I discovered the joys of reading discreetly in class in grade six during maths classes. Needless to say, I was atrocious at mathematics but I always kept myself busy. My teacher, a petite little monster, wrote on the blackboard for what seemed like eternity and I read to my heart’s content. I made sure I would never sit at the back of the classes; she would notice them a lot – instead I sat close to her and read to my heart’s content. I never took down all the vivid (mathematics) imagery from the blackboard, but I did spend a lot of time reading. And this was a time when there were no fancy apps/websites tracking your reading and reading-guilt had not been discovered and also, noone cared about the reading/not reading dichotomy because there were no activities to compare reading with (Reading vs. netflix and the like…).
In law school, too, there were ways to escape classes simply by making sure I carried a book everyday. Banking law and Investment Law classes are a blur because I have no idea whether I even attended these. I got out of law school in 2013 and despite my insane schedule during my post-grad course in Budapest thereafter, I tried my best to squeeze in some time at least for reading. When I turned in my last batch of books before leaving Budapest in 2014, the librarian told me that I was the only one in the legal department that year to have checked out books from the fiction section. I felt accomplished, very very proud of myself that someone had noticed my efforts to lead a normal life in spite of a gazillion credits, two internships, and a research tour for my 100+ pages of dissertation… and not forgetting, the hours of cooking and food-prep in a bid to live through my stipend.
Cut to now – I am in my second and this is a much much more extensive job that requires a ton of traveling and much to my chagrin, find no time to read. I stock up my Kindle when I am on the field and always carry a paperback or two but the nature of my work is so sensitive and so unsettling that I come back to hotel rooms (or home) completely unable to concentrate on reading. On some days, I listen to audiobooks on the commute just to make myself feel better. Making a schedule for reading seems as unfair as making a schedule for sex – schedules aren’t made for things you love doing.
I want to say that I have solved this problem a hundred percent, but I haven’t. I have begun to forgive myself for times when I cannot read like the older days, when finishing a book in one sitting is not possible anymore. I have started to reward myself for chores/completed tasks at work with reading time. I have started looking for less stressful plotlines in books – these look like they are easier to get through. I have a TBR but I don’t destroy myself over it. Turning into a mood-reader at times like these help; sometimes I pick just the right book off the shelf – something that is perfect for my mood at that point in time.
I watch book hauls sometimes knowing well that I might not have the opportunity to find a bookstore anywhere nearby – I’ve worked in Kashmir for over a year and women at bookstores were stared at. Sometimes I feel I might have nothing to blog about because I might not have read enough. Reading when there’s no time for reading is difficult. And sometimes, it starts with forgiving yourself… for you’re stretching yourself thin impacting people’s lives and it’s alright.