As a child, I did not have the luxury of a large collection of books or 'read aloud' sessions with my parents (not that I minded), but my aunt tells me that I would always rush to their corner bookshelf, completely immerse myself in the same fairy tales, every time we visited them, until it was time to go.
School, I think, saw me too busy having fun and living the student life that my reading was limited to the school library, the British Council or borrowings from friends. Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Mallory Towers and Sweet Valley High were the ones that kept me up at night. I wouldn't be caught dead reading the classics unless it was part of the syllabus and we were having an exam. Yes, unfortunately, I was 'cool' like that.
I think it was in college that a good friend introduced me to 'Ancient Promises' by Jaishree Misra. And that was such a memorable moment for me, because up until then, ignorant little me did not think much about Indian authors.
Most of my eventful reading happened after I started working. Of course the local library offered romance fantasies and crime thrillers that a young woman will always indulge in. And so I discovered Nora Roberts, James Patterson, M&Bs and Sidney Sheldon.
But there is nothing as liberating as getting you first paychecks from an MNC and having no one tell you what to do with it. Eating out, shopping sprees, pampering sessions at the salon, movie nights, and books. And this is when I discovered I have the power to own my very own personal library. A dream I have always nurtured. You know how the church asks you to tithe ten percent of your income. I decided to do buy books instead. William Penn and Higgin Bothams were my weekend stops. I would source transparent adhesive sheets to preserve my babies and no I would not be a lender.
I was never sure what to buy, I would secretly watch what others were buying. I would steal glances at personal libraries when I was visiting friends. There was so much to choose from. I was always intimidated, but the urge to read was always stronger. And even though the wise say that 'one should not judge a book by a cover'- That's exactly what, I did! Who can resist a candy pink cover with promises of romance, comedy and that first kiss?
This is when I also followed my gut and bravely bought my own classics. Its like I wanted to learn to read all over again. This is when I went where Jane Austen, Hemmingway, Burnett, Davidar, Paulo Coelho, Eckhart Tolle, Anita Nair, Alexander McCall Smith and others led me.
And then I moved to the land of opportunities - USA- where I rediscovered the sanctity of public libraries and the magic used books at garage sales. And I don't think I got too many books at full price in the 5 years that I spent there other than in the form of birthday gifts. Here is where I fell in love with Khaled Hosseini and Jhumpa Lahiri.
The reading journey has been a slow one but a fulfilling one and now as a mom with kids and chores, reading (and blogging) is a luxury and there is nothing like stealing a few forbidden moments to read. A few minutes before turning off the lights, a few moments before the bus drops my little man. Of course I love being able to indulge in the magical lightness of children's books though. (such a great thing about having kids!!)
And all along you slowly figure out what you want to read. What fits with you. I realized that I don't want horror or science fiction. That crime and thrillers are a good break. That I will not mind a history book. Or an epic.That I will never say no to a 'falling in love' story, or a 'finding your soulmate' story.....but more than anything I want to read about real life and real people. Be it in on the local train or in another continent, be it in the now or from centuries ago.
Is there anything else so wonderful in this world? To be able to escape into a different place, or time and with a person you may never meet. Or never want to. Or want to.
Life is too short for the books you want to read.
PS: I now go by best seller lists, book reviews, interesting subjects, blurbs, literature festivals, authors shortlisted for awards and yes some times I still go by the cover . :)