I always felt that when I spent even an hour in the company of a good book; it is actually worth in gold. Books became the main attraction almost since my elementary days.
The progress from picture-based books to Word heavy books was a slow and interesting transition for me. I attribute my love for books to my brother who would share his Amar Chitra Katha collection with his siblings.
He was cautious about handing over his books for a long time. He didn’t give us the book, until we proved to him, that we would care for it as much as he did for them.
We, my siblings and I enjoyed the colorful array of stories set to such beautiful conversation bubbles. Our knowledge of mythology was the gift of Amar Chitra Katha books.
Not to forget that local variety of comics magazines like Champak, Tinkle, Gokulam. Among them, Chandamama magazine came under easy reader list. Later in my adult life, I got an opportunity to intern at Chandamama, which was like a dream come true. The point is that there were so many books to keep the mind busy.
My exposure to so many comics could be the strategy for my brother’s minding us. It was easier to mind us with a book; than with a risky outdoor game. So that way we all remained out of trouble from my mother.
Yet, I was finding it difficult to manage my school works when there was such joy in reading. I actually lived for the summers. In my fourth standard, I was exposed to the abridged version of William Shakespeare’s plays as retold by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb titled “Tales of Shakespeare“. I was starry-eyed reading those plays.
By the time I was in the fifth standard, I was reading Famous Five and Secret Seven chapter books by Enid Blyton. As a product from a convent education, naturally, my exposure to British Writers happens to be very strong.
Almost all agreeable (as per government rule) British Writers’ works were showcased in the Anglo-Indian syllabus. I had begun spending all my waking time with books. Until I discovered the small library in my school, while I was in my eighth grade.
It is was in this collection, that I read about an Egyptian physician traveling to Greece and back. It was like showing a thirsty person an oasis in a desert of confused curricular testing. I enjoyed being in the oasis, nibbling dates and drinking cool coconut milk, while living a life of royalty.
No subject remained prohibited – attitude towards reading expanded my mind but sadly I couldn’t express it. I read everything from profound to trash once I finished middle school. Any book that made me think for myself, it would be such a wonderful thing, that I would want to read the book again and again.
Almost around the same time, my paternal uncle’s personal collection of books arrived at the family house. Among them, there was an unabridged translation of the Arabian Nights, which became my flop over and read ‘kinda-book’, while the homework stood pending.
I became an eccentric loner in slow progress since the vibrant world of the letters made reality seem so lukewarm. I became friends with books and especially those books, that spoke of strong characters, who kept cheering themselves, despite difficulties in their life.
The pleasure of just reading merely for the pure joy – Nirmal Anand (in Hindi it means ‘unadulterated happiness’) – that was enough for me. My passion for books has become a permanent part of my personality and memories of my childhood.