The Idiot in front of the box
A large part of me has been defined by Enid Blyton, arguably the most popular children’s writer across the globe. I grew up devouring everything she served, every chapter of my childhood has the indelible imprint of a Blyton book – from my infantile Noddy days, to my hyper-imaginative Faraway Tree fantasies, from the adventurous Secret Seven stage to the I’m-all-grown-up Malory Towers time.
Although one can never outgrow Enid Blyton, my loyalties in the 6th grade shifted to Agatha Christie and her absorbing murder mysteries. I fell in love, platonically speaking, with her mustachioed, pot-bellied French detective Hercule Poirot and the exotic ease at which he solved the most complex of crimes.
However, pre-teen hormones soon dictated the switch to the Sweet Valley High series which hooked me to the world of American teens who didn’t do much else besides dating, breaking up, gossiping, dating and breaking up again. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and I soon turned the page to Rohald Dahl, possibly the most ingeniously eccentric children’s author I had encountered. Around that time, cable TV started to wire our lives, and while my friends spent hours discussing the Bold and the Beautiful, I turned my thoughts to bald Witches and wily Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory, since my father had wisely decided to stick with Doordarshan.
Then college happened. All those years of literary leisure were lost in the mindless haze of fashion, movies, “hanging out”, and television. Books were brushed aside for a rainy day. Star World and HBO grabbed my eyeballs and never let them go. Today, I am a self-proclaimed TV addict. American sitcoms, drama series, and reality shows define me. I spend hours in front of the idiot box like a zombie, viewing but not seeing, absorbing but not thinking. After a hard day’s work I come back home to the routine of flipping channels, not pages.
But every time I happen to find a book in my hand instead of the remote, the numbness of televised entertainment starts to thaw and the thrill of written words takes over. I am transported to make-believe worlds where vivid characters and situations are conjured by my grey cells and not by American TV networks. Time flies faster while looking forward to an unfinished chapter than an unfinished episode. The pleasant odour of musty book covers, the gentle rustle of worn pages, the comforting weight of a book caressing my hands – it all reminds me why reading is the most compelling, joyous and satisfying experience.
Which is why I detest the Harry Potter movies. In my mind, during the wondrous days I spend re-reading the entire series four times over, Ron is not such a daft twit, Hermione is definitely geekier, and Sirius Black is way, way hotter than Gary Oldman. I refuse to see the films because they threaten my imagination, they challenge my perceptions, and they ridicule my intellect. In much the same way that television has. Which is why, I’m making a habit of reading everyday. Perhaps I’ll revisit Blyton