Dear reader, forgive me my audacity, when I tell you that your eyes seem like ping-pong balls. You have been reading from that monstrous PC thing, aided by the Internet haven't you? What is that you are reading now? Your mail or is it the news, an essay perhaps, or is it the dreaded e-book? Why do you do that to yourself, my dear reader? Why do you insist on reading from that huge uncongenial monitor, giving up the lovely old - fashioned art of book reading only to replace it with a high-speed modem?
Was it not a delight, when you walked into that old bookstore with books from all ages lined up on the shelves along the narrow corridor? The pleasant dusty smell mingled with that of the pages from Shakespeare and Dickens'
Does it not bring back memories of the time your father held your hand and walked you into that little store tucked away in a corner of the busy street? Do you not remember being overawed by those rows and rows of books? Do you not remember the kindly old book keeper with his twinkling eyes and patient smile telling you what you can take home today so you can begin the journey? The journey which took you to the faraway hills of Dehradun, allowed you to taste the cold chicken and sausages of England, which made you fall in love and even smell the fragrance of flowers along the Swiss Alps.
I was seven years old when I took my precious bundle of books home with the usual comics and the first ever, real book - Enid Blyton's 'The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat'. With Larry, Daisy, Peter, Bets, Fatty and Buster, I walked the green countryside of England, picnicked by the river with the Find-Outers made fun of ol' Clear Orf and even solved a mystery in the summer house!! And all this while on my way to school and back, during meal times, before I went to sleep and during those lovely breaks from homework.
My fascination for books grew with me, as I moved from adventures with Enid Blyton to laugh with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, felt lost with Jake Brigance when it was A Time to Kill, fought battles with the Dark Side with Harry Potter, and tricked my way out of situations with Jeeves.
Now all that you do, my dear reader, is sit before the monitor and stare, all the while pretending to read. I worry now for you. I worry for the fantasy and imagination that you will miss rather than for your eyesight. I worry that you will miss reading while on your way back from work and while you are on a flight taking another one of those business tours. I worry that you will not have a book by your side when you a trifle sad or worried. So you can smile with the thought of Charlie in the chocolate factory with Willy Wonka, and laugh when you remember what Bertie Wooster is stealing again today at the Blandings.
So turn off the PC and walk into that old bookstore, look for that kindly old man and bring home a treasure. Read it today and read it again tomorrow. Turn the pages over till they are yellow with age and never keep it away till it has been well - thumbed.
And a few years from now, give your treasure away to the only one who must inherit it. Give you child the precious gift, when you hold his hand and take him back to where you had begun your journey, the bookstore in the corner of a busy street. Watch him, as he feels the same awe and wonder that you had felt when you first walked in here and still do every time you return.
Then, my dear reader, you will know that the book has been well and truly, read.