Reading books is definitely an acquired interest…..an interest inspired from the will to gather more knowledge, from a lot of hype from word of mouth or from the desire to explore the world of dreams, fantasy, horror, thrill, suspense, fairytale without moving an inch off that comfy deep couch or giving up that steaming aromatic cup of frothy cappuccino.
In my sister’s and my case, the inspiration was a whole wall of colourful volumes in hardback and paperwork…..a neatly lined and indexed meticulously arranged alphabetical array by our over efficient mother on rustic wooden shelves bracketed onto a roughly painted white brick wall in our spare room/library/tv room.
It fascinated me from a young age to see the variety of literature my parents owned….from light floozy reading material like Mills and Boons, Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer to light adventure and thrills from Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, Clive Cussler and Arthur Hailey , Alostair Maclean with his sarcastic humour to name a few. John Grisham, Mario Puzo, Robert Ludlum provided more challenging reads, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, C.S,Lewis, Jane Austen and many more provided a classic angle to library…..the list was endless, the no. of volumes countless.
I never remembered ever being given toys on our birthday…our demands were met in between dates but birthdays meant a huge package that inevitably held a series of the newest books for kids in the market…..there was a time for many years that after the birthday party and games were over, we always had the few friends in a sleepover cos they would convince their parents how imperative it was for them to pour over the now anticipated and impatiently awaited annual issue of the Beezer, Dandy, Topper and Beano comic books all night with us.
The comic volumes sometimes also consisted of the Amar Katha Chitras which I loved, Tintin, Asterix, Marvel…you name it my parents got it for us…not because they were rich but because the best gift they felt they could ever give us was the gift of reading!!!!!! I often saw the look of disgust on some friends faces who were expecting the latest toys or games to appear from the confines of the wrapping paper as I tore them off one by one at top speed, when they saw “boring” books come out instead…however we yelped and squealed in joy and I think that made our parents happier than anything in their lives!!
Slowly our books started enjoying their own space on the wall of joy as the comics were replaced by Enid Blytons….comic characters replaced by the Brownies, Elves, Fairies and Goblins that I was quite convinced, lived at the bottom of our huge Baobab tree at the end of the garden . The Famous Five, Secret Seven, Saucepan Man and Moonface, the Wishing Chair and others who seemed so brave and mature and adventurous walked into our study a couple of years later at a pace that even my parents found difficult to keep up with as we devoured each story greedily, sponge-like in our absorption of fantasy.
The line of books grew in leaps and bounds, shelves falling short of space and slowly piling up on tables and in cupboards.That was the level of voracity we displayed. Readers Digest Volumes, Brittanica Encyclopaedias, Books of Knowledge, Nancy Drew, Arthur Hitchcock, Willard Price, were slowly replaced by P. G. Wodehouse and the antics of the trusty Jeeves… Sherlock Holmes and his presumed Watson as our interests merged with those of our parents with the passing years, however we never got rid of our Enids… our first love,our lifelines.
I don’t ever remember the lights being switched off before the mandatory half an hour of bedtime reading with all four of us pouring silently over our chosen storybook , respectfully acknowledging the other’s need for quiet and peace in order to transport themselves into the written plots as if they were bodily living and experiencing them themselves .
And thus was born the desire to repeat history when I had my own kids…I behaved in a similar manner with my first born, my daughter and watched in delight as she also guzzled up all that I presented to her , reminiscent of my own joy as she partook of my darling Enid’s illustrated stories with equal gusto as she did others in the following years. Today she has surpassed my own reading capacity and is the source of my knowledge of fiction/non-fiction that I am propelled to read. Similarly my boys, the elder one especially added non fiction to my table with a steady inflow of horror stories soon replaced by Ruskin Bond and his idol Khushwant Singh.
What more can a mother ask for than her children giving the written word so much importance and respect in an age when a person can no longer be identified by his handwriting, the flow of cursive writing replaced being by the cold typed word that is neither personal nor unique to anyone.Vocabularly as we knew it has disappeared , expression consisting of emoticons and initials that require guesswork to decipher.
In my mind nothing , absolutely nothing, can take the place of the smell of new paper and fresh ink and the comforting feel of a hardbound book surpasses the coldness of metallic kindles and Ipads any day.
My greatest achievement I feel has been the ability today, to stand back and watch my kids, clamber out of the car braving the rain to charge into a bookstore and gleefully emerge armed with a brown bag containing a new fragrant and much coveted piece of literature.
I wish everyone would pass on this passion to their next Gens and keep the art of readingbooks alive.