Having served Arts and Science Colleges for 24 years, I joined ‘The Modern Rationalist’ being edited by Asiriyar. I see him as a great lover of books. I should in fact say books love him. His passion for books is astonishing indeed. I am sure in his life time of 90 years so far, he has read thousands of books. If this seems an exaggeration, one should observe at what an incredible speed he finishes reading a book.
His ‘Lovable life’ column in The Modern Rationalist’ is the best specimen for his intensive and extensive reading habit. Especially his tips for general health care, mental health, behavior therapy, human bondage and essential etiquette are all extremely beneficial to everyone. This segment has been published as exclusive books. Reading these volumes itself is an inexplicable pleasure to treasure. They give us Asiriyar’s panoramic views of human life.
Does he merely skim books? No. He reads cover to cover without skipping a sentence. I have seen sentences underscored by him in books on most of the pages. He does not just read and taste; he chews and digests every book. And he reads fast. He reads all sorts of books; books on hundreds of subjects under the Sun. Most of us avoid books on complex subjects. We find many books difficult to understand. But Asiriyar reads patiently even the most obscure contents in some of the books. Certainly amazing!
Asiriyar frequently quotes from gems in English literature. He cites lines from John Ruskin’s ‘Unto the Last’. He describes characters of Daniel Defoe. He refers to Robinson Crusoe, Romantic Age poets, Victorian Age poets, Shakespeare, Milton – the list would never end. He has commendable mastery in Indian literature too.
Besides such classics, he reads newspapers and magazines with the same passion. He has a photographic memory which is enviable. He remembers accurately what he wrote and what he read long ago.
One should watch him delivering lectures. He keeps material ready for quick reference. He quickly picks out clippings from news papers and uses them to support his views and arguments. His love for books and passion for reading have moulded him as an unparalleled orator. Books have made him not only a ready man but also an exact man.
People who buy books merely to show-off and keep them unread on shelves must learn from Asiriyar to read at the earliest that which is bought. People who pretend to read heavy classics must also hang their heads in shame. Asiriyar teaches us the art of reading and increasing the power of retention in memory.
During every foreign tour Asiriyar hunts books. At the risk of missing his flight he keeps excavating book stores at the air-port too. He bought Nelson Mandela’s “PRISON LETTERS” during one of his visits to the U.S. and upon his return he wrote about it for ‘Lovable Life’ column in our ‘The Modern Rationalist’. Just see how he makes use of his books for articles in periodicals edited by him.
As a voracious reader he keeps enriching his vocabulary too in Tamil and English. I learnt to use the word “adumbrated” from Asiriyar’s writings. I had never ever used it before. Extensive reading of Tamil classics too makes him coin new words and usages. One such word coined by him is “thondaram” to mean “benevolence”.
It would be quite apt to call Asiriyar’ A mobile library’ because he himself is a storehouse of knowledge. So, we can enrich our knowledge merely by reading all that he has written so far. There is no need to enroll ourselves as members in renowned libraries.
Asiriyar has read the biographies and autobiographies of many great men in the world. Besides, complex writings of Lenin, Karl Marx, Ingersoll and many others. In today’s world of information technology, he reads a lot on various web sites by changing with the times and moving to the next stage, from the printed words to digitized words. The present generation youngsters who stay away from the habit of reading should learn from him the great art of reading. Many people around us today are the source of our perspiration. Asiriyar is the source of inspiriation.
Writer Norman Cousins once said – “He who knows, knows that he knows, is wise – follow him!” We should also follow Asiriyar. Novelist P.D.James said –
“Read, read, read,
Till the eyes are weak and dim!
Read, read, read,
Till the brain begins to swim!!”
Asiriyar’s face flashes in my mind, whenever I recall those lines.