I have become a very erratic and undisciplined reader… Earlier I used to take a book and finish it… Today, I am reading <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1:time Hour="4" Minute="56">4 to 5</st1:time> books at a time… absurd, isn’t it? Impossible? No! I am currently reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘Like a Flowing River’, Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Bookless in Baghdad’ and ‘The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone’, Bill Bryson’s ‘Thunderbolt Kid’ and the ‘Chicken Soup for the African American Soul.’ And I am equally involved in all the books, enjoying every word that I read… At times I wonder why I have become like this. In the past, I used to finish books in single sittings. Or in straight shifts… in a week or less depending on the ‘unputdownableness’ of the book concerned. Like a Dan Brown… or the book by Sydney Sheldon called ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ which I finished in a reading marathon of six hours…. Or any of the Rowling sagas… There was a time in my teen years when I used to devour book after book by Mills & Boons publications… But today, I start on a romance and within a few minutes with snorts of disgust and impatience toss it away and reach for a more serious read. Obviously, I have changed… I can’t blame the books… books are eternal… humans and their whims and fancies ephimeral… Has age killed the romantic in me? No… because I read an Irish best seller by Sarah Webb. It was romantic… but it was also humourous, about people with whom I could identify… So obviously I enjoyed it. So what is it about Paulo Coelho that I can identify myself with? My aunt is a fan of Coelho. I have access to his books in my favourite secondhand book shop… but I had never bothered to pick him off the shelf… But suddenly I get myself a copy of his reflections on life and his writings… like a compilation of his blogs… and I savour every word of his…including his fervent catholic sentiments… Tharoor is a favourite… but both the books I have mentioned above are collections of essays published in newspapers and magazines…The diplomat and the writer in him are equally impressive. Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid is more interesting than his other books, I feel…as I perceive in this book, an America of the 50’s… that seems to be full of genuine people… a country that has not yet started masquerading as world police… I have half a dozen books untouched, still smelling brand new a V. S Naipaul, another Tharoor, a set of Richard Gordons, Musn’t Grumble by Joe Bennett, Marley and Me and Hills of Angheri by Kaveri Nambeesan. I don’t know when I will get round to finishing all these… for these days I seem to be buying books faster than reading them. I miss reading books in Malayalam and Tamil. For these, I have to wait till I join my Mom. She is my reservoire of vernacular reads. Every year, when I visit her, she’ll have saved for me a few good books in Malayalam and Tamil which I finish during my visit of carry away with me… to be savoured at leisure. Only, my Tamil reading speed is pathetic. I finished a novel she had torn out of Ananda Vikatan or Kumudam and bound for me called ‘ Enge En Kannan’ in fifteen days… Absurd! When in that time I would have read five books in English or Malayalam. My handicap with Tamil is mainly because I never read the language when I was young. I knew the Tamil alphabet but that was that. I was exposed to Malayalam books at school and college libraries. In fact, the maximum number of Malayalam books, I have read were during the two years I spent in Thiruvananthapuram for my post graduation… I was put up in YWCA while pursuing my Masters in English Language and Literature at the Institute of English and my friends were pursuing their Masters in Malayalam … Those two years exposed me to the best in Malayalam literature… Besides, a class-fellow of mine was the son of an eminent Malayalam writer and this sparked off a curiosity in me about him and I borrowed volumes from the university library…. though much of his kind of writing was not my cup of tea at the time. I can read Kannada fairly well…. Though I have not bothered to read short stories or novels in the language… again, due to lack of self-motivation! Tamil, Malayalam or English, reading is like breathing for me. I feel I shall die the day I am unable to read… When I analyze why my reading has become erratic, I can find only one scapegoat… Blogging! I keep straying to the PC to check status quos and latest posts and comments, tossing my book aside. In fact, blogging has created in me an ‘attention deficit disorder syndrome’… Am metamorphosing into a butterfly, flitting from blog to blog… It is immature to pass the buck like this… but my behavioural changes seem to have occurred in the last couple of years… and it needs no psychiatrist to confirm my obsessive behaviour when it comes to blogging! The counter-argument is that blogging is also reading of another kind… and when I read works of the same blogger, it is like reading chapters of a book… Some consolation eh? But then, I hate e-books. I don’t enjoy staring onto the monitor screen while reading a book. Scrolling the page is a nightmare compared a fluid motion like turning a page. And flipping back a few pages to re read some point or some passage is more satisfying than manipulating the pages on monitor screen! No! Books shall never be replaced by e-books… or blogs… Of course, blog posts may get compiled into books… So… my problem is caused by blogical interference… But there’s hope… I know that blogs are just for instant gratification… Books, long spells in paradise!