A knack for reading

Khalid Saleem

Not long ago, Harry Potter mania had become something of a phenomenon - one that promised to stop the technological revolution in its tracks! Hats off to J K Rowling for the way she veered the new generation towards reading her books. Most young people had given up on the knack of reading when the Harry Potter books came out of nowhere and created an instant following.
Personally, one went through the ritual of spending good money on the purchase of the Harry Potter books as they came out and, what is more, actually laboriously wading through the text - all the 600 and some odd pages of each - and feeling good about it. One remained at a loss though to quite put a finger on the secret behind the phenomenal success of these volumes. There is, of course, the fact that the world of wizardry conjured up by Ms Rowling did afford a path of escapism to the new generation that condemned living in the topsy-turvy world of today. Nevertheless, this is not to detract from the 'revolution' that Ms Rowling's books brought about among the young generation.
There was a time when reading a good book represented a single pleasure most people looked forward to. The art of (good) writing, in a word, conquered all. Alas, things then perceptibly changed for the worse. People simply lost the inclination to read books. The knack of reading was apparently lost to the 'idiot box'. Instead of reading a book people preferred to wait for the television/film version to appear. For some odd reason, people appeared not to have time to spare for reading! The number of those who bothered to read the original, even in an abridged version, shrank to an infinitesimal minority. It was akin to the passing away of an era.
Came the information technology revolution. And the very goals were re-positioned. The practice of leisurely reading - or good writing, for that matter - went out the window. Gone were the days when a person went through the exercise of purchasing a good book or drawing it out of a library, reading it at leisure, savouring it and, if it lived up to its promise, reading it a second or even a third time. Come to think of it, the real flavour of a good book could be absorbed only on the second or the third reading
The time-honoured practice could not survive the advent of the technological revolution. What a 'reader' resorted to in the post-IT era was to ingest the substance of the book through the shortcut of the computer and then move on to greener pastures. The modern generation had little time or inclination to savour a good book, much less go for a second or third reading.
Another of the customs that was badly mauled by information technology revolution has been the delectable art of letter-writing. The practice of expressing oneself in a longish, leisurely written, letter had a character of its own. The sentiments that were unfolded in such correspondence were meant for the eyes of the recipient alone and this is what gave power and facility to the pen of the writer. And, what has taken its place? Feverish telephone conversations, hastily scribbled notes and concise thoroughly impersonal messages - in inane jargon, if you please!
Computer - that infernal machine, true to its genius - is rather quickly dehumanising the human being. Man is getting closer and closer to becoming an adjunct of the machine rather than the other way around. Humankind needs to pause and ponder before the point of no return is reached. There is prudence in not starting anything that one cannot stop. The feverish pace of the technological revolution leaves one a bit dazed. One cannot but confess to the protestation that reading a good book remains one of life's little pleasures - one that makes it worth living. Thank goodness for small mercies! -Courtesy: The Express Tribune

The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.