My daughter, whom I fondly call Little Princess, has begun taking karate lessons.
The idea of directing her zest for life into the Japanese martial art form was conceived when I came to terms with the fact that channelling unexplained bouts of exuberant energy was easier than pretending to keep up.
While she spent her first class easing her little limbs into awkward kicks and punches, I wandered into the designated waiting area and made an astounding discovery of a rack full of books nestled between a crowd of people who were taking a welcome break from parenting duties in the real world to staring intently through the glowing window of their smart phones, surfing through the exciting expanse of the virtual world that spanned bright and gleaming before them.
They would not have noticed if I broke into a jig or jumped in animated glee at the sight of a book on my must-read list but I suppressed the urge out of practised restraint. My escape plan from the real world for that evening was staring back at me.
I can read Harry Potter watching Harry flying about in purple robes and sunglasses in my mind’s eye with no stress of being judged for it!
I drank into the scent of the ageing pages, the comforting fragrance of deep thoughts and warm words pricked at my nostrils on route to a world architected by the author — the neurons in my brain alive as it overworked an imagination of the characters, my mind’s eye perceiving, feeling, empathising and slowly and surely become one with the protagonist.
By the end of that evening, there was one more reason why Little Princess simply must take karate lessons.
I will not be surprised if the husband gifts me Maria Kondo’s The Magical Art of Tidying Up for my hoarding ways. I can sure use some of her tips to give up the not-so-functional half of my wardrobe and spark streaks of joy while I throw in another half of the husband’s but I would rather be missing out on the interpersonal, psychological and life-altering benefits of minimalism than kiss away any one of my precious books that sit precariously, piled high on every inch of the burdened wooden shelves of the book cupboard.
But as much as my husband uses every opportunity on exaggerated warnings about tall piles of books that might collapse and knock me out cold, I have seen him take the route after a day spent in the company of laptops, tablets and smart phones, in his own synchronous order, to the bookshelf to select a book and relax on the couch before he calls it a day.
Reading a book is like exercising under the glowing warmth of morning sunshine. I can say this with conviction for perfect, forever-smiling, happy pictures on social media can leave me stressed and ailing with FOMO but not a book; oftentimes thoughtful, happy, curious or drown deep in a sense of empathy, but I still count them all as a means of relaxation for I can read Harry Potter watching Harry flying about in purple robes and sunglasses in my mind’s eye with no stress of being judged for it!
I had enjoyed opening the window and escaping into the minds of authors stirring up fresh lives in new worlds with my son — first into the world of gnomes and pixies, gravitating to the fantasies of the thoughtful asteroid-hopping Little Prince and living among The Railway Children between cracking mysteries, while we deciphered the complex matrix called life.
Now that he can find his way without my assistance, I am in need of better techniques to open that window into the exciting world of books for my exuberant Little Princess — who has tasted the allure of the gleaming virtual world — so that I can retrace my steps to begin an exhilarating journey of unlocking innumerable worlds hidden in words while nourishing her ability to think, imagine and dream — one book at a time.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha