Reading addiction

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I can imagine some of you chuckling (or groaning) at the title. “But Appu”, you may say, “seriously? How bad can it be?”.  Just a moment please. You may suspect that there might be some addictions that are overlooked, even encouraged and glorified. You are right. This one hits very close to home: reading. Reading is a lifeline. Some of us can inhale books, blogs, the printed foil behind strips of tablets & shoe sizes on soles caked with mud and dung. Ugh! Social networks and messaging apps give you highs, don’t they?

My parents and grandparents have encouraged me to read a lot since childhood. I started on newspapers and news magazines in primary school itself. This was besides the Hardy boys, Archie, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. I believe this has shaped me as a person and I feel really proud of myself for having reading as one of my hobbies.

I haven’t found too many writings about reading addiction. Maybe I haven’t looked deep enough. Boy, wouldn’t THAT feed my addiction? Bwahahaha!!!

When is something classified as an addiction? This is what dictionary.com says. (Aaah <3. Oooh, er..)

ad·dic·tion : noun

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. 

Severe trauma. Ouchie. (You must be shaking your head now…) I can justify this because I have tried doing away with reading for  a few days. No newspapers, TV tickers, novels, tutorials, technical books or promotional e-mail. Just enough to get by. So now you are saying to yourself, that it is very easy, right? And that you could do it easily, right? Go ahead. I dare you. Let me know in the comments below. I’ll put up your photo here if you can prove that you did it. 😛

I might have missed the “Welcome to Hell” sign on the way there. Oh, the agony!!! 😐 I haven’t felt this much unease and anxiety while waiting for my results or hitting on an interesting person. (Sometimes, at the same time). I felt rage, sorrow, despair, frustration and ultimately, defeat. 😐 (I know, I know. Melodrama). You start noticing text on surfaces that you never even dreamed about. There are numerical markings on contact lenses!

Go ahead. Try not to read for 4 days.  I dare you. Let me know in the comments below.

I was convinced beyond any doubt that this was an addiction. I was reading when I was really tired, sleepy, busy, free, hungry, freezing with cold, changing TV channels, on all forms of public transport…. aaaah! Who neglects eating food and drinking water in order to read?

Let’s start with one book. The nice author might mention a couple of other great, well researched and ‘must have’ books along the way. I would find/buy/borrow those and start reading them before I have even finished the first one. Since I have already convinced you that I am nuts, I shall also tell you I even read the bibliography and reference section of books. *whine*. So the mad book chain usually grows into a many tentacled monster.

I believe we tend to overlook how dependent we become on reading. Are we really trying to solve a problem when we read 10 books about it and still do nothing about it? Are we trying to acquire a skill when we take a bunch of courses and read dozens of tutorials and then not even write two lines of code? Reading is indeed very rewarding. But when does it turn into something poisonous? You can take your ‘word’ drug in any lethal dosage : 10px, 1 em or 20pt.

It is nice to receive compliments for being an avid reader. I love to know as much as possible about a subject. It does help you a lot. But the world is filled with so much information that the pursuit of absolute knowledge is just impossible.People get an impression that you are intellectually superior and more accomplished than others but you might actually be an addict. No offense to the people who put all that they learn into its best use. Can we meet up for lunch? Please?

The remedy.

After all those nightmares I had from going cold turkey , I knew it was time to deal with this monster.  Reading was making me depend on other people for solutions and as a means of escape. It is pissing off to find your own solutions to problems but they are often the best fit for you. The way out of this was to challenge myself to put my books aside and do some really scary things that might improve my situation. This included doing what I believed right under the nose of those who judge me harshly, getting in touch with old friends, asking for help, fixing my daily routine and meditating. It did feel better after dealing with things that I was procrastinating with. I am proud to say I no longer go on book binges that often.

I am back to books , refreshed after a mental vacation. I can happily seek out knowledge when I need it the most and step back when it is time to take action. (This is still a work in progress. )

Kids(and yeah, grown ups, quit hiding behind that newspaper. I see you.) please READ BOOKS. The real ones that enrich you. Popular books are fine. But there is nothing like finding a subject that you love like archaeology, machine design or political science and sinking those canines, I mean eyes, into them. Online articles can only give you so much. Books can go deeper & test your persistence by making you stick with a topic for a long time. They also make your a more interesting person to hang out with.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to borrow/share books with me.

Love,

-Aparajitha

Photo credits: Abhi Sharma

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