So after a hiatus of probably half a dozen years I return to reading. And return back like I was never gone. Sitting hours at an end in some cozy corner, trapped between the lines written by authors who wrote and moved on, probably oblivious to the lives they touch each day around the world.
Well, not exactly hours at an end now, for there is no mommy around, to put a plate before you in between your literary sojourns and says “Eat while you read” for she understands the urgency of being enticed by words that do not warrant even a moment’s break. And then there’s a mommy in me now instead who remembers it’s been ten minutes too long without Seeya peeking in, if she’s not already around.
This time it’s love blossoming for Khaled Hosseini, for I do not remember story telling being at this high and beautiful notch of excellence. I began with “And The Mountain Echoed” and I think the book would not end for me even though the pages ran off eventually. I remember a good friend giving me ‘The Kite Runner’ around five years back, out of his precious collection, telling me to read and fall in love with it. I also remember starting it and going on for about 50 pages when I lost interest and let the book adorn the bookshelf like many others that I began but never really could conclude. Active participation in social media, the commencing new role as a mother, the unwavering expectations and grinds of everyday life and reading covertly turned into a luxury.
Maybe, there’s always a right time to read someone’s words if you really want to appreciate them. The background of Afghanistan and the wars, the Muslim customs and cultural differences, the long descriptions of upheavals for the impatient reader in me, kind of bogged me down as opposed to a light reading that I was perhaps looking for then.
But then came 'And The Mountain Echoed', thank god for hyper bout of unseen boredom. Little stories that transport you to little worlds, characters that you tend to identify with, irrespective of the gender or age or background they come from. Because eventually our problems may be different, but they feel the same. Pain does not come in different languages or versions. It just hurts universally. Love does not know the bounds of religion or nationality, it just grows naturally and tugs at a heart that has known it. Desire may be requited or unrequited but seldom is it wrong or right for the person who experiences it, running down in his veins like the very blood that supports his being.
I think Hosseini had me from the very onset, the first story that Saboor narrated to his children. I told the story to Seeya with a bit of necessary editing for a four year old to fathom it in accordance with her bounds. And when there was light in her eyes and a constant “Mamma, then?” there was light in my eyes too. I want so much for her to see the world through her eyes that could have been mine.
I wondered then if I had taints of Uncle Nabi, who pined in silent desire for Nila or shades of Nila who had too gypsy a spirit in her to be bogged down by social norms and confirm to the mundane. I wondered how I would behave were I in place of Parwana or her sister Masooma within a quickly dimming conscience over selfish grabbing of hope for materializing the dreams that you’ve aspired for all your life. I shivered under the thoughts of having to part with a child because poverty becomes too big a strain or the idea of living without a sibling who meant the world to you. Somewhere Pari and her struggles left me with a subconscious nervousness for Seeya and a “heaven forbid” prayer said silently.
The novel grows on you. Each time the author ends one long chapter of a life he paints before you with deft strokes, you feel the loss of having parted with a loved one. I remember a dear friend once saying he could not relate to fiction stories, with characters that he knew did not exist but were born out of the mind of one writer penning them. I also remember how I had argued with the notion for how could you not picture the character most vividly in your head once you read such brilliance. For me these people were living, breathing, feeling and ageing right before my eyes. The idea of having walked through with them in their journey like a silent companion in the shadows. Another dear friend mentioned how he had tears in his eyes after having read Hosseini. Well, as surprised as I was at such an effect of books on people, it really would get comprehensible perhaps if you submerged yourself with sensitivity in a book, that maybe I still lack.
I want to go on talking about the characters but then I’d want you to experience them first, if you haven’t already. The Kite Runner followed this and I’m not so sure if I have managed to come out of the ravaged lanes of Afghanistan or the lofty humans Hosseini left me with as fellow travelers in the maze of emotions and life, even though it’s been a week of having read them. This time around, I loved The Kite Runner too, experiencing the familiar disinclination to keep down the book from my hand without my eyes having devoured it all, in an innate sense of urgency.
I return back to reading and I am filled with a sense of completion. You know how sometimes in your lives so full, you move around with unnamed voids and just don’t know how to deal with them? I think I just dealt with one of them. Reading is perhaps like swimming, like loving. You could be years out of practice but one right dip and a splash of it on you and you begin to wade through with open arms till you swirl and glide and drench in it with the confidence of being at home. At peace!
“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
The lines he began with and the lines where I end.