• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Changing times, changing values: Old buddies at the table


I laughed. He was speaking about us. We were the friendliest competitors when it came to books. It was always, ‘Have you read this book or that novel?’ between the two of us. Everyone knew us as such. Eunice Okeke was the feminine replica of Uwem. That lady ate books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never wanted to be like her. She wasn’t a bookworm in disguise. She was.

‘I do,’ I said, at last. My mind stepped out of my living room at that instance. I remembered the many Pacesetter novels, the African Writers Series’ works of fiction that Uwem and I waded through with so much excitement even though we knew we were in some competition. It was so much fun. ‘Evbu, my love’ was my first as I stepped into teen ages. ‘Black Temple’ followed. I recalled reading Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s ‘Weep Not Child’ several times. And, so many others were to follow.

‘Someone has got to get this generation reading again… for reading is a short cut to thinking and then leading,’ Uwem informed. I thought that was insightful. Uwem’s good at linking thoughts and ideas, making very rich meaning of them.

‘This generation is solely bothered about being entertained and the extent they go about it beggars belief,’ Jide pointed out.

‘My father always says high in entertain, low in depth,’ Charles contributed.

‘Very true.’ It was Uwem, sipping from his glass of wine. ‘This is the internet, Facebook, Twitter generation,’ he added. Like in a whisper.

I found myself lost in the discussion, a bit in knots. I had no idea how it would pan out. Inter-generational comparison isn’t new. I have no illusion that it would end with us comparing our generation with this. They too would do so against the future one. In my head, I wished we could quickly drop the discussion like a piece of hot stone. There was a small voice in my head. It was all the same a bit strong. Wishing an end for it.

‘The blackberry and its pinging, the I-pad and I-phones and their likes,’ Charles added, freeing his right hand from his glass of wine. He has the most gadgets of us all; always very modern when it comes to things like that. ‘Now my nieces and nephew suffer from excessive downloads on their phones,’ he added.

‘Watching series and series of movies on their phone, gadgets, right?’ Uwem queried, raising his right brow.

‘Of course,’ Charles responded, less than a second after.

‘Mine too.’

‘They’d certainly have no time to read,’ Jide pointed out.

‘Reading gave me breadth and depth and even more and a few times I honestly wish I could say it loud and clear to all what reading has done to me,’ Uwem announced.

‘Reading is one of the few activities or rather habits of man that do not have their flipsides,’ Jide provided.

‘I can’t stay a day without reading something,’ Uwem informed. I believed him. I was sure everyone around believed him. ‘I do at least a chapter a day and in the past five years I have achieved one and a half books a month,’ he added. He seemed satisfied everyone approved of his habit.

‘I am yet to achieve that but I am always trying,’ Charles added. To be honest, I had my doubt. ‘There are months I did two books and there are months I did none.’

‘For me, reading is like freedom,’ Jide contributed. ‘It is just the beginning.’

‘Tony, what do you think about this generation and their high entertainment quotient?’

‘Well, I don’t know much about their high entertainment quotient but I will say we should cry an ocean for any mind that distances itself from a good book,’ I responded, looking sideways. First at Jide and then Charles. I didn’t know if I was in the search for their approval. Uwem heaved approvingly. It was comforting.