Dear Agony Akka,
I feel the world is treating me unfair. People (aka my family) are saying I should stop reading novels. (I read sci-fi and fantasy novels mostly) They want me to keep them at bay — which I can’t — simply because I am a 10th grader now. Thanks to Raksha Bandhan, I succeeded in demanding and getting two books or I would have died of book-hunger. Why am I forbidden to read? I know as a 10th class girl I have to write projects, study for exams, etc., but can’t I just spend one hour on weekends to read? Two of my friends post pictures of their bookshelves and my jealousy kicks in. Whole day I mull about how their parents encourage them to read books. I hope you can give a solution to this turmoil condition. Academics or novels or both?
— Miffed, Unlucky Gal
Novels? Novels?? No, no, you cannot read those. No fiction. No comic books (unless it’s Amar Chitra Katha). No printed material whatsoever that’s not part of your syllabus. This is the guiding principle of Indian parenthood. The idea is to study, pass exams, and emerge after 12 years of schooling as ignorant as you entered it. You need only study, learning isn’t mentioned anywhere.
This method has worked well and it’s the only way to keep producing generation after generation of Coaching Institute geniuses who will then become TV news anchors and announce that the Nipah virus has travelled from Kozhikode to Calicut, no doubt at the speed of light.
Don’t let anybody tell you that Tim Berners-Lee got the idea for the World Wide Web from a sci-fi story written by Arthur C. Clarke. Or that Igor Sikorsky was inspired by a Jules Verne novel to design the helicopter. Always remember that our TV anchors did not need to read any novel-shovel to come up with the factoid that the new ₹2,000 notes had nano-GPS chips embedded in them. They came up with that inspired idea entirely by their own tiny, unread selves. Naturally your parents are sceptical of any outside-syllabus reading — there seems so little point in it.
Your mother-father probably belong to 4-5 WhatsApp groups from which they are getting sufficient knowledge about everything, whether science, history or geography. And WhatsApp is stranger than fiction any day. For example, during the pandemic, one forward said that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, without coughing or difficulty in breathing, it would indicate the absence of COVID-19 infection.
Brilliant. Can you imagine how many crores of rupees we could have saved if we had followed this simple method? Instead, researchers went overboard coming up with RTPCR test and what not. I tell you, all fools. In fact, if we had not only followed that WA message sincerely but also extended the duration of breath-holding to about four-five minutes, many people would have turned blue and collapsed. And dead people cannot get COVID-19. India’s infection numbers would have been lowest in the world. UNESCO would have given certificate.
That’s why I am telling. Obey parents. Don’t read anything except textbooks and WhatsApp. You will pass Class X with good marks. Of course, you might end up with absolutely no common sense, cultural awareness, world view, or all-around knowledge of wide range of subjects, but that’s not important. Passing board exams is No. 1 aim of student life. Return Raksha Bandhan books and ask for new dress or fancy phone. At least you can post good selfies.