Home Hyderabad Column Reading between the lines

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How did President Barack Obama survive his eight years in White House? We would not have to speculate, for he answered it himself – books. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a challenge in 2015 to spend the year reading a book each week and sharing it. America’s most influential TV host, Oprah Winfrey, has a book club, a segment of her widely-reaching show which highlights books chosen by her, which gives the country a whole reading list to pick from.

While Indian celebs from all walks – right from business leaders and CEOs who run marathons, film stars who throw parties, cricketers participating in fashion shows and endorse other sports, politicians who join in to raise funds for social causes – have adopted the visible big heart to fit into their profile portfolio, not one of them endorses books. Have you noticed that? Not even those who believe their lives warrant a memoir.

It is one thing to write a book, have it published, promote it and land at a promotion event or a literary festival; but another to actually publicly set a context of reading, and discussion of books.

Most journalists take pleasure in asking celebs about their bucket list, their wedding plans (if the celeb is single) or about when they plan to start a family (if the celeb is married). Seriously, how many of them actually ask them, ‘So what is the book you are reading currently?’ Perhaps such questions are asked for the occasional book or literary page (just before a literary fest happens) – as a filler – but certainly not the way we would like them to.

Surprisingly, even CEOs, politicians, film stars or sportsmen seldom reveal that publicly. Will that amount to them sharing their life’s secrets? The causal reading sections of papers which take great pains to tell us about the diet, wardrobe, set of wheels and holidays of celebs don’t even list their reading. Imagine the concocted lists of ‘my favourite writers’ that sometimes these celebs are pushed to respond to; Now imagine if all celebs did it and we were actually transformed into a nation that reads more. Imagine if politicians asked journalists for suggestions on what to read – and in turn, sent their annual gifts comprising books.

Nah, don’t read too much into this. It is not likely to happen. Wishful thinking, at the most.

TAILPIECE: One of my editors once told me this, “There is not much difference between people who cannot read and do not read.” Guess it shows, celebs or nations.

Sriram Karri

(Sriram Karri is author of the bestselling novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation. He writes for international media such as The New York Times and BBC besides organising debates at Hyd Park)

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