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“WORLD BOOK DAY”…..

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Utpal Chatterjee : kolkata, 23rd April, 2024. In recent times,I have noticed the rapid decline in book reading.True,everything is going digital but ought the yearning to read books be treated as something of the past?This has been bothering me no end as I can see the sad manifestations of giving up on books as I move from one function to another at school,college and university levels.One remembers,wistfully,the days at school,when virtues and advantages of reading “good” books was underscored and reiterated.Even at the school library,where we could return and borrow books once weekly,some of us would hide some of the books that we wanted to read the following week in obscure shelves.Such was the craze.At the University,we would,animatedly, be discussing some of the latest books that had made news globally.One vividly remembers,for example, the “mad”scramble for the Nobel winning “Knut Hamsen’s “Hunger”.At the Coffee House,during my post graduate days,there was so much discussion on the books that we had read over countless cups of black coffee.A couple of young professors would often join in.It was during that phase that I had seen Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451″based on Ray Bradbury’s book by the same name.It was a futuristic film.Bradbury had written about a not too distant future when,in short,the world turns completely digital and the reading of books turn into a crime.Anybody caught “storing” books or reading them in “hiding” would be prosecuted and the books would be thrown out of the house and blue petrol sprayed on them.Someone would then step up triumphantly to light up the pile.There was a solution,of course.All book lovers find their way to an island where the totalitarian administration had no jurisdiction and these men turn into great books themselves by banking on their memory and remembering each and every word.So if one were to read some great literary work,the person bearing that name would be tapped on the shoulder and the “book” would start from whichever chapter wished.I sincerely hope Bradbury’s nightmare does not come true.But one can detect multiple symptoms of not reading and making too much of a habit of staring at the TV,laptops or mobiles.Even at Debates and other public speaking events,the symptoms or manifestations of doing away with book reading are glaring.Whenever someone aporoaches me to find out how he/she could improve on speaking/writing skills,I cannot help advising,”Read,read and read some more”!After all,something would settle in the subconscious.One should also bank on short and simple sentences.Arguably,the best speaker that I have come across since my University days was the late Nirendu Dutt Mazumdar.Be it at home or abroad,he was the best.There was so much to learn from him and I certainly did.If he was knowledge,wisdom and wit personified,it was because,among other things he was a voracious reader and far ahead of his times.As I write this post I write with a lot of hope and expectation.The young around us are very,very bright but instead of turning into addicts of the Google search engine (which also goes wrong),they would benefit so much more if only they could start browsing through and reading “good” books.People would also gradually move away from the “SMS language” like “gr8” and resume writing properly. Here’s hoping.That does not mean I am hoping against hope.

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