Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How the lack of a reading habit can be a serious handicap

I wonder if the lack of a reading habit also affects one's verbal skills. For instance, I know many young people who are not able to articulate their thoughts.

Is it because they don't do any reading?

When I ask them, for example, "So how was the movie?" They reply, "Good." If they thought it was really good, they reply, "Awesome." If they are feeling especially loquacious, they might say, "It was an amazing experience."

If I ask them why the movie was "good" or "awesome", or why they thought it was "an amazing experience", I rarely get one complete sentence out of them in response.

Still on the same subject, here's something that I hope young people will find inspirational:

Aakar Patel is a former editor of Mid Day. He is now the director of Hill Road Media, a syndication agency, in Mumbai. He is a top-notch writer and journalist whose columns in Mint Lounge are a delight to read ("Why our media can't explain India"; "Why is Plato known as Aflatoon in the subcontinent?").

In his latest column, published in Mint Lounge last Saturday, he discusses the importance of reading the Classics and gives examples in a matter-of-fact style, which, in this case, lends weight to his argument. And his argument is that the only proper education is a Classical one, and it comes out of reading the primary texts.

And he ends by writing, "If you seek it [a Classical education], no matter how old you are, I hasten you towards these magnificent works."

I hope young people reading this will take Aakar's proposition seriously. Even if they do not, there's something I think they should ponder. Here are the MOST IMPORTANT paragraphs (from young people's perspective) in Aakar's article:

I was driven to all these great works not early in life, for Gujaratis have no use for such education. When I dropped out of high school it was not a matter for concern or comment among my friends and relatives. I do not have a degree and there is not a single graduate in my family.

But I have tried to teach myself, and done so by replicating, however poorly, the method of the Orientalists.

What does this tell us? Aakar Patel became a GOOD journalist, despite not having a degree, because, among other things, he spent a lot of time reading.

Here's the link to his classic column: "An education in the Classics".

PS: What prompted this post was my Facebook status message yesterday (and the comments it attracted): I know some young people who don't like reading. Nor do they like writing. But they insist they want to join the media industry. A few of them even want to be journalists. What do I tell them?


1. If you want to be a versatile writer, here's some practical advice

2. "The five traits of a successful writer"

3. Here's how to make time to read 

4. If you don't read, you can't write  

5. In one quote, the essence of writing 

1 comment:

  1. There can be no replacement for reading. But I would not limit it to a particular ‘kind’ of reading. One could read newspapers, magazines, blogs or anything else on the internet. Reading has always helped me gain a perspective and has served as a loyal companion.


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