Monday, April 24, 2017

Jottings - Slice of life - 118 ( World Book day - April 23rd)

Jottings - Slice of life - 118 ( World Book day - April 23rd)
In 1995, UNESCO declared 23rd of April as “World book day”, a day to commemorate the simple yet powerful act of reading, a day to glorify and acknowledge the miracle of the written word, a day to remember with awe the tremendous debt we owe to codified knowledge and culture in books that have appeared in various sizes, shapes and forms over thousands of years across civilizations; enriching, creating and maintaining an unbroken continuity, making us unique species with the ability to document, interpret and develop a life of mind and consciousness. What and where would we be without the written word? Its hard to imagine.
There was a time, when books were rare to find, print and distribute. But the thirst to read was there. Common man desperately wished to possess the written word. He wanted to hold the deep mysterious meanings words could invoke in his bare hands , read it with reverential awe in the flickering lamps of oil and candle and pass it on to his children as a treasure to be cherished and assimilated. The invention of the Gutenberg press was pivotal in Human history. With it, the word was liberated from the confines of palaces and monasteries where only scribes and priests were permitted to laboriously copy scrolls. Having copied, they held books within their fold as secrets not to be disbursed Printing changed all that. It helped thought spread across continents. Beautiful literature confined to one part of globe could now be enjoyed elsewhere within the folds of portable, compact book. In a crucial way, its distribution helped man to appreciate, acknowledge and understand that Human experiences were universal, no matter where they were experienced. Literature in the form of play and fiction increasingly sensitized us to our common heritage as Humans. It validated the fact that our joys and sorrows, suffering and pain, sense of right and wrong, were only variations on same themes. The basis, the dream to live as one global community would not have been possible without the proliferation of books.
When books became a vehicle of cultural transmission, mysteriously, as if by a divine ordinance, writers began to flourish aplenty. What was until then a specialized act of creation, now became available to everybody with talent and aspiration. Every household could potentially give birth to an author, and anyone who wished to read could also try their hand at writing. It was no more the privilege of few. Writers could write and publish what they wanted. It was up to to discerning readers to give it its due. A fine system that helped opens doors to independent thought and expression, which otherwise would have remained stifled in censorship and authority.
Unlike many today, I dont believe that reading as a committed act of enjoyment, learning and inward flowering has lost its relevance . While it is true that electronic media, quick news and facts, referencing and using rather than reading and understanding have become more prevalent, there will always be readers for whom nothing can substitute the wholesome act of silent reading in a quiet room - with legs comfortably curled in upon a sofa, a reading lamp gently casting its yellow light on the printed page, solemn quietness around occasionally distracted by the sound of a passerby or bird chirping, the soft ruffling sound of paper ( depending on its texture) as fingers involuntarily and impatiently grope for next page of a gripping book, the unconscious smile which appears on ones face while reading a well crafted sentence, turn of phrase or use of a rare word, the sudden illumination and transcendence that comes from an idea, or an emotion laid threadbare in clear prose or poetry, the utter sense of self-sufficiency between the book and reader - these are joys that can never be taken away from us, no matter how much technology seeps into our lives.
In the words of Alberto Mangel, a great novelist and an eloquent advocate of reading, in his wonderful book “A history of Reading” , writes
“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”
I cannot agree more, or express the feeling better.
To all readers , I share my joy, benediction and love of reading with all of you.
God bless…
yours in mortality,
Bala

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