While watching Stephen Daldry’s ‘The Reader’ a few days ago, apart from absolutely loving the movie I had a strong sense of déjà vu. A lover that cannot read and likes being read to you ask? Umm yes actually. Same to same.
We sat next to each other on the train to Amritsar. Me being the loner pedant that I was at the time was writing poetry in the little hand-made book I’d bought a few hours ago at People Tree in Delhi. He was intrigued and wanted to see what I was writing. ‘Read it’ I offered. “No, will you read it aloud to me?” he almost begged. “it loses its soul when it’s read aloud” I said educationally, I’d always preferred that anything be read inside the head than out loud where decibel distractions bastardised words, feelings..
He took the little book from me and started to read. He was on the poem I had just written, all four lines of it for over 10 minutes, after which I was forced to ask him if he liked it.
“I really think you should read it aloud to me, I’d like to hear it in your voice” he said pleadingly.
That day I read aloud to him, thinking it was simply a personal quirk. Or maybe it was an excuse for him to spend more time with me I thought as we slowly became lovers. It was after we’d spent many nights and afternoons together holding each other in bed, with me reading to him from his favourite collection of poems by Robert Burns that he suddenly confided to me. “I can’t read" he said quietly, his head listening to the sounds in my chest.
“What do you mean?” I asked (rather idiotically). “I mean I’m severely dyslexic. What you read in 5 seconds will take me over 2-3 minutes, first to string together and then another minute to comprehend ” he said matter of factly. “You’re joking right, you’re pulling my leg? How on earth did you finish school?”
“Special school, with tapes and oral exams” he replied.
“But … but.. you seem to have read so much, you quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat” I said unbelieving.
“Tapes. We have tapes of everything in the UK” he said smiling.
I was flummoxed and took a moment to have my very own Tisca Chopra comprehending Darsheel Safary’s dyslexia in TZP moment.
We drifted as lovers eventually. I felt used (bah, just like the film), he felt he was growing too attached to someone he couldn’t possibly have a relationship with as she lived many thousand miles away. But we became the closest of friends. A friendship our mutual love for literature fostered. I continued to read to him though, but this time on set, in between breaks, at lunch, or when travelling back from shoot.
After he went back, he sent me his first, self written email. It was catastrophic. But to me, just the effort he must have put into those 5-6 lines was laudable and I felt hot in the face with pride.
As the years went by his emails, though very few and far between, seem to have gotten almost perfect. He’d always had a way with words and now they finally made sense. I only wonder though if it’s him writing them anymore…