Essays

Quaint Coffeehouses & Mainstream Fiction

People keep asking me what is it with me and reading fiction in coffee houses. More than the regular fragrance of coffee/tea flowing over the musty odor of my browned and book-marked books, it is usually the people and sounds they make at coffee house that attracts me to the place and this ritual.

Some could probably say that this more of a people-pleasing activity and that I am probably not really reading, but that’s not the case. You see, the books that I read are usually the classics like Dickens, Tolstoy etc. or modern-day fiction, so when you read these with a backdrop of the human sounds, maybe chatter or slurp while sipping in the hot coffee make it oh-so-more relatable. It is easier to get lost in the pages while observing so many faces that walk in while the doorbell chimes above the entry.

The barista(s), yeah, that should be plural, have become so used to me popping in my head into their shops before 10:00 AM that I get my long black prepared and set aside before even the café is up and officially running. One of such baristas served me with their beautifully crumbly-lighter than air cookies and popped herself in the chair opposite to mine. Sensing that she wanted to have a conversation I set aside my laptop and smiled at her. She wanted to know what kind of books do I usually read and what keeps me motivated to read more.

I ordered another long black for her and started to pry why she wanted to read more.

“I am a business graduate student and I come from a small town, people keep teasing me about my accent and broken sentences.”

“Do you feel reading is going to help you with your accent?”

“I don’t know it is always worth a try, if not the accent, at least I’ll know how to put the sentences together.”

I’ve met so many strangers around the places I’ve been to, each time I get surprised by the different reasons everyone chooses to read. I started reading when I was 7 years old and it distinctly relates to my mother cleaning her closet. The funny thing about my mother’s closet is that in spite of being the closet of the most organized member of the family, it is always most unorganized. She was flinging her clothes and everything and I was playing catch with it. Once she had enough space, she climbed inside of it and was rummaging inside a rather odd looking trunk. I insisted she brings the trunk down. In there was all the Enid Blytons, Archies and Mills & Boons my mother and her sisters ever read.

I started off with the colorful looking ones but to my dismay, there were only a few pictures inside. I was so annoyed and inquired my mother about it.

“why are they not as fun as Champak or Tinkle?”

“Because they are comics and these are little grown-up books.”, my mother continued, ” do want to give something else a try?”

“I don’t know”, I shook absentmindedly and went to my study.

It took me 1 week to finish off all the Enid Blytons and was a tiny bit depressed about it. One evening my mother went up the bookstore and got me three new shiny looking novels. I was elated. I finished all three of them in 2 days and that impressed my folks. Since then, my parents started getting me novels every month and I graduated from children’s novels to YA and then to mainstream literature. (I still get pocket money for books every month, though I earn enough).I may not be able to read as much these days, but I always try and carry a book with me so that I can catch up while in transit to work, lunching or waiting for a friend… you get the idea.

Reading is such an important habit. In the age where we love everything within 140-200 characters, this is almost a dying art. Reading not only helps you learn new words, speak or articulate better but it also exposes to the psyche of so many people you read about and the person whose work you’re reading. It is probably the closest thing you’ll get to the superpower of reading people’s minds. Okay now, all this about reading makes me want to dive into my “To Read List”; so see you soon! Thanks for reading and do write in about what inspired you to read/write.

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