Thursday, December 01, 2016

Mr Bindra's fifty books

Sunny Bindra once wrote that it was possible to read fifty books in one year. It is. If you love reading for the freedom it bestows on your mind, fifty books in a year is not only doable, it is an immensely pleasurable exercise. I will not have read fifty books by the time the New Year rings in; I will probably never read fifty books until I am in a place where reading can occupy a whole or a greater portion of my day. Thanks to Mr Bindra I now understand that this is entirely a good thing. His target is fifty; mine might be a shifting one, anywhere between one and a hundred.

I am not a Millennial; I am, not literally mind you, Mtoto wa Nyayo. I watched as communications technologies moved from rotary phones to touch-tone phones to pagers to brick-sized mobiles to the one-inch-screen mobiles to the explosion in internet penetration to smart phones. I watched technology move from typewriters to electric typewrites to MSDos-based word-processors  to the euphoria of Windows-95 PCs to the triumphal return of Apple with the iMac to netbooks to the game-changing iPad to the two-in-one tablet-laptop devices just gaining in popularity. I watched entertainment evolve from the Kenya Film Commission's outdoor movie projectors to VCRs to laserdisk players to VCD players to DVD players to PVRs and DVRs to online streaming or downloads.

The same can be said about how information is accessed these days. I fear that I will never do what my father can: quote, from memory, entire acts from Shakespeare, whole poems by T.S. Elliot, entire speeches in their original Latin by Cicero or recite with feeling and emotion the sublime romantic turns of phrase in the Song of Solomon. But I can quote, almost verbatim when the spirit is upon me, the opening monologue in 1972's Francis Ford Copolla's The Godfather, the McGuffin scene in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, evoke the bathos in the Gettysburg scene in Boaz Yakin's Remember the Titans. I can also situate Bob Marley's and Peter Tosh's revolutionary ideals in their music, the romanticisation of struggle in that of Jimmy Cliff, the evolution of the concept of greed from the way in which genge seems to have forgotten the wisdom of the late 1990s when Hardstone's Uhiki was revolutionary and today, when he is all but a faded memory. In short, I access information and, perhaps, knowledge from multiple sources and multiple contexts and my precious books are just one piece of my massive multi-media puzzle.

I am old enough, fortunately, to know that not even a sage like Mr Bindra has all the answers and young enough, I hope, to be able to see what he sees when he writes about disruption, evolution and foresight. I will always work towards the day when I will have more time on my hands to switch off the world, take up a new tome, crack its spine and turn to the first page with the same excitement I did with the first Jeffrey Archer I read when I was in standard four (A Matter of Honour) which I didn't put down for eight straight hours, earning my mother's wrath because I forgot to take the muthokoi from the jiko when the water ran out. (Scrubbing a clay pot of the black remains of solidified muthokoi is a technique for which you and I need an evening of wine and music to cover in detail.)

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