TODAY -

The Benefit of Pleasurable Reading

Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam *

The Benefit of Pleasurable Reading
The Benefit of Pleasurable Reading
Pic Courtesy : wikipedia.org



"Books are a uniquely portable magic."

-Stephen King

Why do you choose to study something?

You either see the subject as a means to an end, or you select it because you're passionate about it. I have done both, opting for the sciences for higher secondary (although the end was never quite sought), and studying literature at college. Ironically, it was this second choice, dictated by passion and genuine interest, which provided me a career. I chose to study literature because I love - exceedingly love - reading.

The reading referred to here is not the task we perform in order to pass an exam, or the superficial scrolling executed on the web. It is ludic reading, or what we commonly call "reading for pleasure", a popular topic for essay-writing. Ludic reading is done for the purpose of relaxation, and it may be achieved with a medium other than fiction; if you're immersed in your article on economic measures taken by the RBI, and you're immersed for the sake of fun, then it's just another form of ludic reading. In general, however, ludic reading is mostly associated with literature. Novels, short stories, poetry, comic books - they form the domain of pleasurable reading.

Reading literature for pleasure can be a wasteful, even repulsive idea for those who find books a chore. But this action of reading is a satisfying and fulfilling hobby. When you get lost in a book, you enter a trance-like state of mind; your brain is stimulated, and you respond to the episodes of the narrative both mentally and emotionally. Whether you like the story is a different matter, a matter of personal taste, so to speak.

Your attention is still diverted from the environment and projected towards it, you're invested. As you read, you experience recognition and familiarity; you judge the characters and their actions. Sometimes, a fictional world appeals to you so much that you willingly indulge in fantasies. The tale becomes a part of you as you move along the book. Reading fiction, in short, is an event of simulation.

And so they say that those who read books live more than one life. It's the possibility of existing again, vicariously and separately, that excites the reader, and it's the robes this opportunity wears that render it seductive: words blended in ways that are bewitching, frightening, devastating. The reader walks, stumbles and races through the map drawn by the writer, and there is no obligation for them to agree or connect in the end. The important thing is the journey, the pages of the book.

Such a manner of reading differs from the practical habit our education system and parental expectations enforce on us. Reading fiction to enjoy it is a deeply personal act, unrelated to the pragmatic concerns of living. There are no demands to take down notes or to memorise in order to earn scores later. You curl up with a book, and you shut everything else off; the rest of the world become vestiges.

"You've become deaf and mute." - That's what they tell me every time I'm engrossed in one. "You've got annoying" is another, but I can't resent whatever accusations they throw at me, because they're right. A good book demands my entire attention, and makes me horribly selfish and comical.

Even so, ludic reading has many benefits, as opposed to what have become the hobbies of the day - pining for better motor-vehicles and better phones, swallowing cliché-ridden television shows, etc. Fiction allows the reader to get intimate with a language. It increases the reader's vocabulary and shows how sentences are and can be constructed, thereby introducing him/her to the nuances of the language.

It expands the scope of the reader's imagination, taking him/her to places that are out of reach, to ideas that had never been a part of his/her knowledge pool, to human experiences that wouldn't have been known to exist. It enriches and pleases the reader's mind with its use of symbolism, metaphors, allusions, and other such techniques of literary writing. It may bring a sorely needed laugh, but it can also expand the reader's empathy since fiction, above all, is a massive confederacy of varying perspectives.

Fiction doesn't necessarily have to be enjoyed in the written form; movies and television shows are also fictional products. What set books apart from these media is the factor of intimacy, the whole personal aspect of it. With books, it's just you and the words. They are devoid of sounds and visuals in the sense that they can only offer ideas of them, not the actual sensory signals a television has the power to send.

Your experience of them cannot be shared in the same way you can watch a show with friends. You are free from the distractions that an online page comes equipped with: the links, the ads, the colours and images. Therefore, when you read with attention, the attention is absolute.

This thorough engagement that we undergo while reading a book for pleasure sharpens our reading skills and helps us improve our grasp of a language. As a process of education, it consumes a lot of time and content, and its effects may not manifest immediately; one book written in English will not definitely turn anyone into a fluent speaker of the language overnight. (The same holds true for Meiteilol texts - not all Meiteis can write eloquently in Meiteilol.)

But the more you read, the more you know, and the more you know, the more comfortable you get. Just like inhibitions disappear when you become somebody's close friend, fear of a language will subside when once you meet often. And the best way to meet it is through a pile of well-written books.


* Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao English Edition
This article was posted on November 08, 2013.



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