Bitty Ruminations 51

Posted on May 11, 2011


There is a great Jerry Seinfeld wisecrack that gets at the root of why we are so glued to the remote control – men don’t care about what’s on TV; they only care about what else is on TV. In the days of the single channel, we saw what we were given, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, now that we control what we want to see, we channel-surf in desperation, worrying that somewhere else lies a programme we’d rather watch, we should not miss. Something similar is happening with reading. In the days before the Internet, we pored over every single word in the few available magazines, like nomads in the desert descending upon a fattened cactus. But today, most of my reading occurs in front of the computer screen and I find – to ever-deepening dismay – that my attention isn’t fixed to what’s there but drifting to what else is out there.

Read this essay, someone says with a link. Read that book, someone else says. And Google Reader – my Argus-eyed agglomerator – keeps refreshing and renewing itself with updates from around the world. And in order to keep up, I keep racing through my reading. I cannot recall the last time I paused on a sentence and dwelt on it and did things in my mind to it that if filmed would never pass the censors. Instead, I’m at a constant rush to reach the end of the column, the end of the paragraph, the end of the article, so that I can begin racing through the next article in queue. Does anyone have a solution? Should I discipline myself, like a man on the mend swearing he’ll have only one drink in the evening, to something like ten Internet pieces a day, plus 25-50 pages of a book?

PS: If this post sounds like a half-hearted CPR to keep Bitty Ruminations from fading into the mists of memory – like that other sorely missed column named Arre O Sambar, for the return of which, I hear, distraught fans are holding up placards and signing petitions in blood – it kinda-sorta is.

PPS: And sometimes, I do savour the odd piece, like this spectacular ode to food and to moms and to mom’s food. Towards the end, I misted over, dammit — and what I loved about the piece was that it was sentimental yet tough, a male weepie, the culinary equivalent of Field of Dreams. I wrote a very inferior variant on this subject many eons ago, when I was apparently a very different kind of writer, someone I don’t like all that much today.