Rana Shubair

Go back in time

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When the frenzied fast-paced life overwhelms me, and I want things to slow down, what do I do? 

I think of a book that can transfer me back in time. A book where the characters would be riding a hansom cab and waiting for telegrams. Up till now, the two authors that offer this kind of life for me are: Arthur Conan Doyle and his anthology of Sherlock Holmes, and the incredible Agatha Christie. As soon as I start reading, I’m transferred to their atmospheres of slow-paced life. Things take their own time to happen. The murder isn’t solved instantly.  Investigations take nights and days. There’s tea time in the middle of the day. Something that can’t be missed or taken lightly. Everyone is back home for tea. I even look forward to their tea time finding comfort in the fact that I’ll see all my characters there. I might even get up and make myself a cup of tea so I can join them.  

There are the long strolls in the park or in a nearby forest. Walks uninterrupted by ringing phones. The character contemplates the plants and picks some flowers to take back home. She may stop to watch the playful squirrels from a distance, taking care not to scare them away. And if she’s lucky, a deer might show up in the distance, but she won’t tell her husband about it because he has an atrocious appetite for hunting. When she returns from her walk, she asks the servant if her husband sent a telegram. 

The solitary activity of reading allows me to take in the silence. To listen to my breath with every page. It gives me possession of the book and the story. I own the world where the characters live. I can own the characters too, the landscape and every detail. These days I read mostly on my Kindle which is very eye friendly at night. Yet there’s still the effort of extending my finger and pressing to turn the page. When I think of it, I wonder if there’s a page turner that can relieve me of that task. 

In those books, get togethers are the most anticipated form of social activities. They’re a big thing where people take time choosing their outfits, first by buying the fabric, then going to the dressmaker’s. Everything takes time, and there’s plenty of time for everybody! There’s no ding of WhatsApp messages or emails, no urgent need to keep calling to check on things, no feel of being in danger if I’ve forgotten my mobile at home. No crazy ideas running through my head: What if something happens? What if my daughter wants to ask where I keep the teabags? What if my husband wants to know what’s for dinner? What if my son falls off the stairs? What if the house catches on fire? Indispensability of phones has turned us into creatures of eccentric habits. We’re constantly overstimulated and speedy like Road Runner

 I remember the days when I lived without a phone. Life seemed pretty normal to me back then. We had to wait to hear the news, unlike being bombarded with news by the minute these days. And there was no way of finding out that someone was feeling festive, depressed or goofy.  The constant sound of notifications and ringing of our tech devices adds even more stress to our already stressed-out lives. I’m in need to relieve my worked-up brain cells. I can hear them shouting: Have mercy on us!  

With all the precariousness and instability people today are experiencing, our mental well-being needs extra care.  Since this isn’t a health article, I can just say that every person has their own way of decompressing—and reading is one of my best ways. One last reminder: Sherlock and Agatha are the best   

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