17 April, 2021

Flip A Screen, Skip An Entire Generation

Books were once engaged in with lusty physicality. Now, a tablet’s cool glow gives quiet satisfaction.

Photograph by Getty Images
Flip A Screen, Skip An Entire Generation

Before entropy, when the entire physical universe dissolved into chaos, reading and writing came early to many like me. This was not the prodigy syndrome—the kid quotes poetry or plays piano when his potty habits aren’t socialised yet—but something akin to osmosis, where your surroundings seep in through the body’s membranes.

This was, in hindsight, inevitable. As a Bengali, or Bong, as we are affectionately referred to, we were expected to eat rice, potato cooked with opium seeds called aloo poshto, devour fish and books and write poetry. For most, the last would stop with the onset of increasingly demanding examinations, or in rarer cases, with a realisation of the awfulness of our output. Reading was destiny, bundled with homoeopathic remedies for indigestion.

Nearly half a century ago, a non-Bong friend of my father saw me flipping pages with my left hand while effortlessly tackling fish bones and rice with the right.  “This way you’ll lose both pleasures, of a good read and a good meal,” he quipped. I heeded his...

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