The Financial Express

Reading while on travel

Reading while on travel

Except during 6 to 8-hour-long or longer air or waterway travels, few book-loving people feel like becoming engrossed in books. However, there are many compulsive readers. While on travel, they do not want to waste even a little time without books. Many term them bibliophiles. The vast variety-filled world doesn't interest them. Even while travelling by a plane, there appear lots of objects. Just gazing at those one can pass their time. It's during air travels when window-side passengers can watch the amazingly different types of cloud formations. Besides, if the flight happens to be a time-zone-crossing one, a traveller can spot the abrupt sunrises or sunsets. Compulsive book-lovers do not bother to look at them. Perhaps nobody has ever told them about the spectacles they miss during their travels.

But in today's long-haul flights when air-travellers are pampered by all conceivable kinds of entertainments, reading has lost its earlier status as one. Few open a paper-book or their e-versions while travelling. The reason, it has become easier to watch a movie being shown on a mini TV screen attached to the back of the seat just at the front. There are few passengers who would willingly lose this movie-filled pastime. But lo, there are still scores of bibliophiles even in this age of the omnipresent audio-visual pastimes.

They are prepared to forego these virtual entertainments to remain stuck to books. Unlike on trains, buses or ships, it's easier to concentrate on in-flight reading. It's because there are no distracting bumps while travelling by these modes of travel. However, tram or subway passengers glued to newspapers or books are a common spectacle in many Western cities.

 It is almost on compulsion that many readers turn to their half-read books while even on rugged travels.  The alternative to reading during travel by air, railway or road journeys on inter-state or inter-district buses (in Bangladesh) is sleeping out the travel time. Passing the whole travel time dozing or remaining deep asleep is another scenario. Many people have seen little of this charming world by being fully awake. It also applies to those engrossed in nonstop reading. These people belong to a different class.

To a lot of readers, availability of the right books turns out to be a problem. On the flights of almost all airlines today, various types of light periodicals and journals serve the readers. Some airlines also keep daily newspapers published from certain cities their aircraft depart from. In the absence of books, many passengers browse through them. The serious readers crave for genuine books. In this situation the airlines are helpless, so are the readers. The truth is airlines authorities are mostly incapable of meeting the intellectual demand of the readers. It is absurd to expect the airlines authorities to supply books on the passengers' demand. Like at the posh restaurants in Dhaka and Kolkata, the airways cannot supply serious novels or the latest publications of a Nobel Prize winning economist, or the poetry collection of a Pulitzer winner.

If a book-loving air or train traveller wants to pass his or her time reading throughout a journey, he or she had better bring the books along. After all, reading tastes vary. One might want to re-read a 1970s Ian Fleming or an Agatha Christie thriller during travel; while another had long dreamt of finishing a Marquez novelette during the nonstop Singapore-New York flight. It becomes a daunting task when the setting happens to be a passenger aircraft.

Lots of people, who are frequent waterway travellers, care little about books; but they are passionate readers. Why they shun books while on travel? Their answer is plain and forthright. They want to have the sensuous experiences of life.

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