The work was hectic. It was the iconic year of two thousand and nine when the recession had pushed the economy to a bottomless abyss. All in our batch were waiting anxiously for the joining letter. Many of us already had got rejection letters. Luckily I was not one of them.
I joined an automobile company and found myself in a remote village. At the fringes of civilization, in an utter desolate of a place work became my sole occupation. Rhea’s application for an MS program in USA was accepted and she moved there shortly after that.
Rhea and I were thousands of miles away. In two different countries, on two different continents. And the college love that once felt would go on for forever, soon faded with the time. We both decided to break up. Long distance relationship was not our cup of tea.
Tata Motors, the company which I joined was handling the biggest challenge since it was incepted. Its flagship car model Nano was fighting for its survival. Hundred thousand Nano had to be delivered by the year-end. And the plant which was supposed to make it, in West Bengal, got embroiled in a political controversy. The plant had to be shut down.
The onus of making those hundred thousand model fell on the Pantnagar plant, which I joined as a green boy of twenty-one. And I was drowned in a deluge of work that got bigger day by day.
I forgot life. Forgot friends. And for one year got so much immersed in the work that I lost ten kilograms, a shadow of my former self. Extended shifts, long hours, tired body and tired mind. I had only one goal when we reached home. To eat and sleep. The morning was only six hours away.
I lost track of reading.
Books became something I used to indulge sometime back. The production madness started dampening when the alternate plant came up in Gujarat. And we found some respite from work. I took a transfer to the Process Design department. Here the hours were relatively more regular. It was then when my college friends proposed a reunion in Goa.
A long weekend was coming up, and I relished a break from work. I needed that. And the prospect of four days on the sunny beaches of Goa, attracted me a lot. I said yes at once.
But as luck would have it, amidst the balmy sunshine and salty water of Goa, I saw Rhea again. That girl who devoured books like snacks.
She was with her boyfriend. Even though it had been a couple of years since we separated, I couldn’t avoid feeling a tinge of disappointment. We didn’t talk much. Greetings exchanged, eyes met before we said goodbyes. But in those few moments I couldn’t help but observing her as if it was a lifetime.
Nothing about her had changed. That delicate lines of the face, her shapely ears, the curve of her lips that I loved so much, and the red of her cheeks that reminded me of roses in winter. As I drank her from my eyes, I also saw her holding in her hand a paperback. It was a Khaled Hosseini Novel.
Of all the things about her, that book in the light clasp of her hard stayed in mind more than anything else.
The first thing I did after returning from Goa was to log in on Flipkart, then an upcoming online retail store and ordered three paperbacks. All of them by Khaled Hosseini. The books got delivered in a week. I started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns on a Friday Night and continued reading it throughout the night, until the next morning. I had finished the book by then. I was too tired, and too overcome with the emotional roller coaster ride that book had been. With the book still in my hand, I went into a deep sleep.
It was my third beginning to reading books. Two times before I had started and gave up. But this time it stuck with me. Maybe for the first time I was reading not because of some ‘reason.’ The previous two times I was chasing something. First it was that curiosity about sex that got me into the books. Later it was that feeling of jealousy and a desire to impress my girlfriend that fueled my reading. But it was now that I was reading for myself. I had found reading.
Reading stayed with me after that. I got Kindle that year and since than it has been my regular companion wherever I go. In two thousand and sixteen I read sixty books. I call that year ‘My Year of Reading.’ I learned a lot from it. (Compiled them into a post about twelve learning.) The gist of those learning is that life is not about a day or a year or even birth and dead. It is about the process. One book finishes, the other one starts. Different chapters, ups and downs, the only thing that we need to do is to hold on. Keep going on. And you never know what new adventure the other book is going to bring to you.