Rekindling the love for books keeping social distancing in mind, virtual book clubs come with their own endearing glitches
One thing that’s been getting TLC in these times of crisis? Our long-neglected pile of books. Interestingly, I started the new year with the resolve to read more and enrolled myself in a monthly book club organised by the building. I thought; well my job might not give me the time but what the hell, atleast I’d have read something. I’m only three months in when this pandemic has hit the world, but that has only brought this bibliophile closer to her first love- books. But how does one hold book clubs while social distancing? With another beneficiary of this crisis- wait for it- Zoom meetings. Make merry while the WiFi’s working, I say. Here’s what went down.
What did you say? I can only see your nostrils!
Let’s be real, there’s only so many of us who are tech-savvy enough to wade through isolation like little has changed. Online wallets and Skype are not for the uninitiated. This took me back to days of expensive data packs when couples in college would bond over Skype in the evenings. There was more of “Can you hear me?”, “Fix your mic!” “Oh god my double chin is showing” than the minutes of fruitful conversation.
Haye! Tom Hanks ko bhi ho gaya?
I got so caught up in the wonders of Zoom I didn’t mention the book we were discussing. It’s called The Dutch House, written by Ann Patchett about two siblings set at the end of the WWII. One of the reasons the book gained popularity is because the audio version is narrated by our ill-fated pandemic poster boy, Tom Hanks. “Hey bhagwan!” A lady said, “Pehle mujhe laga ki ab book kaise complete ho paayegi?” Amid many facepalms, someone quietly assured her he had recorded his narration well in advance. This boomeranged to another morose discussion, “Hollywood ko Corona ho sakta hai toh hum kya cheez hai?”
Guys I’m sharing my screen, I’ve made notes
So Zoom has this feature of sharing your laptop screen with your call buddies. (I think I can be an efficient salesperson for this company once this lockdown is over.) Coming back to the book in question, there are, of course, a few who’ve actually read it. And then there is the rare breed who make notes of the chapters on an excel sheet and highlight the key points they want to discuss. Ok maybe I exaggerated, not an excel sheet but a Notes page nonetheless. Of course, this person is itching to be the first to discuss the book. (That’s what you do at book clubs, Gen Z.) And we launch into a thesis of why Danny should value his sister more and how the author is using the ‘house’ as a metaphor for… I don’t know, something.
What book? I’m so done with all the house work and everyone hates my cooking!
I understand pastime reading is not for those struggling with their kid’s sassy comments on their cooking. “They keep asking me where Nalini Bai went. They want her parathas instead!” This makes it harder to stay on topic, especially since the meeting is treated as a much-deserved chai break. One where you don’t need to make chai for anyone but yourself. The exhausted lot are really there to listen to someone else talk, or discuss if Monaco biscuits with ketchup can count for a legit meal.
Are all the signs pointing towards the same thing? Is the world going to end?
Then there are those like me, who three chapters in, are really just looking to relate everything they see or read to the world around them. “Even the book is morbid, the mother dies and the father marries another woman”, said a lady, as if this explained the existential dread she was feeling. “God knows when this situation will get better, I’m so anxious all the time. When I do jhadu I understand where all the hair on my head is going!” *drops the book*
To keep yourself humored during quarantine, do read ‘Love In the Time of Corona’. Hope you’re staying safe!