On Reading and My Need to Feed the Monkeys

During my morning walks, I often spot several monkeys cradled in the upper levels of a block’s corner. Several couples, children of different ages and little crowds here and there. I often tell myself I should bring food to them.

I’m aware people may not like it since it may encourage the monkeys to stay even more around the place. But monkeys, like cows and crows, are part of Bangalore’s daily life, usually walking around and moving as a little tribe.

I want to try for once to feed them: would they come? How much time will it take for them to come? Will they be aggressive? I read reports of them being prone to show violence if brutalized. Many people aren’t aware though that brutalizing an animal isn’t just about touching it or shouting at it. The intention leaks, the inner state of the person as well, and the animal with its beastly pure intuition captures it all.

I feel a bit tired. I can’t wait to start feeling better.

Lately, whenever I’m alone or whenever the conversation drops down, I feel I’m back to my high school days. The days where my friends were far, where I spent my days surrounded by teenagers, where I made the best out of the studying schedule in order to have more free time for me outside the high school’s walls.

And also the days where reading books held a vital role that may have nothing to envy to breathing. If I stop breathing, I may harm my body. If I stop reading, I may harm my mind. Two books at least in my backpack –in case I’m done with the one I’m reading- and ebooks always ready to be opened on my laptop. When I’m waiting for the bus, walking, eating alone, listening to music, surfing on the web, when I’m done with my assignments, resting between one task and the next one, being on my desk earlier than the starting time in the morning or after lunch.

And everyday, papers being eaten from a book, while an ebook and one-third of another have been completed. Such a frenzy of reading I’ve experienced two summers ago while I was sick. I remember I went through 24-27 ebooks in a month of something. Now, this is officially my second week of obsessive reading and I’ve been through way too many ebooks and a load of books.

And more than ever, it feels more and more painful and an unnatural act to disconnect myself from reading. I believe it must be just as unpleasant as what Neo feels whenever getting disconnected from the MATRIX. One moment, I’m in the desert, reflecting over the ecological and economic system spread around there, thinking about the malice that could transform the dune deserts into a viable place for Fremen, believing that trapping the right plants with the rights humans and the right moisture could be a hopeful start. A second later, I’m in front of the company bus, Indians around me in a festival of green, masons going in front of me to work and the day’s work laying ahead. The weird feelings of disconnection, loss and nostalgia make me feel numb and not quite reactive. And sometimes, I think of just curling up in bed and carrying on reading. It’s so tantalizing I sometimes find it hard to not follow through with it.

I believe during my high school years, I’ve read most of what I’ve read in my life. And I’m still reading over and over again the authors I’ve got the lucky opportunity to come across in those years: Haruki Mukarami, Stephen King, Amélie Nothomb, Bernard Werber, Chuck Palahniuk, J.K. Rowling, Lovecraft, Frank Herbert…etc etc. Now, I’m falling back into the same reading frenzy with some of my beloved authors and some new ones.

There’s a certain reason why I don’t write the reviews of all the books I’ve read: not because of the quantity or the time, but because you may notice I get always into my life’s details whenever I’m writing. It seems I don’t write a post without including what the events of the topic reminds me of as knowledge, ideas or memories. Sometimes, I don’t feel I want to share this with the whole world and others I feel the thoughts need their own posts to be detailed and fully explained.

So here I am, always working and when not, always reading. At home, I speak with friends, take a bath and then go for another row of readings. And I often wish I would someday get to experience the same energetic guilt-free insomnia of the woman in the Elephant vanishes just to get to carry on reading.

I remember very well the words of one of my friends’ father. I was waiting in their garden for my friend to come out and reading while the nanny was around and his father was around as well. He smiled at me and told me in a gently scolding voice: “Books are incredible Khadija. But there are more interesting books walking around and breathing around. Can’t you give them some credits while they’re around and leave paper books for leisure time?”

My friend told me his father’s words another way another day while he was silently eating and I was silently eating and reading:”It’s such a lack of manners to read when you have a friend around to speak with. It’s like you’re telling me this freaking thing is worthier of your attention and time than me!”

Since that cursed time, I used to always grow conscious whenever I’m reading a book with someone around. And even when that person wouldn’t take it as a personal offense as my friend did or his father said, I’d still think about the cursed possibility.

So yeah, books are taking hold of more and more space in my daily life. It’s become a drug to open an ebook or to follow the “just this one more page” tactic. The chills I feel whenever I start a new chapter are like the ones I get when I get to drink a fruit juice after several days of not drinking any fruit juice. Everytime I look at the pages numbers or the decreasing thickness of the pages yet to read, I feel this melancholy I feel while breaking bonds of friendship. And when I’m done with a book, and such a good book, I either can’t helpe but starting it over again – which explains the “In Arabian Nights” or “Dune Saga” loop I’ve been caught in since June- or moving to the next book of the series –thank god it’s a series! I’ll get to follow more with my friendship then!-.

While people either laugh at me or roll their eyes in a condescending way because ‘I waste time reading over and over again the same book while I could discover new material’, I hardly feel any boredom. I used to feel frustrated by the amount of ideas I’ve not noticed, the new thoughts and words I just realized or the subtleties I only caught after reading over again. It made me quite pissed at myself and I dislike being pissed at myself. But now, I take it fairly: believing that at every fraction of second we change, I’m aware every impression I get at a time won’t be 100% the same in another time. I’m also aware that my self is blessing me with a deep concentration and so, it’s not like my mind withers away –although it does somehow- while reading.

To put it in an understandable way, reading a book is like going to Lal Bagh Botanical gardens. For some people, it might be about getting to have pictures of the place, getting to say they’ve been there, getting there as a relief then going back to life, getting there to witness a particular show or to see a particular thing, getting there to have a nice walk with someone or a nice relaxing day, getting there to discover new things…etc. For me, it’s about having Lal Bagh Botanical Garden under my skin: being able to embrace every corner, every tree, every way, every square with my senses and my mind, discovering over and over again the little gardens within under different lights, different seasons, in different moods with different people, reminiscing over the rich flora and fauna there and be aware of what an incredible place it is. I want to have the place under my skin, to the point where I can virtually wander within it accurately whenever I want, to intuitively know what would have grown and to what extent after some time, to be able to notice the differences everytime I come back there. I go back to Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens and I soak more and more in it, hoping I’ll have it under my skin. And the same goes with the books I consider as jewels.

There’s a peculiar taste in the joy I experience when I flip the pages of a book within my mind’s eye, when I’m able to hover over the events and easily go from chapter to chapter within my head.

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