Thursday, May 03, 2012

Potty Training

Life and work had got in the way of my reading for a while. Last year was probably one of the worst in recent memory. I did read the unabridged ‘Chinaman’ (four stars out of five) and ‘Tamil Tigress’ (also four stars) in the last quarter and even managed to squeeze in ‘The Lost Dynasty: Uncovering Sri Lanka's Secret Past’ (three stars) to the list while on holiday back home. But still, it felt like a year in which my brain was just left to ferment in a dark cellar. Between work, cooking, cleaning, sleeping and playing cricket, I had no time to read.

Except the time I spend in the toilet!

Of course, a sudden urge to pee does not usually afford the time to pick a suitable book. The relief of the ‘outflow’ usually drowns – if not douses – any sensation that could be had by the inflow of print. No, but the more patient requests of the digestive system do. On top of that, sharing a house with two other – if not excessively flatulent, I’d say 'uninhibited' - bachelors means that the toilet is not my idea of a quiet refuge. It is not for the lack of cinnamon and cloves in the food we regularly ingest, but we don't exactly distill rose petals in our stomachs - so the chamber pot bears no therapeutic aroma. The last thing I would want to 'pass' in there is my precious and finite time. But one has to do what one has to do and when you do, the time can be well-spent on multitasking and doing something useful - like reading. Reading is meaningful work. If only I was an editor or proofreader by profession, I would take all my work to the loo and claim tax rebates for my toilet paper, air-freshener and sanitiser costs as work-related expenses!

Regardless of the potential tax benefits, reading is probably the perfect distraction from all that is unpleasant in the potty room and a perfect way to while away that time - unless of course one has a special talent for counting tiles or making paper cranes out of toilet paper. When you sit there, your bowels just know what to do. They don’t need special instructions or cooperation from any other organs, so the brain is free to do whatever else it wants to do.

Not only that – unless one’s diet has a very large fibre content, it is very difficult to figure out exactly when your business is done and when it is safe to pull out the paper to sign-off the contract. Left without a more compelling distraction, the mind gets preoccupied in an infinite loop of the useless and mundane question of “am I done?” With a book in hand, you leave the mind to ponder greater mysteries – allowing the abdominal muscles to take their time. Once you remember to look up after a chapter or two, you are not only left assured of the completion of your business and relieved of your duty, but also feel mentally stimulated - though perhaps sensually numbed!

So I have dumped all excuses to read 20 books this year!