It always surprises me how much friends and family influence what we read. From my father and my uncles (straight out of the British era), I learnt about P.G Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, George Barnard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Arthur Hailey, and Alistair MacLean. From my friends, I learnt about Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Three Investigators, Asterix, and Tintin. The elders in my family would never venture to read Indian authors who write in English. “Why would I read an Indian author? They are not worth my time!” my uncle would venture. But, I’ve learnt otherwise. To me, Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Tahroor, Gita Mehta, Dr. Devdutt Pattnaik, and Kamala Markandaya are as engaging as anyone else. I am from the You Tube and TED Talks generation and I would be at fault if I did not move away from the danger of a single story. Do check out Chimamanda Adichie’s talk with the same title (The danger of a single story) on TED Talks – it is a thought-provoking talk.
Sometimes, it is books that make for long-lasting friendships. Back in the college library, I was rummaging the book racks to read something over the weekend. A classmate of mine was poking the other end of the rack. We got talking about books. And we have not stopped since!
I find today’s children so comfortable with technology. I see children of all ages and sizes playing around with iPads as though these devices were extensions of themselves. I hope that parents and elders in such families encourage their children to read – whether it is Chota Bheem or Famous Five. It is important that they discover worlds of their own and the worlds that are a wee bit alien to them too. I see the wealth of books as an important dimension of today’s child growing into a responsible, sensitive global citizen of tomorrow.
So, the next time you find yourself struggling to buy a gift, think of a book.
The author is co-founder and Director, Content Development at Steta