'Oliver Twist' was the first "novel" I ever read. That was when I was in class three. That would make me what, like eight years old probably. Of course before that I had my share of Tinkle, Champak and Amar Chitra Katha. It really surprises me as to how reading evolves with time. During primary school we used to get books like, Panchantantra, Snow white and all the other fantasy princesses, Goldilocks, Ugly Duckling and all that. But after class five, I guess they felt that we've grown up and then began the series of 'Famous Five' and the 'Secret Seven'. Hardy Boys followed next, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and ofcourse more books by Enid Blyton. At that age, these were the so called "Mystery" novels. How naive were we?
I was well read when I entered high school. Since I was in a convent, all we were expected to read were prayer books and the story of the great 'Ann Mary Javouhey', the foundress of 'Sisters of St. Josephs of Cluny'. My classmates used to sneak in 'The Secret Seven' and those kinda books, while I was half way down the Sheldon brigade of books. I enrolled into a library near my place when I was 10 and then there was no looking back. They had the best of books and I made the most advantage out of it. My parents never liked the idea of me reading books other than the academic ones. But since I was a good student they put up with it. The library became my second home as my pocket money couldn't afford more books at that time. The first book I ever bought was Sheldon's 'Memories of Midnight' as it was the much anticipated sequel to his 'The other side of Midnight'. The book was not available in the library and so after much hunting I found it in a store in Malleshwaram for 50 bucks. That was expensive then.
I have crazy memories with 'Memories of Midnight'. I was in class 8 when I bought it and I remember my class teacher finding that book on my desk and reprimanding me for it. Reason, well the title of the book dint sound like a mystery novel to her :P. I was way too young, and worse I was a girl to be reading erotica, she said. She had almost summoned my parents until the librarian was called. Thankfully she had read it and explained to my teacher that it was indeed a harmless mystery novel. It was only after a couple of days, that the librarian summoned me and told me that I was way to young to read Sidney Sheldon. I told her that I had read 12 of his 15 books by then and I do understand the content it carries. She was way too adamant and screamed, "Relationships, Marriages, Sex and Mistresses, Love, Lust and murder is not what a 13 year old reads". I started to retaliate, but when she threatened to summon my parents I gave up. My parents would not mind me reading I was sure, but they would not spare a single change for me to get rid of my books. So I remained calm. I could read them at home anyway.
Not to mention, my access to books was limited for the next two years of high school. My classmates were content reading fantasy books where a handsome prince comes and rescues a damsel in distress, or someone who has been sleeping for ever. I was like, 'Eh, what did you guys read in primary school?'. 'We dint read then', was always the prompt reply. The library period became torture, as we were not allowed to carry our own books. There was only one rack in the library that contained "Mature" books. Mature according to my librarian. Those books were strictly for the students of class 10 and the teachers. I'm pretty sure my 6 year old niece could read them now. After much cajoling, my librarian agreed me to borrow books from the grown up shelf (that's how I used to call it). That's how I read, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Emma, Ulysses, Pride and Prejudice and Helen of Troy 'n' number of times. 'Little Women' is a must read for all teen girls and I'm proud to have it as a part of my personal collection. Its been circulating around my office mates for quite some time now. Well, yeah, they had not read it too. I waited to reach class ten, to have access to the awesome 'Shakespeare' collection my school library had. Well, I need to hand that to them. They did an amazing collection of classics. The original Shakespeare books were those big hard bound ones with the fading yellow pages. They smelt amazing and sadly almost noone had used them. The first ever romantic novel I read was the epitome of romance 'Romeo and Juliet'. Mills & Boon all came later. Well, that explains the reason of me being a romantic psycho. Macbeth and Othello followed. I was half into Hamlet when we were asked to return all books as the boards were approaching. Boy, that was a disappointment. Worse thing is you don't find the original books nowadays. They were written as plays and the recent one take the form of a story. To be honest, it kills the originality :-(.
That was a break to my reading life. During 11th and 12th I religiously worshipped my Physics, Chem, Maths and Bio books. Eeeew, I cringe to even think of that. I dint lose focus from my academics and finally was done with it. I needed to end my break and I did, like how! The gap between 12th and engineering was about 6-7 months. I had already secured a free seat in a prestigious college and was settled. My parents were overjoyed and they let me buy all the books I want. Which they regretted later as they had to buy me a bookshelf the next month. Finally my break came to an end as I devoured book after book. That was a nice time. Books were a getaway from my regular life. They used to take me to a magical land and made me forget myself. Agreed, not all books were like that. Some books taught me the intricacies of life. 'God Father' taught me that family always comes first, 'Nineteen Minutes' taught me that every single person is special and to treat everyone equally. 'Twilight' taught me the way to love and Danielle Steel's books(all of it), showed me life beyond love. 'The Ranch', showed me how friends should be, 'Kane and Abel' increased my knowledge on banking while 'Not a penny more, not a penny less' did the same on the share market. Books teach you a lot. Some people say that I can talk or write really well. I'd contribute that to my reading. Reading, fixes most of the defects if you have to say it in techie terms. The 'Chicken Soup' series can uplift any person mood, no matter what situation they are in. According to me, books have a life of their own. They breathe and talk. Letters form words, words form sentences, sentences form paragraphs and they in turn form books. I cant imagine a life without them.
Drama and poetry is supremely underrated. I would love poetry till death. A single sonnet can describe an entire book. People usually find poetry boring. They fail to understand the true meaning. Poetry, like quotes leave a strong impression. Poetry writing is a talent. I'm not saying that because I write them. I still have a long way to go to perfect the art. Condensing feelings and lines into four to five words per sentence is an art in itself! You need to cut off at the right time, get the words to rhyme and keep it simple. It is better when you write poetry in paragraphs. If its a single dump, it takes a lot of talent and hardwork to get it right. 'Murderer', is the only post that has given me satisfaction so far. That post has my blood and soul in it and I have won a lot of accolades for it. Hmmm will come up with something else soon. Poetry is anything but boring. You need to have a clear heart and deep understanding to get it. You need to put one and one together to get the actually meaning of a poem. Fiction, poetry and quotes, are my three fixations.
Reading is a lost art. TV, Internet and Games may have replaced it. But nothing like a good book to carry to your bed and read before you sleep. Imagine taking the Computer, or the TV to bed :P. Again its not something, you force upon people. At my place, noone reads novels. I'm the only one who religiously spends a part of my monthly income on books. I may have a dozen which I haven't yet read, but still I end up buying more. They say never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes I just pick up the book because it looks good. Honestly very few have turned out to be good. Reading is a part of my daily chores. Else something feels incomplete. But given a choice between reading and writing, anyday I'd choose reading. About 80% of what I am today is because of the books I've read. No, not the academic ones. The Others.