I’m back… for now. I was feeling lazy and uninterested the past few weeks. Did not feel like writing or reading or working… All I could do and did was laze around. Having mom over for a month did not help things. Or rather, it helped a lot more in making me lazy 😉 After a month long of pampering, fattening and resting, it took me a couple of weeks to get back to normal during which time I was obsessed with finishing the 1000+ paged Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Finished reading it. Needed a quick fix thriller so read up two of JD Robb books and here I am. 🙂
There were great things, good things and not-so-good things that happened over the course of the last couple of months and it won’t be a lie if I said its been a roller coaster ride. This post isn’t about those things. This post is about the first love of my life – books. “Why do I read books?” – Uma tagged me with this more than a month ago. This question has been popped by everyone in my family and friends circles who have seen my insanity/obsession with books since childhood. Instead of answering that question in my otherwise to-the-point nature, I’ll take the liberty to talk anything and everything about my relationship with books.
I think it was in 2nd standard or so that my obsession with books began. My dad brought Tinkle home one day. Within 15 minutes I was done reading cover to cover. Started pestering my dad to get me more Tinkles. Fortunately, our then neighbors had loads of Tinkles with them. Borrowed and devoured them within days.
During the same time I think that we were allowed to take a book home for a week from our school library. Hundreds of fairy tales, Enid Blyton books (especially the Five Find Outers series, Enchanted Tree series, and all of the other hundred books of hers), followed by Nancy Drew and then my ever favorite Sidney Sheldon as I reached high school. Meanwhile at home, Tinkle continued to pile up in my book shelf. I did not like Shikari Shambu, Tantri the Mantri and Kalia the crow much..so skipping those, the rest of it would be done in 5 minutes. Tinkle Digests, other books by Amar Chitra Katha, Gokulam n a bit of Women’s era and Femina in between filled up the bookshelf. And I still have my collection although a few were stolen (borrowed but never returned, claiming never to have borrowed in the first place) by an evil character who I’ll call she-who-must-not-be-named.
Be it school/college books or story books, my books were the neatest. My handwriting was the best in the class…until kindergarten ;). My books never had a single tear, dog ears, water spillage or torn binds. The books remained perfectly neat from start of the year to the end. Anyone who borrowed my book had to promise not to tear, spill anything or dog ear. I was a nice kid who never picked fights with anyone, unless they did any/all of the above. Something as small as an extra pencil/pen mark on my books would come to my notice immediately and an argument would follow. You don’t want to know what treatment I gave people who did or tried to steal my story books. Its enough to say I was/am very, very possessive of my books. I’m not that possessive about my husband even. I even go to the extent of repairing the tears on borrowed books (from friends or the library) with gum tapes and fevicol – I just can’t bear them torn and dirty. I had my books from KG class to 10th maintained in the best shape possible but unfortunately had to give it away in PUC to make way for new books. Broke my heart. Although I loved my school/college books as much as my novels and story books, I did not read them as religiously as I did the latter. I can still hear my parents shouting, “If you read your study books as you did your novels…blah blah blah..” 🙂
There was a government library just opposite our Iane in Bantwal. Got myself a subscription there but realized that I had read most books they had. But I still went there at least once a week just to smell the books… mmm… I started reading Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock then. Don’t know if it was fortunate or unfortunate that it closed after a few weeks. Got myself a subscription in another library in B.C.Road. Oh, that one although small, was heaven. The librarian there was a kind gentleman in his 70’s and he “knew” his books. He suggested some nice ones, like Stephen King, after getting to know my taste and I loved so many of them. And yes, the smell there was heavenly too.
Every vacation we traveled to different places. During all those car/bus/train/plane rides, I had to have my books with me. No bookstore in the vicinity ever went unvisited. Parents thought it better to have me reading a book than spend the same time sleeping, which worked just fine with me :D. Whenever we came to Bangalore, which was like once in 3 months or so, we *had* to visit Sapna Book house (there was no Landmark and Crossword near where we stayed and I did not even know if they even existed back then). I could spend days there and always loaded myself with all the books I wanted. Of course there were arguments with dad then -“We can’t carry so many books. Leave some now, buy them next time”. This would repeat each time. I loved the bookstore so much that I remember telling my parents that I’ll be a salesgirl there – I could get to be around books all the time, read the books as soon as they hit the bookstore, spend hours there without anyone telling me to get out, and get paid for spending my time there. Getting me outta the store was a chore for my parents and a moment of dread for me. But I made sure I spent every moment well while in there.
It was when I first came to Bangalore on work that I found the pirated books at every street corner. With my own money to spend, parents not around to discourage me from buying pirated books, you can guess what I did. Although I try as much as possible to buy original ones at stores that sell original ones firsthand or secondhand, there are times when I *crave* for a book. I have to get myself a book and the handiest and most convenient find is the street side book cart. If there is one unlawful activity I indulge in, it is buying pirated books.
Since childhood I have given my parents a lot of grief over books – the breakfast/lunch/dinner times always began with an argument between dad and me. I had to have my book with me for even a morsel to reach from my plate to my mouth while he did not want me to mix food and book. At times when he won, I have finished my meals within seconds – I had to get back to my books. The same was the case in the night when lights were put off. Since I wasn’t supposed to put on the lights again, I read the books under the blanket with a torch light. It was after a very long time he realized why the battery of the torch got over so soon each time. My visits to the loo were monitored so that I did not carry any books inside with me. And I always came up with innovative ways to sneak books in with me 😀 Once I started working, the only time I got to read my novels, was in the loo. And I still do. The fights over books were one of the constants when I was growing up. I wanted to carry it when we went for the annual car festival (teru) – there was almost two hours’ time before everyone would be served meals, I could spend it reading. But my parents did not allow that. “Meet your friends…Sit there and chant instead… watch people..” was all I got. And then the times when I wanted to take it to school, so I could read in between classes. I did sneak books on a couple of occasions though. I had equally crazy friends who understood my “love” for books since they were too. Those were the days 🙂
When I was to get married, the first thing I told my then fiance (now husband) was that I have a habit of reading books in the loo and that I am not giving up this habit for anything. And if he can’t live with that, he better learn to. Imagine my surprise when I found out later that he loves books too (although his choice of books are very different from mine). I was further shocked to learn that he too read books in the loo!! Yes, marriages are made in heaven. 😀 My dream house has a mini library in the bathroom. I imagine a jacuzzi with warm water, lighted scented candles, soft music in the background and the juiciest thriller/mystery novel in my hand… Wow!! That’s heaven. Can’t wait to get there some day 😀 A windy hilltop or a cool riverside would do well too 🙂 But until I get there, I’ll do with my sofa, my bed.
So coming to the question why I read books. I always say its for entertainment. You know, like how some people enjoy movies, cricket, mobiles, soap operas and video games. Since I don’t indulge in any of those, its books for me. But in reality its more than that. Books were my first companions when I grew up, my best friends and my comfort cushion of sorts. A book comforts me like no other, a few minutes with a book cheers me beyond anything else I can think of. When I am reading, I am actually inside the book, going with the characters wherever they are going, looking at everything as if I am with them. I like the scenes unfold before my eyes, not in the black and white of the pages I am reading, but in full color like a movie. And the names are pronounced/read like I want them. The sets, characters, their clothes are as per my imagination, mostly just as they are in the book. One of those reasons I prefer books over movies. I skip most movies that are adapted from books. I don’t like the feeling I feel when a book-based movie is badly made (like the Harry Potter series), not being true to the book, the actors don’t match the characters in the book, etc. It just spoils the magic and kinda squeezes out the essence from the book. The only movie which I preferred over the book was “To kill a mocking bird” because I couldn’t bring myself to finish the book. After HP, I promised myself that if I won’t ever watch a movie before I read the book. I still haven’t watched the Bourne series and LOTR – I’m yet to read those books.
Sometimes I feel jealous about the authors who spin the magic in their books and sometimes I am annoyed with some for writing crappy things. I feel my time on earth is not enough to finish all the books I want to read… I am also a bit into occult sciences out of curiosity.. I used to do a bit of palmistry after I laid my hands on one of the palmistry books. A bit of handwriting analysis as well, for a while. I did not get any subjects for trying out hypnotism 😉 Got into the other stream of nonfiction after meeting my hubby – all those “Men are from Mars…”, “Why men lie and women cry”, “The tipping point”, etc. I liked them too. Any book with a quick pace is a good read for me. But I stick to English books only. I don’t know why I haven’t felt the same connection with Kannada books.
All that said, I’m not crazy like a few crazy friends of mine who pre-order books and *have* to read a new book like a “first day first show” movie. I just have to have a continuous supply of books and that’s it. I don’t care if its old or new, first hand or second hand, original or pirated. Yes, love in some occasions, is blind 😀
Some of my favorite authors remain Enid Blyton, Sidney Sheldon, Nora Roberts/J D Robb, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, J.K.Rowling, etc. There are so many others, I know I have missed them in this list. Some of them are one-time-wonders but I have enjoyed them all the same. Not much into classics. Just wish I had the ability to write stories like they do, to engross and grip the readers like they do me… Sigh, wishful thinking.
Updated: I forgot to mention that I even made a pen friend via Tinkle :D. Our friendship started when I was in 8th std and we are both closer to our 30’s now. Started with inland letters which moved on to sheets and sheets of airmail paper, to yahoo IM chat, to phone, to mobile phone, to gmail/gtalk and finally face to face. We saw each other only in 2005 I think… and of course a few times after that. Who knew books could help start such a beautiful friendship!! 🙂