Even when I was a boy of six, I used to read everything I came across. We didn't have T.V. and radio in those days (although my mother had a mechanical record player on which we used to listen to Indian film songs). The only entertainment was therefore provided by books and newspapers (apart from movies). In those prehistoric times, not everyone could afford to buy newspapers (sometimes neighbours would frequently come over to read the day's papers). My father, an avid reader, subscribed to four morning papers and four eveningers, besides The Saturday Evening Post, LIFE and Time magazines, the Readers Digest and other vernacular periodicals. Our house was full of reading materials and on those days when newspapers were not published, we used to think life wasn't worth living.
But then, I've often wondered if all that reading was worth it. My brothers, sisters and cousins are all well-read, but distant relatives are mostly illiterate (in the sense that they don't read at all, even though they may be graduates). A male relative of mine used to say that newspapers and magazines should be banned. I didn't blame him, he always used to drink heavily and would watch movies on his large TV (very few people had those things fifteen years ago). The people I come across usually stare in the distance when I talk to them about the universe or politics. They secretly think I should be put in a mental asylum. Usually I keep silent, now that I can read the best newspapers in the world on my cell phone. That's another thing I have recently started doing: reading from my cell phone while sitting on the loo in the morning. It's better than reading a newspaper on the toilet any day. But then, the only thing I get out of reading is knowing more than the average man. It gives me a strange kind of satisfaction to be able to tell an illiterate person at a wedding dinner that Egypt is in Africa or that the universe comprises of more than a hundred billion galaxies, each of which has five billion suns, and each sun has nine or ten planets like our own earth circling around it. Of course, all this is lost on my listeners, who will go on believing that I should be locked up.