As per my speculation for future decades of my life, formed by looking at sample data from many-many lives around me (i have huge extended family with 12 uncles n aunts and I am the youngest in my generation at my mother’s side), I believe the best time to invest on books and music is either in or before twenties or in fifties (in case you take an early retirement). During college days like a true 6 pointer I would snatch any free minute and devote it either to day dreaming or to sweetest (in)activity of sleeping. But once they were over, sleep also became a scarce commodity. Especially on weekday nights. After listening to plenty of Dev Anand in Guide – din dhal jaaye, raat na aaya; paying telephone bills which were equivalent to my house rent; I finally picked up Enid Blyton’s bed time stories.
One thing led to another and now I can’t go to bed without a book in my hand. If it is a beautiful piece something like Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, then it doesn’t last too many nights because I carry it forward to the day as well. The best bets are what are called timepass books. Like:
– Mediocre But Arrogant (Abhijit Bhaduri)
– State of Fear (Michael Crichton)
– Jeffery Archer (The fourth estate, A Twist in a Tail, Not a Penny Less Not a Penny More)
– Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner, A thousand Splendid Suns)
– Riot (Shashi Tharoor)
to name a few. These books are not so gripping that you can’t wait for another day to pass before you pick them again. They don’t leave with you introspective questions, like Mistry does. Neither do they give any such information, like Ghosh does, which would prompt you to jump out of bed to start you comp for googling and wikipedia-ing. They are perfect adult versions of Blyton’s and other classic children writings. Good guys Vs Bad guys. Happy endings. Or at least manageable well-defined endings. Unlike the twins meeting again after so and so years of separation as in The God of Small Things, which leaves you so unsatisfied (read depressed) that you need to find something delicious in kitchen to make up for it.
Until now this was the only impression I carried about these kinds of books. Also include Sidney Sheldon and any thriller/mystery novel in the above list. All are timepass books, not great pieces of literature. What I recently realized was, these books make pretty good source of information (which could be either correct or incorrect). In the least, they do manage to give a whole other perspective which was so far missing from your life. For instance, State of Fear (SoF) talks about corruption/politics/fraud in the major environmental agencies which claim to be sensitive towards nature. In the Fourth Estate by Archer one gets a small preview on the fight between newspaper giants and how it has permanent effects on the print media. I was reminded of TOI and HT fights and how the supplements just started coming when we were in middle school which now seem indispensable – even Indian Express has 3-4 supplements coming these days! Hosseini gives a picture and history of Afghanistan, which I take with a pint of salt, as it is coming from an American. But nonetheless, it is anytime better than those magazines articles on Baghdad (who knows the difference between Baghdad and Kabul anyways – they all are Muslims, themselves fundamentalists or under the capture of fundamentalists!), at least it is enjoyable!
In fact, writing a good story book and passing information through it seems to be a very good idea. Also it is a very difficult one. After writing so many assignments, I still dread writing an article on Caste (which I started writing today before changing to a less disputed topic). Because every time I start on it, I only end up reading more about it! Someday I am hoping, I would escape from procrastination and start writing on Caste. Till then, I am glad to have found this new respect for the authors of timepass books! Also it is because of them that I am not yet insomniac!