Books, Bollywood and Blogging – with credits to Chetan Bhagat

I love reading books – that’s no secret. I have many cupboards brimming with books. And that’s only because I had to dismantle my bookshelf in our childhood home when my parents moved out. For weeks, I had my books in the boot of my car and someone asked me if I worked for a library! I laughed because I literally grew up in libraries. They were my favourite hangout until I accumulated enough books to stay at home and read to my heart’s content.

Every book has a story behind it and paging through them, I feel the memories springing to life again. Oh, the journeys and places books take us to! I remain in awe. I still have the book I was awarded in class 1 – giving my age away there!

All this sounds very old-fashioned, doesn’t it? That’s been my approach. It’s been a habit to read books the old-fashioned way – to touch and turn the pages from cover to cover and on the rare occasion when I could not finish a book in one sitting, I would use a pretty bookmark.

From crime-thrillers to adventure-mysteries; some romance and more recently biographies and books about South Africa – from apartheid to democracy – I have read voraciously.

But, I was always apprehensive about reading books online. Somehow, I felt that the experience would not be as beautiful as the old-fashioned way. I was wrong. I read my first online book this month – and I’m hooked. I’m now on my third online book. It’s thanks to the exceptional, internationally recognised local author Fiona Khan who runs the Global Forum 4 Literacy and The Travelling Books Project on Facebook and has been sharing books online.

The first book that caught my attention was One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat. Of course, I had read about him. He is an award-wining Indian author, hailed as being reflective of the new India with characters that speak to the aspirations of the youth, who want to move beyond the shadows and the restrictive paradigms of their parents. Several of his books have been made into Bollywood movies, which I enjoyed for their powerful underlying messages. And, so I was also curious to find out how his words would make me feel, originally in black and white, without the colourful and charismatic Bollywood song and dance routine.

It was delightful! The characters were so layered and skillfully unmasked, the scenes were delicately detailed and the story was rooted in reality. And the best part – one strong-willed Indian girl finding her true self.

I smiled at the mention of a concert by Arijit Singh in the book – he is my favourite Bollywood playback singer. But this book wasn’t like a typical Bollywood movie. It was better. It was brilliant! And like most books I read, it helped me bare my own soul a bit. That’s the unparalleled power of books.

Reading books online has been life-changing for me. Instead of scrolling mindlessly on social media, I now choose to read books. And I don’t need to worry about how much space my books are physically taking up. Yes, I’m a bit late to the party but I’m here now, and I am celebrating!

Just before reading my first online book, I had written a blog post on a different topic. I received this message – What a lovely piece! You make me love reading all over again.

My heart fluttered with butterflies. Personally, I relish the joy that comes from reading and to know that my writing had that impact on someone is a special feeling. Now that I’m reading books online, it has renewed my impetus to breathe new life into my blog. It’s also a reminder, in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, of the interconnectedness of life – how different passions flow together… like books, Bollywood and blogging – with credits to Chetan Bhagat.

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