The question is – who is a reader in the truest sense? Is a person reader who reads five novels a day? Is another person the reader who reads only two fictions a year? Am I a reader because I read non-fiction too? Are you the reader for you read twelve novels and three poetry anthologies in a year? Who is the reader? Who will answer this question? The dictionary might define the word reader for you but certainly cannot reflect upon the larger side of the question! We need to see into this ourselves and come up with a makeshift answer at least.

Who is a true reader- Alok Mishra

Yes, I have read both the books – How to Read a Page by Ivor Armstrong Richards and How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. However, these books don’t tell us who the reader is. These books rather focus on the pedantic side of readership! From the both, I A Richards’ one is rather complicated and preferably for the future destructive critics. Coming back the moot point of my writing today, we are focusing on the question – who is a reader in the truest sense?

I come across many scholars in my day-to-day life and listen to them quoting from epics, mythological books, Plato, Socrates, Shakespeare and many other greats of all time. The authority that they possess over what they read is remarkable! I certainly cannot doubt their knowledge. They read a lot; they read often; they read and keep reading. However, when I come to know about their life in the backyard of their wisdom, that’s full of noises, hustle, duplicity, feuds, ego, jealousy and negativity. Some scholars who quote about the woman-worship from religious books even beat their wives. Are they the readers? To me, no is the answer! They only read to enable themselves to quote among the gatherings of like-minded pseudo-scholars and keep flipping their coins in an imposing manner.

I also come in contact with many students who read vigorously. They read in order to get good marks in the examination and secure better rankings on the chart. If you go a little deep and inquire about the concept of what they have read, you will be disappointed. Their readership is shallow and ‘purposeful’. They cannot go beyond the academic needs (and it’s natural). Are they the readers? Not yet; they are the students who study for their educational motives.

I see an old man daily sitting with Ramcharitmanas and singing the chaupais. He sings beautiful and his verse will surely enchant your senses. It pleases me as well. The person is too busy in ‘reading’ Ramcharitmanas that he cannot even attend to the persons who call on him! He cannot offer a glass of water to a person standing outside his home in the sun (a June afternoon). He is a reader and he is ‘reading’. Perhaps, this old man has embraced the lines:

“थोरेहि महँ सब कहउँ बुझाई। सुनहु तात मति मन चित लाई।।
मैं अरु मोर तोर तैं माया। जेहिं बस कीन्हे जीव निकाया।।” (तृतीय सोपान)
अरण्यकाण्ड, १४ (१)

(Upon Lakshman’s question what Maya is, Prabhu Sri Ram is telling him that ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine,’ and ‘Yours’ are nothing but Maya or illusion. It has captivated and enslaved the world.)

This doctrine, however true, is not the only message that we get from Ramcharitmanas. We also see that God himself descended on the earth to perform the duties of the mortals to set a perfect example of how to lead a righteous life. So, this reader is nothing but an imposter who claims to read religious books but lives a life which can be deemed merely inhumane and self-centric!

Then, who is a reader? Who is a true reader? People who read Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagats? People, who read sexual fantasy? People, who read contemporary fiction without even knowing what they are reading? Who is the true reader?

I still remember the afternoon when I was returning from the high school, situated not less than 3 miles away from the semiurban place I have spent almost 21 years of my life. M. D. N. High School, Badimath is the school’s name. I was riding my bicycle along with three other friends on my side. We were in a haste as it was a summer afternoon and we were getting out of fuel (of food). There was a handicapped student who was our classmate (cannot name him). When four of us reached almost half a mile away from the school, we saw him walking slowly with the help of his crutches under the angry sun. I was in a haste and did not want to stop paddling my bicycle. However, two of my friends stopped and shouted my name. I stopped and looked back in disgust. “Did you forget what we read today in the class? Charles Mackay’s Sympathy?” One of my the two who stopped almost shouted at me. Meanwhile, the another stopper already reached the student on crutches. We helped our handicapped friend and settled him in front of the rider on a cycle. Communication stopped by that time. We were returning home and a different kind of calm pervaded in the air. And to me, those friends of mine were the ‘true readers’!

Being a reader is not becoming a headless connoisseur with so much of ‘thing’ in our little head. It’s about getting the meaningful things into your life in reality – getting things out of the pages. I am not a reader at all… I am not a reader still. I do own almost 2,000 titles in my library and always extending the count, but I am not a reader still. It will almost take this life and many a new… but now, I am not a reader at all. I am just a juggler entertaining myself jumping from this ‘great’ piece of literature to another.