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One sided reading

Londoner’s are voracious readers; you find them reading everywhere – in trains, on the stations, in Starbucks, in ATM queues, and of course in their balcony.


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This makes London heavenly for a bibliophile like me. But what do you do, sitting alone in a packed train, when you have just finished reading the current book. Well, of course, you peek into the novel that your neighbour’s reading.

This is what I did in the train; the lady beside me was reading a novel called ‘Life Swap’ and was holding her book in such a manner that I could see only one side of her book i.e. only the left page was visible and the right page was hidden. Not having anything else to do, I started reading the page that was visible, by the time I finished she turned the page. Now though I had missed the part that lay on the right-sided page, I continued reading the alternate page. This continued till she got off at London Bridge and to my surprise I by now had a good idea about the story and its direction.

It was one of those ‘lifestyle’ novels (which are so sluggish and light to read that you can follow the story even if you skip alternate pages, as I had to!). The author tried a combination of two popular themes. The first one - identical twins, separated at birth meet again, and swap their lives (remember Bollywood flicks Ram-Shyam, Sita-Gita, Kishan-Kanhaiya, Chalbaz etc. or more recently Indian Satellite TV ‘thrillers’ as they love calling them). The second theme - the latest craze among Hollywood Cinema and British Television - posh upper class couple living in upper Manhattan (or central London) leave well settled corporate life for a countryside life at a farm house for a peaceful existence, only to discover its challenges. On the whole, the novel, Felt like a good Time-pass to me!

And all the same, the lady, by Joe, was a fast reader – by the time I used to finish one page, she would usually be in the middle of the second one (because soon after she would turn the page). Or it might be that my own reading has slowed down by reading non-fiction books and heavy fiction (like Ayn Rand) – where every sentence you read needs a second to ‘sink in’ before you move on.

Coming to reading, London newspapers – or tabloids I might rather call them – were a disappointing experience for me. Considering that our own ‘Times of India’ usually borrows some good articles from ‘The Times’, I had expected a good daily reading in for of newspapers. But what gets borrowed into ‘The Times of India’, it seems, is all the good stuff there is to read. All papers here are full of the stuff paparazzi loves - I can finish reading them in 5 minutes flat – you read the horoscope (which I read because its very well written and not for my belief in it), find out the 5 differences between the pictures, read the cartoon which isn't half as funny as Arbit, and finally read the headlines. Even the sports page has more information about the fashion statements of sportsmen than the latest match statistics.

However, all the shortage of daily reading material is undone by the very well maintained ‘free’ public libraries that dot London. These libraries have some very good collection of books, CDs and even (Hindi) movies.

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