How Reading Takes You Here, There And Everywhere
January 25, 2018
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” – J.K. Rowling
Soon, I was deeply engrossed in the story and before I knew it half an hour had passed… The train was starting to slow down as we had reached a station; on a cemented slab in yellow, the letters read ‘Panbari’. Some of the seats in front of me that were previously filled now lay empty. Two of the solo passengers who sat ahead of me had struck up a conversation about the weather in Dimapur – probably the place they were heading to. The winter sun was now splattered across the sky and shining over thatched-roof villages that we were fast leaving behind as the train gained momentum.
Mary Balogh describes it perfectly, “Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? I know I have. And I think that’s why historical romance is so appealing. That experience of being so immersed in the story that it feels like you’re really there: strolling along in a moonlit rose garden with a duke, or taking tea in a lady’s finely appointed drawing room. And if you’re the adventurous type (like me), perhaps you find yourself riding on a cable car in San Francisco, or exploring the canals of Venice in a gondola. Whatever the tale, these new experiences are just waiting to be discovered; beckoning you, enticing you, entreating you to pause, to sit down and to spend time between the pages of a good book.”
Whether at bookshops, parks, airports, or even the confines of their homes, I’ve often found people oblivious to the physical environment they are reading in. Recently, I was at a cafe waiting for a friend when I noticed a man sitting at the far end of the room, leaning over a wooden table with a book in hand. I didn’t want to seem intrusive, but I couldn’t help observing how the man’s face puckered while he read and a distinct frown spread across his forehead every now and then. A few minutes later, the person behind the coffee counter called out number 8 which included an order of a coffee and sandwich. However, when no one turned up at the counter, the server repeated the announcement a few more times. The man with the book suddenly sprang up from his seat in one swift motion and called out frantically, ‘That’s me!’ At that moment, all I could think to myself was that it must be one incredible book! I noticed that the cover of the book had what seemed like a spider weaving a cobweb and although I wanted to find out the name of the book, the distance between us prevented me.
Good books have a magical, portable quality about them. How else can you explain the way in which a person can be physically present at a place and yet mentally, be lost within the pages of a book? I believe that our fondness for reading originates from our love for extraordinary stories—the kinds that charm us, transform us and leave us completely spellbound. This reminds me of something that Virginia Woolf wrote about our love for reading in her book, The Second Common Reader.
“I have sometimes dreamt… that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.” ― Virginia Woolf
Prarthana Banikya is a graduate in Sociology from Miranda House with a certificate in poetry. She spent her formative years in the valleys of Northeastern India from where she draws inspiration for most of her writing. Her work has been featured in several journals including Aaduna, Asia Writes, Aerogram, Danse Macabre, Poetry Super Highway, Namnai, and Pratilipi. In 2016, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry and in 2018, was the recipient of the Orange Flower Award for poetry. She blogs at prarthanabanikya.blogspot.in.
You can read her articles here.