Reading came to me naturally, even when I couldn’t read, books used to draw me. My mother has often told me how when I was barely two, she would buy me magazines on long journeys, and I would happily spend hours flipping through the pages. Perhaps it was the glossy paper and shiny colourful pictures that had my attention then, but ever since, books have been a constant companion to me. I read in school. I read for distraction while preparing for the medical entrance exam. I read my way through every busy and lazy phase of college, matrimony, motherhood and employment. Nothing managed to deter me from finding comfort in reading at the end of the day, often falling asleep with a book held tight to my chest. And then smartphones and OTT platforms happened.

Such is the vice of smartphones that now our hands reach out for it instinctively every few minutes, whether one has time to spare or not.

If you have been a reader, then this struggle may be relatable to you. There was a time when every spare moment was spent pouring over a book, newspaper or a magazine but nothing has defeated my intent to read like the deadly combination of fast speed internet, hand-held devices, social media and digital entertainment. Such is the vice of smartphones that now our hands reach out for it instinctively every few minutes, whether one has time to spare or not. The result is that you grab your phone to check emails and messages and before you know it, you have spent twenty minutes mindlessly staring at mirror glaze cakes or fifteen hacks for cooking eggs. Let alone reading, most of us are struggling to get enough sleep because it is always just-one-more-episode-of-the-web-series away.

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Naturally, reading has taken a back seat for a lot of people because there is just too much online content to consume. We are doing everything from watching films to networking and getting our fix of daily news from our phones. But mind you, this lack of time to read has nothing to do with lack of time. If you can spare hours to watch a web-show or read articles online and chat with friends, you can surely do so to read as well, can’t you? And yet most of us who used to pride ourselves in being voracious readers are struggling to find the inclination to read at all. Let us face it, we are reading fewer books, and unless one makes an effort to get back into the grove, the habit of reading may be fast slipping away irrevocably.

This is why I decided to read compulsively. At first, I thought reducing reading to another chore will take all the fun out of it. Don’t we have enough things to fret about already? However, sitting down to read compulsively led me to rediscover my love for it. The challenge I realised, wasn’t to read but to read without interruption. To resist the temptation of picking up my smartphone as soon as I heard a ping. Or to not put down my book when summoned up for various household emergencies, which as per my child, simply cannot wait. Guess what, they can. So the chore at hand now is to ignore everything else and reading happens automatically. But does it mean that I have given up my smartphone habits altogether? Is that even possible in this day and age? No.

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The times that we live in, everything from friendships to work is connected to our phones. Which means one cannot simply think of cutting screen time altogether. Besides, why must one stay deprived of good content? The trick is to strike a balance and ensure that reading happens. And apart from being fantastically nourishing to the soul reading books gives your eyes a much-needed break from the screen. It also sets a good example in front of your children, to have a life sans internet and Netflix.

My daughter knows that I am not to be disturbed when I am reading. She takes her “emergencies” to her other parent whenever its mommy’s reading time. Hopefully, she’ll also pick up this habit and determination to ditch the phone and read books one day. One can never tell, but greater miracles have happened.

Image Credit: Ms Magazine

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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