In the Iranian film 'Blackboards' by Samira Makhmalbaf, the scene you remember the most is of an old Kurdish shepherd grazing his sheep high up in the mountains, stopping the teacher and asking him if he can read a letter for him. He slowly pulls out a carefully folded piece of paper from his pocket. His face opening up in a smile hearing that his son is doing well though he cannot visit him now. A face still smiling when the teacher continues on his way, suspecting the truth, that the son is perhpas in jail, like so many other young men from this region. (But kindness, more important than truth...)
You read about postmen in the Himalayas who walk long distances, climb up and down hills, cross rivers, to carry letters to remote villages. How they also serve as the reader and writer of letters to people there, and are much awaited, like family. A job you would’ve loved to do, a role you would’ve loved to play? Long moments of walking alone, and then connection and meaning, and words, and then a walking alone again. A pendulum of perfect balance.
‘The Reader’ was heartbreaking because it was all about reading and being read to. You walked around wounded for a long time after that.
So great was your need to read to someone once upon a time that you walk into an Old Age home one day, and ask the Mother Superior whether any of the old people there would like to be read to. She says yes, but then they try not to let them interact too much with young people because that would make them remember the children who abandoned them a long time ago, and the carefully constructed living-in-the-present would come apart in mindless, endless grief.
While you are talking to her, an old man comes in to ask if his son’s money order has come. His son hasn’t sent anything in years, nor bothered to come to see his father or call him or write to him. But this is a ritual the old man follows every day to retain what is left of his 'sanity', and the kind nuns indulge him.
You walk out, old, abandoned and bent, you do not walk around offering your reading anymore.
You remember the teachers in 'Blackboards', walking around with knowledge that no one wants to learn. What is worse, having riches that no one wants, or having nothing to give?