Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind

Category: FOCUS

THE ART OF READING

THE ART OF READING

There was a time when a novel in my hand was compulsory. Be it travel, Military exercises or deployment on the borders. Summer holidays or Christmas time, a book had always been my partner. The only time my wife could get a window seat on a train used to be when I used to dig into my book. Then there was no looking back till I finished it. Ballet of a belle did exactly that to me.

In school, on each library card one could borrow two books. I remember the rule, we had to return them in 14 days and there after fine used to be 10 paise per day. I could never afford to be late. My librarian auntie used to be generous enough to issue me books from the new editions, a rare privilege.

Every day without fail, dot at 3pm before Inderjeet our library assistant used to open the door of the Durbar hall of the Jagjit Palace of the Maharaja of Kapurthala, which used to house our library, yours truly used to waiting for him. Half a novel used to be finished in that one hour of library time. In winters, tucked into your Rajai (quilt) with your head covered due to the freezing cold in Punjab the “silsila” of reading continued. Started with Enid Blyton, Nick Carter, James Hadley Chase, graduated to Harold Robbins, Ayn Rand, Ludlum and the works.

This practice continued till I joined my unit. While returning from leave at Jalandhar railway station there was one AH wheeler book stall which was my favourite haunt. Choice there was limited in terms of authors. The next long halt used to be at Ambala Cantt and then at Old Delhi to surf book stalls. Over the years the stall owners used to recognise me and recommend books keeping my taste of reading in mind.

My unit had a great tradition to build a library. One had to get one book on return from annual leave. Our staff college reference library also grew leaps and bounds as every year we were sending one officer. Five officers from one unit, in one go was a record of sorts. I too followed suit later.

Be that as it may, once I started studying for Staff College this art of reading novels slowly shifted focus to reading subjects related to the military. I loved reading but I hated reading Military history. Part B, I cleared in four attempts and Part D in five. Every two years the Military Campaign and personality changed you can imagine from Von Rundstedt to Gaip, Burma campaign to Falkland War, to Rommel to the Yom Kippur war, form Sun Tzu to Campaign in Malaya, to Montgomery, to the North African campaign, I read them all as I had no choice.

Now, after ages I picked up a novel written by my course mate and jiggery Rahul Tushar, “The Ballet of a Belle”. First thing that came to mind, Rahul writing a novel is not possible. Rahul and I did staff college together. Knowing him and his flair for gazals it was difficult to fathom that he is a fiction writer.

I must thank Rahul for rekindling the passion of good old days of yore. I still prefer to read a book rather than on the computer screen. It got delivered form Amazon but I didn’t pick it up for three days. Till the weekend there was a dilemma should I or shouldn’t. Finally, I picked it up and read the preface and I saw “to my mereee”. I knew her too. Then I could not resist starting it. The fear within me was will I be able to finish it, I was a little uncertain, as it has been almost two decades since I picked up any novel.

Yesterday being a holiday I started to read. Within minutes I was guzzling page after page. My daughter was quite surprised that I hadn’t touched the mobiles at all. My speed of reading was not the way I used be. It picked up gradually as the plot thickened. I skipped my afternoon siesta. I retired early after dinner to continue reading. At 1030 pm daughter came to check whether papa was asleep, papa was not. She was astonished that I had read past midway by then. In the morning instead of reading the news paper on my thrown it was this book. I read it in the lunch break as it stuck to me like glue. Now it’s the climax chapter which is left and I shall finish it with my evening cup of tea.

Rahul my friend it is not easy to write and it is definitely difficult to get into such minute details of places, names and things. The ease with which you describe villages in the valley and places in Jammu was as if you have visited them yourself. The cocktails you talk about even Shirley won’t know. The businesses you speak of are not simple ones; the corporate life you touch upon must have touched you personally somewhere. I can see the research; the hard work the toil to bring this girl Arti to life. The flow and language is so smooth that her transition from a village belle to a corporate honcho seems as if the years in between never existed. The way you have gone about weaving each bead and connecting the dots as if you are related to this girl. Marvellous my friend, simply kept me spellbound. I don’t know if I batted an eyelid while reading.

Rahul, keep enthralling us, keep us mesmerised, keep enchanting us and keep us captivated. Your charming ways of writing has bloomed. The bait you cast has hooked us all. God Bless you & thank you for re-igniting within me the passion to read once again. Dasvidaniya (till we read again). How soon will it be? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

PS : The book is available on Amazon for 350/-.

MY ATTENTION SPAN

[ninja_form id=1]I came back after a brisk evening walk yesterday and it was about time for the IPL match to start. A quick freshening up and I dug into my favourite sofa to watch the match. Can you believe it, I did not even know which teams were playing and did not even want to find out. 20-20 is all about sixes and fours, that’s all I wanted to see.

Possibly Chennai and Punjab are the only two teams I recognise, Chennai because of their distinct yellow colour and Dhoni, Punjab, because of my favourite Priety Zinta. Rest of them I get mixed up between the blues of Rajasthan and Mumbai. The red, black, oranges & purples of the other teams only add to my confusion. One purple team member wears an orange cap and one blue team a purple cap. What exactly is happening?

I was a diehard fan of cricket as a kid and I clearly remember getting up early morning with Dad to listen to the running test match commentary on a transistor for India-Australia matches. I knew each team member by name, their centuries and wickets taken in their career. Today, I hardly even know the Indian team except a few names.

The interest in the game now has reduced to lifting my eyes from my mobile to TV at the precise moment when the bowler is crossing the umpire and is about to deliver the ball. Moment the batsman hits the ball, my focus changes back to my mobile.  I am in a different world from the time ball is fielded and the bowler is about to cross the umpire with his next ball.

I invariably miss boundaries being hit and fall of wickets. At that crucial moment it just so happens that my eyes are on the mobile. I then have to wait for the replay. Even the replay is so slow that by the time the catch is taken I switch to read another message. Moment I look up the action of catching the ball is also over and I only get to see the reaction of the bowler pumping air. I enjoy reading their lips in super slow-mo dishing out choicest adjectives.

As the bowling end is changed I utilize that time very gainfully. I open an unfinished game of candy crush. I quickly crush a few and look up to see I have missed two overs. One keeps promising to oneself that I will watch the complete next over and you keep the mobile to the side. One tinkle of the mobile and your promise to yourself is the first thing to go for a six.

It doesn’t take much time for me to lose interest in the game if every second ball is not a six. If the game is slow, I change to a news channel. That attention span doesn’t last long there too as one realises there is only noise and flick back to IPL.

The critical time is the strategic time out. It is time for me to run to the loo. Wife rushes to the kitchen to bring in dinner and by the time the countdown starts we are on the dinner table. The beauty is when daughter asks papa kaun kaun khel raha hai and papa goes blank. Quickly I put on my specks to find out which teams are playing. I have to confess, I don’t know. We just laugh and pounce on our dinner.

These days Captains chat with commentators. In good old days this was unthinkable stuff. I remember playing cricket matches with YPS Patiala in their grounds. They were a co-ed school. After school all the girls used to come and sit next to our fielders at deep boundary positions. This used to be the biggest distraction for us SAIKAPIANS. Nice dainty little girls in skirts and mind you some of them were naughty. Moment the ball was hit in those fielding positions, hooting used to start and at that crucial moment if your eyes got off the ball, the ball would cross the boundary, as some skirt used to go a little above the knees to reveal a “fine leg”.

Be that as it may, I feel we are focussing on too many things at one time. We think we can multi-task but the fact of the matter is there is loss of focus, no concentration, loss of interest, neither watching TV nor watching mobile, ultimately lading up confused as what did you do.

Ultimately at 10 pm I leave the TV room. At the end of the day who played with whom on which ground and how many runs were scored, who won and who lost is just like a blank thought in the mind. I leave it for the next day’s news headlines. How many of us are also doing the same thing what I do? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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