Reading Into Writing

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Arshid Malik

Recently a publisher friend of mine arrived in my office to enquire of me. He had come with a handful of his publications. Over tea and some cookies we discussed issues, ranging from the first woman Chief Minister of Kashmir to people using religion to make advertisements more appealing to the public. He then asked me about my opinion on some of the few publications he had left in my office and I stared blankly at him, not knowing what to tell him. Then I decided to tell him the truth because he is a very dear friend and an erudite person and I knew he would understand. “I don’t read,” was my reply to him. He looked astounded and asked me how I am able to write when I don’t read. This left me with a point to contemplate upon.

Ever since I was a kid I used to read a lot – from comics to newspaper cartoons. As I grew up my reading grew more polished and I started reading books that were quite out of my league – by the standards of age. From sciences to religions to para psychology there was not stopping me. I forgot what life was all about and my only lead pleasure was reading. I read so much that one day I found that I had started going mad – in a way. I had to leave my books on the advice of some of my doctors. But I was sure I had imbibed enough to last a lifetime. By the way towards the last course of my readings I was focusing on the possibility of the “Theory of Everything” and I had discovered that if one studied enough – I mean all of the subjects that pertain to humans, rocks and plants – one could grow out of the whole thing and start developing new and better theories and discover new facts about “life and death”. Anyways, sorry for the digression. I had started stopping reading books and for a quite long time it seemed like the biggest drawback my life had had. But slowly and steadily the feeling started to wane and I discovered that ideas jumped into my head without actually reading anything. I was no longer slave to stimuli and that is the day, the week, the month and year that I realized that reading is not important even for a writer. A writer should write from experience.

During the course of my life I have, like the rest of us on earth, witnessed an unprecedented blossoming of the channels of communication. From the weary “World Wide Web” we now have the typically suited and crafted Internet that takes us places without us even intending to go there. These are very resourceful things and I formally do agree with that. But at the same time I figure there is an over load of information out there and it is very difficult for any mind to sift between what is right and what is wrong. Take the media for instance. The news in newspapers and electronic media channels is always predominantly biased and rarely bonds with the realities of life. There are “discourses” on these news channels which drive one to the point of pulling out one’s hair. It is not intrigue but propaganda and that creates wedges in the minds of the writer. So I abstain from all such indulgences. I do get me news from what I think are the right and reliable sources and when I have obtained the news I compare it with the facts if resources allow me to do that.

So, I am a writer and I think the best bet is to keep my eyes open for all kinds of information, sift it and then use it. My previous knowledge from my deep readings help me corroborate events and sift fact from propaganda. I love it that way and want it to stay that way which does not imply that I do not read for pleasure. Of course I do, whenever I get the chance and I love that too.

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