I think most of us are familiar with hiding, being secretive and filtering who we are. I filter who I am on a daily basis and I’m sure you do too. We all do.
For nearly a year I have kept a huge part of myself to myself and shared it with strangers rather than my friends.
Losing myself in books is second nature to me. My spirit animal is not a bird or a leopard, rather the trees which were broken down for the creation of paper, and in turn books. I know tree is not an animal but things in life are never exact, never precise, always a gray area.
So I love reading and I read immensely with all my heart. I read all kinds of books but mostly the ones which I feel would challenge me and my understanding of the world. I transferred this love online by creating an Instagram account where I occasionally posted pictures of the books I was reading. My account is Sumaiyya.books.
I post everything related to my books and reading there. For a few months I read and posted nothing, so no its not an exact directory of the things I’ve been reading (nothing in life is exact). I met many people there who shared my passion for books and together we are a community which helps eachother grow intellectually and positively. But I didn’t tell my friends, family or colleagues about it. Until recently when I told a couple of friends and family about it – because I knew they’d see it as something positive. (If you’re on Instagram follow thebookpiper, my brother got inspired and decided to do what I do)
I don’t know exactly why I didn’t share my account on purpose. Maybe because I felt they didn’t relate to reading like I did. To them it was a hobby, a thing they liked to do sometimes. But to most of them it was nothing. It was something they knew about and that’s where it ended. To most of them reading was something other, crazy people did.
To me it’s a necessity, a thing I must do and if I don’t I suffocate. Books are my lifeline. Books are the heartbeats I’m counting. Books are the places where the trail of my breadcrumbs lie.
Maybe I didn’t tell them because whenever I went on from one book to the next they’d raise their eyebrows and tell me I read too much. Or maybe they’d tell me ‘Oh, I’m too busy to read like you do’ which basically inferred that they don’t have time to spare or waste (like I do?).
Maybe because most people around me think reading fiction is not good for the mind and soul. ‘You will go crazy if you read so much’ ‘Think of *insert name of person with serious life problems who is depressed*, it happened because they read too much’ ‘Reading will make you lazy’. The list of ridiculousness is endless.
I live surrounded by a culture that doesn’t recognise the importance of reading. We have few libraries in this country and most of them are obscure. So it’s easy for me to say I read and be looked at differently.
If people start reading the world will be a more peaceful place. A better place. A place of tolerance and understanding. Because that’s what books teach you – that people are driven by similar instincts, that there is no exact good or exact bad, that there are things you have to accept because the world has quite a few billion people and quite a few billion fictional characters and they will never be exactly what you believe in or agree with.
People are different and it’s okay.
So….at one point I decided I did not need negativity around my books or around me. I wanted to keep them safe and to show them only where they’d be loved and appreciated. And so began the journey of my ‘Bookstagram’ account.
Reading doesn’t make me lazy. Reading makes me feel like I’m an activist for everything that happens in the world – from people who are lied to and cheated on, to people whose homes are taken away and whose families are killed out of selfishness. Reading makes me care about what happens to people. Reading makes me switch off my own selfishness and focus on someone else’s problems. What books have is not fiction because it comes from what we already have around us. Even a science-fiction story has reality in it.
So no, I’ve read 48 books this year and it’s not enough. If I read a 100 books I’d still have not read enough.
I don’t know what else to say. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. In fact there is no explanation needed. The people I concealed my passion from are mostly those I keep in touch with online. I am tired of my reading habits being addressed as if it’s a hobby, a thing of pleasure, a thing to do ‘occasionally’ or ‘once in a while’.
What I want is to end the belief that reading is an option in life. It’s not an option. It’s not about ‘liking’ reading. You should do it so you keep learning.
Reading, when you read the books I do, is not an exact pleasure. There is nothing exact in life. There are lessons to be learned and people to be admired and taken in as role models. Things to observe and things to be aware of. There is so much. So why question or see it as something for pleasure only?
Reading is not my hobby. It’s a part of a whole which is me. It’s not something I do for pleasure, it’s something I do.
And here’s a picture of two cats:
Because cats understand when nobody else does.