Tuesday, February 27, 2007

History Of My Reading Habits

Somewhere back in 1993:

A new entrant to Loyola School, Jamshedpur in the sixth grade the only things that I took a liking to was the Reading Class conducted by Mrs. Zareen Modi and the junior school library run by Mrs. Dhamodiwalla (besides of course the mathematics class by Mrs. Devi where I used to score highest in mental maths and she used to spread my fame in other classes, with a little exaggeration on my part). The Reading class had this colored books with lots of words and we had to do things with them. Each color was indicative of your grade of skill with english and even after joining a few weeks late I had almost caught up with the boy at the highest color level.

Anyways, without meandering and preening, what held my fascination most was the Junior School Library. The first day I entered the library my eyes must have popped out at seeing so many books and comics (you need that, right??) Started off with those Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Famous Five, Five Find-Outers by Enid Blyton, Three Investigators by Alfred Hitchcock and the related genre. Indulgent as my librarian was, she used to come early to school at 7:15am and school did not start till 7:40am. Imagine what I used to do. Go for the comics of course! Asterix, Tintin were the clear favourites (can't recall much else) and then again during the recess, while the other boys of my class devoured the snack that mom packed for me, I did the same to those books in the library.

Add to it I went to this big school to learn fine arts (painting for the uninitiated) where I met up with the Bobbsey Twins another Enid Blyton creation, although did not spend much time with them.

The Addiction Grows Towards Its Peak

Next year I graduated to high school and a larger library, and as if it was ordained that my addiction to books was to grow, so did my librarian. What more could I have asked for. For the first I laid my hands on Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Jeffery Archer, John Grisham, Robin Cook, Mario Puzo and more, not to forget Mills & Boons. So you see, my horizons kinda broadened and my eyesight kinda lessened. And the indulgence of my librarian kept growing likewise. Where others were allowed to take home only a single book per week during the "library class", I was especially privileged to take home another during the weekend. The affliction reached a cresendo in the 10th grade, when I still remember there was this one week when I read seven novels. Wow! I wish I could do that again. I generally used to start reading right after lunch. My favourite setting was the chair in the balcony on the first floor. And then in falling dusk and gently flowing warm breeze from the river nearby as I became oblivious to all my surroundings. Imagine the sight as I inch closer to the actual paper of the book in failing light to see better, when all I needed to do was get up and go inside my room, or better still stand up and put on the light in the balcony.

The Sad Decline

With the competitive landscape in India to do good in the field of study which allows for only rational and logical conclusions, I too got embroiled in the "rat race". Naive that I was, I hoped that giving up my reading habit would somehow help me in concentrating better. Anyways, during those two years reading came down to almost zero but due also to the senior school library where all the books were stale acads. The only book that I remember picking up during that time was Lolita.

During this time the only reading of any note that I did was Shakespeare (The Merchant Of Venice, Hamlet), the poems prescribed in the curriculum of which I remember the titles Byzantine, Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, La Belle Dame Sans Mercy, the short stories collection.

The Gradual Return and The Happy Maturity

Finally, as everybody does, I got through some undergraduate course and landed up where the library had non-existent sense of what a novel is. But thanks to this, I turned my attention to what was available. And the world of non-fiction, newspapers and magazines exploded in front of me. Spending hours on a daily dose of The Economic Times became the norm. Besides interaction with people from diverse location brought better perspectives. Long having outgrown the Sidney Sheldons and the Jackie Collins, I shifted to Arthur Hailey, JRR Tolkien, Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawkings, John Gribbin, besides other couple of book wonders like Arundhati Roy, Chetan Bhagat, Jhumpa Lahiri not to mention the really good ones like Gregory David Roberts and the regular management guru speak. Yeah, I know I am dropping names but I did read all those. Ok. There are people like you who have read more, but then there are people like this one friend of mine. She had this huge trunk, mind you I did not say suitcase, full of books that she carried with her when she came to college. But then there were people who hadn't read a single thing their whole life.

Also here, I must thank somebody for that quirk of fate due to which I spend six years in undergraduate college, which essentially gave me more time for reading and realisation of what to read. I uphold this habit of mine amongst the achievements of my life. People define their aim in life through lots of things, I define it through this: "If at any point of life I want to buy a book to read, I should not fall short of resource and not fall short of time to read it." Amen to that!

Today I am happy to be in a position where I can and do buy books on my whim and fancy. As a matter of fact I have bought without having finished the ealier ones bought.

Also my two-pence recommendation for anyone who wants to start reading, not having read before at all and fascinated by the world of books that a bibliophile seems to descend into. If you don't have patience, read "The Love Story" by Eric Segal. If you think you have patience, read "The Client" by John Grisham. And if you like reading also read the other one.

Update: Loss Of Memory

In all this that I have said above, I forgot to mention where the addiction actually started. It all started with the genre of Raj Comics (Nagraj, Super Commando Druv, Doga,...), Diamond Comics (Chacha Chaudhary, Billu, Pinki, ...), Manoj Comics (Bhokal, Inspector Manoj, Hawaldar Bahadur...) along with tinkle, wisdom... Phew!!! Can't even recall half the stuff that I used to read at that time in junior school as a kid.

This loss of memory: mea maxima culpa.