Friday, March 25, 2011

My companion for life

When you sit to write about a topic you are deeply passionate about, where do you begin? There seems to be so much to write about.Well, I talk about something that fascinates me...books! Just as a foodie salivates at the thought of eating, so does my mind at the idea of reading. The mind immediately conjures images of rows and rows of books of varied thickness, different writers, different genres of writing! My secret fantasy is to remain locked inside huge book stores like the Crossword, Odyssey etc. and lie sprawled amongst all those books...all mine and keep reading and reading. I don’t think I’d be tired of the activity ever.

Where did this journey begin? I have no recollection. The farthest that I can throw my mind back is to reading the Chandmamas when I must be 7-8 years of age . We kids not only read those interesting stories but also remembered the names of the artists who used to so painstakingly paint each of those pictures within. Gradually, that interest spread to comics. The Amar Chitra Kathas were devoured with gusto even before they lost their new smell. This time it was not only the artist but details like printer, publisher…all were memorized!

There is an interesting story about our reading the Amar Chitra Kathas. For our vacation, being in Rourkela, we had a long distance to travel to our native in AP. We had no other means of travel other than the Bokaro Express. The berths used to be made of wooden planks. 'Bedding' consisting of bed sheets for us all was one of the regular features of travel. We kids weren’t fazed by the hard berths or the long 24- hour travel because at the beginning of our journey, we were each given a rupee and asked to go and buy a book each. Three comic books amongst the three of us! Those books were read and quickly exchanged and exhausted before the end of the journey. A little later when I was in my teens, we had the Konark Express and imagine what! It had a built-in library where you could keep borrowing books throughout your journey. That sure made the travel tremendously exciting!

Well, the appetite was whetted and then there was the fact that we lived in the Steel Township and as any township is, we were a close group, socializing across languages and cultures. The movie halls numbered only 4 in all for a population of about 4 lakh! So one can imagine the interest that the people had for movies. Moreover movies were considered ‘bad'. Only selected movies, and that too only after passing parents' certification, were allowed to be watched. But I don’t recall ever longing to watch movies. Perhaps 2-3 movies in a year were all we watched. Well, I seem to digress...the point I am trying to make is that with no other source of entertainment (no TVs those days either) all that we kids were left with were those HUGE playgrounds to play on (quite enviable and unimaginable for the kids of metros these days) and books to read. Most of us were voracious readers and none of the township parents had dispensable income those days. The books were therefore preciously preserved and then exchanged for more with neighbors and friends.  And most of the time, they would find a way back to the owner though a little dog-eared. There were some fights over the condition of books, I remember, if returned torn.

The first few baby steps with the Amar Chitra kathas led to Archie’s, Tintin, Phantom and then my first novel—of course, Enid Blyton—the blue dragon, the green dragon, the yellow and then the red series indicating that that particular Enid Blyton was for the elder kids. Hardy Boys followed, and then Nancy drew. Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Hailey, and who can forget the most important book for the teenage girl—the Mills & Boons series... we girls used to be hopelessly lost and come out starry-eyed after reading those Mills & Boons. The classics were not spared with the reading of Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Pearl.S.Buck and then later 'adult' books like Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon. The passion for reading was such that the newspaper that the samosa- seller used to wrap the samosas in wasn’t thrown away until we ensured that there really wasn’t anything worth reading on it.

In the later years, I read Taslima Nasrin, Kushwant Singh, John Grisham, Salman Rushdie and even Shobbaa De (!!!)

The books that have made an impact are:
1, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
2. Roots by Alex Hailey
3. The Good Earth by Pearl.S.Buck
4. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
5. Carpetbaggers By Harold Robbins

After marriage I was again in a small township with its own infrastructure and you guessed it… with its own well -equipped library! For someone as passionate about reading as I, that was a God-sent gift. My job required me to travel 3 kms and with no traffic, a 10 min drive. If I left home at 8 am, I was back by 4:30 pm. And that left me plenty of time to read…at least one novel a week.

In Hyderabad, I travel 60 kms each day to and from work taking around 4 1/2 hours to travel and very little time to read and enjoy books like I used to. And for the first time in my life I am distanced from a regular supply of books from a library. Human beings adapt and that’s what I did too.Books were replaced by online reading. All the classics are available online and that’s how I finished reading ALL short stories and novels written by my favorite author— the inimitable PG Wodehouse!

These days I have discovered the world of blogs and find many interesting blogs to read...each of them displaying such different genres of writing. The skewed laptop screen has replaced the book in bed and I curl up with it now reading all those blogs.The medium has changed but the habit stays on...hopefully never to be cured. :)

PS:I still have with me all those Amar Chitra Kathas  read in my childhood. :)


Unknown said...

All what u write seems s if i am living my yester years again. Quite similar. I too was broguht up in a Defence factory estate. We used to read what came to our hands, Amar chitra katha, indrajal comics, encyclopedia britanicca (20-30 volumes).. all we read cutting our play time too. after school books when we sleep we used to keep the books inside our chadhars and with a torch on.. for my father these extra books were the biggest enemy. Mom used to catch us but then she used to leave us realsing what we were reading. Opening fathers transistor radio and hes time piece used to fun, challenge and adventure too.. train journey even now i really long to go in. kerala exp the 36 hrs all stations and even trees and landmarks all very clear in mind!! calculating speed of train based on the junction point or the sound that its wheel makes, were all fun indeed.. the writings bring back fond and your inner meories that you would otherwise have preserved deep in your self. noone today may have the same feelings and thrills to see the step by step improvement and revolution of technology .. songs, CD/tapes, internet, mobile .. really feel great to see there are so many like you who have these preserved inside them.. Blogs are really great.. Do keep writing.. try writing books .. small stories books or short stories like Tagore for children.. you are remarkable in your expressions. if you wish contact me at Best wishes.. Jay