Reading Freedom

It’s that time of the year again. Independence Day is round the corner. Here’s my take on when I feel most free:

I’m free when I read.

I really get a kick out of it when I think that with something as simple as the flip of a cover I’m free to enter a whole new world. This may be fantastic or futuristic. It could be a world gone by, a world that existed many centuries ago. Yet with the flip of a cover, it becomes real and I dissolve into it and become a part of it. The world may be strange, yet in certain ways it’s familiar.

Once I’m part of this world I meet new people. I’m free to like or dislike them but they’re all interesting. I can slip inside their heads and hearts and see what they think, what they feel. I’m privy to the secret recesses of their hearts, the darkest corners of their minds for I’m their friend. And as a friend I grow to love them with all their flaws. I laugh and cry with them. I celebrate their successes and mourn their failures. I’m caught up in their conflicts, their passions, their aspirations.

Though I live in their world, I sometimes have a strange power that they don’t. I know when danger lurks round the corner and fret that they know not. I know that a certain person will betray their trust and they don’t. I know that someone they hold dear is going to die and agonise that they don’t.

I’m free to discover bits of me in them. Free to sit back and analyse and discover facets of me I’d not known before. Free to slip back into my mundane world and discover those people there, lurking behind the familiar faces of the flesh and blood ones. And suddenly this world is no longer humdrum.  

And finally, when their story comes to an end, with another flip of the cover I’m free to exit their world. Free too to time travel and re-enter at favourite points and savour their company once more; be with them one last time before I let them go.

I’ve survived through the worst times in my life by just reading. When the world came crashing down I just dived into a book, and later, when I surfaced, I found myself strangely strengthened by the people in that world, strengthened to pick up the pieces and rebuild. I’ve always felt vulnerable without a book and make sure I carry one everywhere and feel secure in the knowledge that I can slip into one whenever I want and be free.

Here’s wishing all my Indian readers a Happy Independence Day, 2021. May the coming years see us, as a nation; free ourselves of fear and hatred, fear and hatred of the other.

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