It's a quarter past six. I'm inside a 20' x 10' container. To my right on a laptop screen a series of blue and red numbers run side by side. Each minute of this sequence rakes in approximately USD 10. To my left a little away from my chair a door is partly open, giving me a view of loud machinery and screaming men 30 feet above the gound. In my hand I'm holding a paperback edition of The Namesake, bought on Residency Road, Bangalore for INR 60. 50 more pages to go, and for me it'll take no less than fifty minutes. I've always been a slow reader, even before I lost my close association with books ten years ago.
As a kid I had my own timetable. Never written it down, but more or less followed it religiously. Get back from school at 5 pm. Eat a really late lunch (I normally took sandwiches to school for the "lunch break") with a book beside me, and then flop on the bed beside my study table till the clock hits 7. This is my formal "study time"... till about 9 or 9.30 every evening. Homework, mostly. If there's a test, a little reading. No tuitions (thankfully) so crazy hours of endless assignments my classmates used to have were spared for me. And then back to books again. I had this schedule since I was nine.
Then Class X came, boards came, Plus-2 came, hostel life came, crazy tuition assignments came (yup, to me too!), movie mania came and my reading kind of died, unable to handle the load. Since then till today, I have read at the most ten books.
But when I read them I enjoy them. Like today. Now. As I turn the pages slowly (realizing my reading speed is dropping by the day -- isn't it supposed to go the other way round?), from the corner of my eye I can see the satisfying blue and red train. More money.
In ten minutes I'll have to put on that white hard hat, wear those black-dotted gloves, snap on those uvex safety glasses and walk sixty steps to a crazy floor above, where I have to shout to make myself heard. But till then, I'm in a place two thousand miles away, a time twelve years ago, with the light of a 60W bulb overhead colouring my 3 Investigators paperback yellow, feet propped up against the bedside wall, a bowl of salted peanuts beside me, struggling as always to finish a couple more pages before the news on DD-1 tells me it's time to get up.