Every hobby has a reason behind it. Every passion has a story.
My hobby of reading and subsequently my interest in writing stemmed from my dad’s bedtime stories that he would faithfully relate every night. He would always weave stories of kind kings who would sometimes dress up as villagers to make sure their kingdom was well-looked after, big palaces and arty thieves that stole from them managing to baffle the royal security guards. I would love his made-up stories often impatiently asking “And then what happened?” while he thought of the next twist in the tale. Sometimes he would fall asleep in the middle of the story and I would wake him up and make him finish it.
I don’t remember the first ever book that I picked up, all I knew is that once I started reading, I never stopped. I devoured Enid Blyton books like they were the delicious cucumber sandwiches, fruit cake and ginger ale she wrote about in her lovely, cosy tales. I fed on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators and I consumed Nancy Drews. I read Archies comics, Tinkle Digest and Champak magazines. I read the local magazines – Junior News and Young Times. I was unstoppable. I think my library card in school had the most books issued. I don’t know if that’s true but I did read a lot.
My dad never stopped me. In fact he was the one who encouraged me to read, read and read some more. He took me to local libraries and got membership cards for me everywhere. I was always surrounded by books. In school too I would be borrowing and lending books with friends who shared the interest.
My dad would always encourage me to write too. He would ask me to write letters to my cousins and other family members. He made me send letters to the editor, opinions and stories to those local magazines I mentioned. He had the proudest and the happiest face when they got published. I had a typewriter that I would tap away on. One that he had gotten for my sister but since she was studying in India for a couple of years, I was using it. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tappity tap….chiiiing !
My love for books was indescribable. I was so captivated by them that I didn’t want to put them down when it was time for meals or for bed. And so I would get under my snug blanket and read by torchlight until the last word had been read. And then I would hug my book and drift off to sleep with my glasses on. I often re-read my books because I just couldn’t get enough of the adventures of the Secret Seven, The Famous Five and The Five Find-Outers. They made me happy and the food described in them would make my mouth water even though I had no idea what scones, macaroons and root beer were. Was it alcohol for children? I would always wonder. My heart would skip a beat when the Five Find-Outers got into trouble with the villains or Mr. Goon and I would cheer when Fatty solved the mystery.
In my mid-teens, I had advanced into books like Agatha Christies and Harry Potter and Mills & Boon. I enjoyed all of them. I admit that I am not a very adventurous reader so I didn’t read what everyone else was reading – Sidney Sheldon, Michael Crichton, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer. They were all a mystery to me and still are. I always stayed within my comfort zone.
My sister has an equally voracious appetite for books so we had a joint membership in our neighborhood library for 11 years until it finally closed down in the summer of 2008 because people were just not reading anymore. That year became a huge turning point in my life in many ways. I had just graduated and was looking for employment. I was feeling lost in many ways and I didn’t need the loss of my happy place – the library.
Pretty soon, I realized my love for printed books weaned. I am not proud to say this but I moved on to read free online books which were mostly romance novels that had repetitive story lines. My happy place gone, I was lost. I was incredibly depressed and I read one trashy novel after another. I sometimes re-read some of my old comforting collection again, though not so much. I was impatient and irritable. Since I didn’t have an eBook reader, my laptop provided me no comfort that the feel and smell of a book does. I could no longer feel the crispy or the yellowed-with-age paper, dog-ear my pages or be able to hear what the words spoke out to me.
Since my ties with my books are so severed, I am trying my best to have the healthy relationship that I once had. It’s harder than I thought it would be because the urge to pick up a book and finish it had reduced. I hope that I can soon get back on the same familiar footing I had with them.
I now realize what power my books had on me, how much they shaped my life and how they made me who I am. I realize that your friends may come and go but books that have made a special place in your heart will never leave you. For they become part of you. Always and Forever.