pleasure to others. The true friends of literature are also those who buy and read books with an unquenchable thirst for pleasure.
Pleasure reading helps us in increasing our understanding of humanity and thereby assures us the peace we are after in the society if not the endearing relationship we hanker after. Good books invariably tell us that people are everywhere the same, regardless of the geographical or historical positions and this conduces to a tolerant attitude toward friend and neighbour. Through this knowledge we can strive for peace which is the need of the hour.