To Love a Reader

To Love a Reader - student project

According to Madhav, a human life reaches its full potential only when it has read. And not read “stuff like screenplays, scripts, or a Nora Roberts or a Dan Brown…No, those stuff are for the guilty readers.” He would say. “Read the writers, the ones who wrote because they had an opinion, they wanted to change the law, they couldn’t stand the ugly face of class discrimination.” He announced. “Don’t dwell upon the self-published big faces who think that they have a lot to say but no one is interested in listening to them.” He stated. “You know what? I will give you good books. They will add some value to you.” He proclaimed.


On our first date, Madhav and I spoke quite a lot. I will admit he has a way of making people talk just as much as he will talk. After all, he was a reader. A reader who had read both ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘War and Peace’, cover-to-cover, and you could make out he wasn’t lying. At the time, he was applying for a PhD at the London School of Economics and in his free time he was reading Hegel.


That was perhaps the only first date where I had engaged so much, spoken at length about some of my favourite authors and in the end, didn’t feel compelled to kiss the boy immediately. As for Madhav, he was absolutely thrilled to find someone who loved reading as much as he did (although I couldn’t surpass his list of already read books). He also mentioned that I was one of the most attractive girls he had ever met and I have to admit the same about him. It was decided.


Over the next five months, we met a lot. Not outside for a coffee or a dinner but at his home. The boy rarely left home, and once inside, I understood why. Madhav’s home had three libraries; the rest was pretty minimalistic.


Madhav’s grandfather was one of the most renowned economists of the country, his parents were two well-known scholars with several books to their name. As a result, you could find books which have been out-of-print for decades now, such as Ovid’s ‘The Poems of Exile’, the 1955 editions of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, ‘Philosophy in the Middle Ages’ by James J. Walsh, and many more. You could say that the library was a precious one. It wasn’t for the world to see but only those whom Madhav and his family chose. And for once,  I was elated to realise that he had chosen me.


All of them were there. Right from Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles and Plutarch to Eliot, Joyce, Kafka, Hemingway and D.H.Lawrence. While these are only a few names of the many popularly known writers who adorned the shelves of the living room, there were some rare gems kept inside his study.


It was Madhav who introduced me to writers like Cixin Liu, Rohinton Mistry, Basil Bunting, Miroslav Krleža, Matsuo Basho and many more whose names I forget due to the lack of record (I have a habit of jotting down things I don’t know). Maybe you know some of these authors but for a girl like me, who is extremely ordinary intellectually and who is not surrounded by people who read, these were the gems I could give up the world for.


After every night we would spend, Madhav would hand me a book and say, “One week. It shouldn’t take longer than that.” He never considered the fact that I was living in a strange city, all by myself, earning my own living, paying my rent and cooking my food. He believed all of that could wait. But a good read couldn’t.


He would also advice me to practice reading quickly. “Okay, you are terribly slow. Don’t you read much?” Those were the first pangs of a scholar on a service person. I would reply something as dumb as, “I like to take it in. What’s the point of glancing through a book if you can’t live through every moment of the story?” He would at once argue, “But there is so much to read. How will you ever become a real reader if you read so slowly?” That’s what Madhav was and I wasn’t - a real reader.


Madhav perhaps realised the full extent of his being when he spoke with an unliterary person as me (as C.S.Lewis would out it). It didn’t matter if I was the one with a degree in literature and a job as a writer (I worked as a journalist back then), Madhav was the reader. He was the reader who C. S. Lewis idealised as the one who “reads every work seriously in the sense that he reads it whole-heartedly, makes himself as receptive as he can.” Period.


Sex and all were fine and somewhere we liked being with each other. We laughed at each other’s jokes, we had similar taste in films and music, and most importantly Madhav’s little Cocker Spaniel (he called him Miles) was quite fond of me. Overall, nothing about being with Madhav every felt strange or uncomfortable. However, we both secretly knew that we came from very different worlds and that would only come under limelight the day Madhav told me that he thought it was all a bad idea.