Like most kids, Sponge and I loved stories, we had three generations of loud women in our house, all of whom would turn into great storytellers by night. It was magic, or maybe that was the effect of those stories.
I was almost 8 years old when a cousin of mine gave us a carton full of his childhood reading books. The carton was overflowing with books of all kinds – some faded, some never read, some with missing front covers. I remember picking up a Tinkle and feeling an almost instant attraction. The comic was wonderful – funny, imaginative stories and all those striking caricatures. I began reading page after page, then comic after comic.
Very soon we had our own Tinkle subscription with the newest editions reaching our doorstep every month and sooner than that, the two little girls in the house were quarrelling over who gets to read the book first. My mom found the best solution – increased our subscriptions by one, so now each month we had two books to read instead of one. That made us happy and mom was happy too. We had found the joy of reading.
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. Jane Austen
Amar Chitra Kathas were not far behind – the Jataka tales, the mythological characters and the collection of bedtime stories. Then came the Enid Blytons and the Roald Dahls; in those budding stages of my journey as a book reader, they took me to worlds which were very different from my own; their books made me think, made me dream, made me want to read more and more. I remember visiting the Chocolate Factory and going up the glass elevator with Charlie and falling in love with Charlotte along with all the other animals on the farm. Charlotte’s Web was the first ever book-to-movie adaptation I watched.
Matilda completely unnerved me, the peculiar theme of the story and the bold narration. I remember wondering if people like her really existed in the world – this was what I didn’t realize then as food for thought. While the other kids were fox-trotting with Nancy Drew and Hardy boys (two great children’s books I never got hooked to), I had moved on to the crime/detective/mystery novels of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes both hit it off with me instantly; the former, the polite gentleman with his French talking, French manners and his signature moustache; and the latter, the brilliant detective with his quick wit, uncanny insights and great sense of humour.
I can safely say that it was at this point in my life that I was proudly proclaiming myself a bookworm – an avid book reader I’d explain to my friends. I was reading all kinds of books by then. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was the book that sparked the first ideas of feminism in me – of which I’d go through different phases in my life. Stargirl was my first girl crush – she had me awestruck.
Books are said to be magical right, I like to think so. My first tryst with real magic was however in the form of a series of fantasy books from this British author called J.K. Rowling. Ring any bells? No? Does the name Harry Potter sound familiar? (If not, then you might as well bonk yourself in the head because you’re no bookworm!) The Harry Potter series and I got along like a house on fire, as with most readers. Any serious Potterhead will need no explanation about this.
Greek mythology came to me flying on unicorn wings in the form of Percy Jackson. I was enthralled, that semester I’d show-off to all my friends by naming all the different Greek gods, goddesses that I had memorized and also explaining what each of them stood for.
During the movie adaptations of the HP books, I had begun pondering over the age-old war between books and movies. Although a part of me felt few of the movies of HP were better than the books (traitor?), and although I felt obliged to choose books over movies for a short period of time, I now feel that they have equal standing with me. I love them both equally. Even though I still find a few movie adaptations cringe-worthy.
I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
As I grew older, I found Dan Brown and his lucrative writing – following Robert Langdon in his adventures and suddenly I was a little girl again. I also found my first favourite Indian author Amish Tripathi, who rekindled my passion for mythology with his own touch of fiction, expertly interwoven. The Shiva trilogy, especially all those shlokas and the parallel way the stories ran with the actual ones, left me wanting for more.
A little later would come Christopher C Doyle with his ultra-modern writing style, way ahead of all those Indian authors who in my view, were just getting by. I found his books just when my interest in the epic Mahabharatha was at its peak, the stories I’d listened to and read as a child. To my pleasant surprise, his books were for the most part, fictional and set on a serious note, I mean the darker parts of the Mahabharata. But did I enjoy reading his books!
I remember constantly getting stuck with chapters of Oliver Twist and I realize books are like apples, you have to pick up the right ones at the right time. So even though I love Shakespeare and his poetry is very dear to me, I limit myself to Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway for now. Last summer I went on a blind date with Stephen King and I can already feel a romance budding. His lucid writing shoots up my pace of reading and his thoughtful stories intrigue me.
Books are like apples, you have to pick up the right ones at the right time.
I have a Goodreads account, it lets me keep track of the books I’ve read and I also take up reading challenges – to read a certain number of books every year. It may seem a little obnoxious but for an engineering student, goal setting is a part and parcel of life. I think it is a nifty tool for all bookworms.
There is magic all around us. We feel it in evolution, in meditation, in laughter. Some people even find magic in each other. There is also a certain kind of magic in words connecting with each other and filling a page with prose or poetry, these words create magic, much more than what we as individuals are capable of. For me, it all began with that magical carton given to me when I was a kid, now I know it was fate knocking at my door. I found my magic in my books.