When I was studying for my professional qualification course, there was a professor who taught Book Keeping and Accountancy. He was a reasonably well liked fellow; old enough to wield authority and young enough to joke around with. I did not give him much thought apart from the necessary thoughts early tweens can afford to spare to their Accounts professors. That is, until one day, he said something truly horrifying.
He was waiting to resume the class lecture until all students had resumed their seats after a quick break and was chatting with one of the boys up front. Since my seat was exactly behind that boy’s, I heard everything. The boy was talking about a book he had been reading and without letting him finish, the professor erupted –
‘Reading! Pah! I absolutely dislike reading. People who read always have their heads in the clouds. They live only in their heads, in their imagination.’
The boy, naturally, was shocked at this. As was I, but the feeling speedily evolved into dislike. How could this stuffy man talk so about READING? It is one thing to dislike reading but something entirely different to hate others for their personal choices. I was appalled at this behavior.
When I read, the things I can be are endless. I can fly across the world with my own wings, I can swim across an ocean, quick as a mermaid. I can fight, I can kill, I can heal, I can dismantle bombs and seduce international spies with just one look. I am immortal or immoral as I choose, I am important or inconsequential as I choose.
What would he have me thinking of instead? The traffic, the dirty roads, the leery men? Watch the news where I am told afresh of the number of deaths, rapes, scams, bankruptcies, suicides, religious disputes and failing economies because who doesn’t want to miss out on that?
The world we live in is a cruel, nasty place and what is wrong, I ask you, with living in your imagination? It’s a beautiful place with no boundaries where anything and everything is possible.
I remember sitting there in silent loathing the entire lecture while he carried on as if the only thing in the world worth discussing were Accounting Standards.
Such were my thoughts. Then. Have they changed now?
No. They have not, but –
But I understand a little of what he was trying to say.
All the time I spend ‘imagining’ myself to be something or someone in my head is time spent away from molding myself into becoming that person. I can be independent, powerful and unstoppable in the this world, too. But it is not something that will just happen overnight because I will it so. I have to work on it and work for it and it will come with trying new things, exploring and experiencing, learning what I can do and what I cannot. And then learning again to overcome the latter.
All the stories I love to read about, all the adventures and mishaps, all the challenges and growing up, all these stories were penned down by people who experienced it themselves and they didn’t do it sitting at home, curled up on their favorite chair, with a mug of coffee.
They stepped out into the world.