“Reading” versus “Listening”: An observation of Indians’ habits

By : Kollengode S Venkataraman

Here are my general observations about the habits of Indians in “reading” versus “listening” context:

  1.  Indians in general —  even educated Indians  —  are not serious readers of books.  By “serious readers,” I am referring to readers who have the temperament to plough through difficult subjects unrelated to their narrow field of specialties, but subjects on politics, economics, sociology, history, religion and comparative religion, spirituality.  These are abstract topics.  They are reluctant investors in books.  With India’s 30% Anglicized and semi-Anglicized population (this is 300 million), when an English book written by an Indian author and published in India sells, say, 50,000 copies, they declare victory!!!!  It is more pathetic in regional languages.  It is the ground reality.

  2.  But these Indians, whether in India or abroad, may nor be good “readers,” but are good listeners.  This is understandable for deeply held cultural reasons.  All our Puranas, even Mahabharata, Yoga Vasistha, and Upanishads, etc were all addressed to people gathered under a tree or around a Sabha.  Even the great Buddha taught his followers in talks in Banares, etavana, Deer Parks, and other places, always tailoring his language to the needs and intellectual backgrounds of his audiences.  This tradition continues to this day.  Just see the thousands of people of all kinds of background sitting through 1 to 2 hours of pravachans, or listening to politicians in rallies.


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