It has been quite some time since I have thought to myself how quick I can get this over with so that I can start reading again.
I think I was around eight years old when I specifically bought or rather my father bought me a book to read. It wasn’t for school nor for any ulterior motive like moral learning or some cultural propaganda of appropriateness that most kids digests tend to poop all over kids’ brains. No, it was just because I had found something interesting.
I wish I could remember what my first book was. I have alzheimers when it comes to my childhood memories. But it must have been pretty good to have me hooked.
Technically my area of speciality if murder, mystery and thrillers. By the age of sixteen, I had managed to make a private library filled with the genre. This consisted mostly of Hardy Boys and Famous Five, Sidney Sheldons and Grishams. They constituted of the world of fiction where I would find refuge at all times and all hours. I’ve done the most predictable of the bookworm acts… locked in bathroom- read till mom threatens to tear down the door, crept under bed and read till ungodly hours of the night, read on the bus, while walking down corridors, stumbling down staircases, keeping books between textbooks in class and defeating the natural order of sleep to get to the end of the book.
I am an adrenaline junkie.
The kind of adrenaline that comes while flipping the pages of a good book but it’s not fast enough. Where reading at a speed of 400 words per minute feels like belonging to the turtle family. I could devour pages and pages if normal life would not beckon me to keep up with other things.
Wise people say that books are friends we choose and that there is a wealth of information that we might never uncover if we never had books. There is also one I believe that says that civilisation really became civilisation when we started writing history down. But what I believe is that books are like universes. We get to be spacemen/women who get to experience alternate realities and traverse the scope of time and space.
This is the real Theory of Relativity.
We get to convert ourselves and extend and lose and discover. We go to dimensions that are possible only because the human mind exists. We get to exult in our cleverness and believe that we have left a tiny footprint in the stardust for years to come. That we have shared some sort of a secret with all the people before us and all the people that are yet to come.
This is a grand thought. It is nostalgic and reminds me of the time when I was given as a birthday present, Grisham’s A Time To Kill. When I read this book, I graduated from a territory of YA to somewhere new I knew not. I was fourteen then. Impressionable. The TV was conservative, the news even more. The world was dreamy and bright and then it was dark and bleak. Albeit, it was shocking, I was more hooked than repelled. I read everything. From classics to junk, contemporary and old, the predictables and easy ones to the challenging and not-so-easy reads. Even though I must have read many Sweet Valley Highs and the likes of them, I knew then too it was just toilet reading that one knows is a waste of time but just can’t stop reading. It was the acceptable dope, I guess. The fact that I was hooked was not lost on my parents who always reminded me what was on the top of priority_ studies. That did not deter me how ever. Sometimes, I feel I over reached myself. There were things I read which I should have read when I was older, not because of any sort of racy content but because I was a baby trying to eat sushi. Books, the good ones are like a delicacy. One needs to experience the world and certain ideas before gluttonously trying to eat them up in a glob. The only result of such a reading orgy would be a word diarrhea.
I tried to read Rumi at 17.
I looked cool. People were really impressed. The adults were awed by my sagacity.
The words in the Masnavi were gibberish to me. It went to the pile of books that were for later. I rarely did that. Once I started a book, I was like a monogamous lover. Never cheating to go to the end, never skipping pages or paragraphs or even lines.I never gave up on them, even when frustrated or when I had them all figured out from the start. I thought I was wise for all the words I would read. But I wasn’t. I guess the wise person is the one who knows he isn’t. I think that is a Socratic Paradox…hmmm…
I’ve had a great love affair with books but it hasn’t been an easy road. Falling in love with a great book is almost euphoric as thinking about one weeks and months after it has ended. Some of them do end up in the trash bin of my mind. Other, I wish I could erase as easily as clicking a delete button. In the course of such a memory stock, I have a treasure trove of trivia stored in my head which surprises my friends _‘ How in the heck do you know that?’ to which I usually meditatively reply, ‘Hmm, I read.’
It took me two decades to realise that all is not about the end. A reader is like a knight. Even though, I don’t usually imagine myself metamorphosizing into a handsome man donning a shiny suit of armour and bouncing up on a white horse, what I mean is, every time one opens a book, it is like going on the quest for the Holy Grail. Most of the times it is the journey that is more worthy and we should remember that the prize, the gauntlet, may be empty or may be full, it is not the only reward.