Could that really be the case? Could my eyes be deceiving me?
I got closer. It really was what I thought I saw.
It was a thirtyish guy, with a neatly trimmed beard, reading a hardcover book while seated on the bench by the river, with his bicycle leaning against the bench.
A sight to behold!
"That is a rare sighting" I said.
He looked up, perhaps wondering what bird has such a strange accent.
"You are reading a book!!!" I hoped he got the multiple exclamations in my voice. These are the situations when we really need Victor Borge's punctuation guide. But then, we cannot be haphazard with exclamation points ;)
He smiled. "Yeah, everybody has tablets."
"Oh, they may" I replied as I walked up to him. "But, they are playing Pokemon, not reading."
"I think you are right" he said.
I wished him a good day and continued with my walk.
We live in strange times. It could get even stranger. We even have a presidential candidate, whose first name might as well be Adolf, who boasts that he does not read books.
As I have often lamented, reading books is seemingly rarely ever done anymore in the old country. Movies and cricket, and now Facebook and WhatsApp, seem to have taken over people's down times.
A couple of years ago, when discussing market mechanisms and incentives, I briefed students about the "experiment" to reward students with a dollar for every book a student read. They were almost unanimously against it. The students argued that kids should not think that they would do something only if there is a reward. "If this class were not required for your graduation, then you won't be here, right? Doesn't that mean you, too, are doing it only for the reward?" I asked them, and hastily chuckled to lighten it up.
A recent gift that I gave was a book. In the book, I inserted a twenty-dollar bill as well. That was more than four months ago. I suppose a few years down the road that book might even be dropped off at some used bookstore. And then somebody else buys that for a quarter. This new owner of the book keeps reading and all of a sudden a twenty-dollar bill falls out. I would like to be there when that happens ;)
Reading books is how I got to be here. Life itself has been a wonderful reward. I am sure the bearded bicyclist has been collecting his rewards as well.