Bookworms read books irrespective of the primary activity in which they are involved

What are you doing while reading this article? Dozing off in an easy chair after a Sunday lunch? Waiting in a saloon watching different shapes of heads and expecting your turn like a French Revolution victim waiting to be guillotined? If you are testing your acrobatic skills by holding The Hindu in your left hand and eating, you are my man! Welcome to the club of Read and Eat.

Bookworms read books irrespective of the primary activity in which they are involved. Reading while eating is probably the commonest of their habits.

“Don’t read while you eat! Books are Saraswathi! You will become an idiot” — My grandmother would shout at me. Of course, her soothsaying skill was perfect. As she lacked eyesight, I would lie to her as if I wasn’t reading while eating. But her razor-sharp ears would not miss even the micro decibel sound of the turning pages.

Book-eating became a habit to the extent that I became overweight. So many times two more dosas would have been gulped just not to break the continuity of reading. In fact, whenever I buy an interesting book I would also buy something to munch. And the converse is also true. The first thing to be planned for a lunch was not the starter or appetiser, but the book to read. When the book I read was as voluminous as Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki with five volumes, I would have gained few pounds by the time I finished.

Of late, I have stopped the habit of munching something whenever I read. But reading while eating continues to haunt me. Serving food to book readers is a nightmare. Nothing hurts the cook more than seeing the dish prepared by him with the utmost care being eaten by a book reader who does not even have a glimpse of it. The person who serves food has to ask the reader a zillion times what to serve and whether the quantity is enough or not. Even if the plate is empty, the hand-mouth coordination will go on until the book becomes less interesting. There are advantages too in this habit. The cooks can get away with making an incinerated dosa or rotten chutney.

The habit continues even if you go to a hotel. If there is nothing in print, the menu card will compensate for it.

The other end of the problem is reading in the toilet. There are people who even take their laptops there. But as it interferes with another person’s time management, opposition to this habit would be vehement. For obvious reasons, I don’t think anybody would read while bathing.

As a doctor, I know that mindless eating is definitely not a healthy habit. I also know that doctors are good preachers but bad followers. Every year, I vow not to eat while reading. Like many other New Year promises, this usually has a life span less than that of a caterpillar. But there is another promise that I have kept. After a lucky escape, I never read while driving a car.

(N.B: Stop reading! It is time to wash your hands.)

(The writer’s email:

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