I started reading ardently when I was in ninth standard (2015). Before that, I thought that my coursework is everything and it is sufficient. I hadn’t read any book of more than hundred pages. But as soon as I started reading, I realised, that so far I had come, there was more to go. I kept challenging myself to read more and more as well as farther and faster. I feel, that while reading, you get lost in time. You travel somewhere. While reading, it’s okay to cross your limits. It’s a wonderful experience to find yourself in a new realm, which is nothing, but a new paradigm of life.
Talking about English, not every writer’s writing style appeals to me. Talking about modern Indian English authors, many of them just try to act cool among their readers. This has got them both pros and cons. They’ve maximised their reach and those who’ve just a basic knowledge of the language can read them. Many modern writers of India use Hindi phrases in English novels, which is the apex of Indianism. Though, you should marks my words, that, not all the writers are same. If you check the writings of some writers of the last century, they’ve conserved some literary beauty in their works, to which, I convey my heartiest appreciations.
Other than Indian authors, the real classics are those which were written by authors who had English as their mother tongue.
I haven’t read many classical texts as I’m less habitual of reading classics. The most impressive of those that I’ve read have been, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. The things I found impressive about them were their writing styles, as I wasn’t able to conceive their western ideas completely.
For e.g. In Jane Eyre, I was sympathetic of Jane’s self righteousness to stand for herself. But she praised Mr. Rivers’ endeavour as an evangelist to convert Indian masses, which I didn’t like. Maybe, this was the common mindset of people then. When I posted my views on the text in my Instagram story, a russian woman, who was perhaps an English teacher replied to my story and said, “I never read this novel with your point of view.”
The best Hindi classics, I’ve loved till now have been Premchand’s Gaban and Nirmala and Mohan Rakesh’s Andhere Band Kamre.
So without wasting my and your time, let me tell you some ways in which you can understand a classical text easily.
Don’t skip the foreward, preface etc. of the book. Read it. Read the details on front and back cover as well. What do you do whenever you’re surfing for any book in the library or bookstore? You decide by looking at such pages. So, to have a basic understanding, reading every page is important.
On internet, you’l find various articles and forums discussing about the said author’s writing style (If the author is famous). Otherwise, on the unavailability, such information can be gathered from the end or prior pages of the book. Knowing about the author enables you to have an introduction with their personality and writing style.
I’m sorry, if I’m telling you to cheat on yourself, but I’m telling you, that this step really helps. Read as many reviews and summaries of the text as you can. This would establish the plot clearly in your mind and you would’ve less trouble in interpreting the text while reading.
Keeping a rough paper can be very helpful, though it is not required everytime. I used this strategy when I had just started reading. Once you’re habitual, it’s not required.
So what, you have to do is to keep the rough paper with you while you’re reading. After the end of every chapter or segment. Write down, what did you understand from the text. This will build your confidence that you’re able to understand the text.
One benefit of reading is your vocabulary. You’ll be amazed to see the power it holds. Your vocabulary gives you an avenue of expression.
While reading, you can keep a dictionary handy. Dictionary can be in any form; physical or electronic. But wait, don’t just jump onto it, as soon as you’ve any query. First of all, guess the meaning of the word in the context of the line or paragraph and then check.
After being habitual of reading, a time will come, when you won’t to check the dictionary, words will flow naturally.
Our middle school teachers used to ask us to bring our own dictionaries to school and check the meanings of words on our own to save the time. They, however, supported our queries for idioms and phrases. Once, when I was in 10th, I was so bored of doing this, that once, I and my friend decided to learn the Oxford’s Elementary Dictionary. I myself remember, that we read the words of an alphabet/day. We noted the important and new words on our papers and used them often.
Now I don’t claim that I have all of them in my mind, I might’ve lost those papers as well. But many such words are an active part of my vocabulary now. Touch wood!!