Why do you read, she asked?

An innocent enough question, it seemed, on the surface, but the glint in her eye made me feel I’d better make it good.

‘Oh boy!’ I thought, but out loud I said, ‘Well, book reading is for me the same as mind reading, or atleast the closest I’ll get to it. I get to glimpse into the mind of another, develop perceptions and make judgements as they would, put on a different set of mind filters, and see the world tainted by their life experience. Why do you?’

‘Well, it lets me be someone else.’


Dont get me wrong. Despite the lack of sophistication on my part, I enjoy an intellectually stimulating discussion just as much as the next guy, but sometimes the vibe is just wrong enough for that kind of exchange.

You don’t want what was a light and playful interaction suddenly get bogged down by the sap of sentimentalism, the remains of what came before encased for posterity in the amber for future dusting off and drunk reminiscing and posthumous analysis.

On cue, a fly buzzed around our drinks.

She absent-mindedly flapped a hand at the intruder, determined to carry this conversation right into the graveyard of boredom.

‘I have a tough job, and a boring job. Reading, for a little while, helps me forget all my problems and life circumstances,’ she offered.

Oh, so she has problems. I didn’t know whether I should take it as a good sign or not. Only problem I had was figuring out how to steer this sinking ship away from the shark-infested deep and straight onto the nearest viable land mass.

A snarky comment about her being from an Ivy league university with honours coalesced in my mind but caught itself somewhere on the way to my lips. Why ruin what was a halfway good evening, by any standards? I gave it my best shot,

‘Oh, I understand. Sometimes I wish I can just leave this all behind and just go away for an indeterminate amount of time. I guess vacations are hardwired into the human psyche. We’d all kill each other otherwise.’

‘But we do kill each other all the time. Humans, I mean.’

The way she said it hinted at her considering herself not being in the same category as ‘those humans’. The barest hint of misanthropy. This girl gets more and more interesting.

She continued, ‘What do you think about this. Why are humans like that?’

The slightest instinctual response surfaced from the depths of my nervous system warning me of danger. The uncomfortable feeling was familiar: we were going in the direction of politics. Most people wouldn’t really call this a political question, but to be fair, those are the same people who find themselves in heated rhetorical arguments with random strangers regarding the direction the government should take in response to latest changes in regimes halfway around the world.

Occupational hazard of being a writer, I guess. People want to know what you think about things. What they fail to clarify, is that they want to hear what you think, so then they can tell you what they think. Tedium. Bedlam. Blahville.

‘Well, inasmuch what I have seen, people (Humans, she corrected. I made a mental note to ask her if she was vegan later).

‘Humans, I said pointedly, ‘also have an incredible capacity to love. (Yuck. I hated using that word without pointing out context, but desperate times and all that. So colour me green, I’m jaded).

‘For example, right now, you and me sitting here having the most fascinating discussion, and we didn’t even know each other when the day started. Humans connect, develop relationships. People love pets like their own children. Heck, our social instinct is so strong, we even have relationships with inanimate objects. For instance, there is this pair of tweezers I use that I’m very attached to. And I know, when the time comes to replace them, they’ll take a little part of my soul with them when I throw them in the trash. It’s lucky I’m so thick-skinned, or else I’d be heartbroken for those tweezers.’

I was surprised it came out so congruently.

She giggled and pulled her hair behind her right ear, giving me a glimpse of her jugular. The flush of her skin was very obvious.

This part of the mating dance over, the next logical step presented itself. I moved closer…

Sometimes it feels like life is a dancefloor. You ask a partner for a dance, both link together and calibrate to each other, feeling each other out, gingerly at first, and becoming more confident with each step. You weave in and out around other dancers doing the same, the music acting like the governing principle, God forbid lest someone jiggle and shake out of time, and when the song is over, you thank your partner and sit back down at your table, looking around for the next victi..partner for you to dance with.

And in the end, the dance you choose depends on what music is playing.

Why do we dance? Why indeed?

Yash Chheda



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