The love of books, the joy of reading..

We just got back from a whirlwind of a trip to London. It has been over a year since I went there and for me, it was all nostalgic.

On the London underground, I spent all my time showing Poohi all the stations – my old work place, husband’s old workplace. She has been on the tube millions of times , but I think this was the first time that she understood what was going on.  She was a little spooked when I told her that the tube would go under the ground. She was very worried that ‘We’ll never, ever get out again!’ 🙂 It must have been one of the few times on the London tube when I did not read while travelling.

For my husband, tube travel was something he never enjoyed, but for me, traveling in London was the time that I loved – because it was completely ‘me time’. I used to carry books and of course, London Metro or the London Lite( free newspapers) used to be my staple reading on the way and back from work. These newspapers used to be free and would be handed out outside stations. I used to be one of those, who, even in an inch of space, would still manage to read.  I think I used to read a lot more in those days because of the uninterrupted time I used to get on the tube. There was a time when I used to travel around 3 hours one way and the only positive part was the reading time. But then I used to read in crowded Bangalore buses, and while waiting for the ITPL shuttle – I actually used to get funny looks then. One of the things that I loved about London as soon as I landed here was that everybody had a book/newspaper in their hands. I was no longer the odd one out.

Bones’ post on reading, touched a chord. Like her, I am not a book snob – I read anything and everything. I remember the first fairy tale that I got when I was 5 or 6 years old. I have not looked back since. Reading has been a passion and an addiction for me. I actually feel uneasy if I don’t have reading material around me.

As far back as I can recall, I used to be fascinated by books and stories. My mom and dad used to tell us stories at night, read to us when we were little. I think, it was all that storytelling that started me off on reading. I started on Reader’s Digests out of sheer boredom during my summer vacation. My maternal and paternal grandparents used to live in the same village but mom and I used to be at my maternal grandparents place, and we used to visit at my dad’s place in the evenings. Now I used to hate that, because my dad’s side had loads of cousins while at my mom’s side, I was the oldest and the only one for a while. So I used to yearn to go over to my dad’s place. In utter boredom, I flicked through my granddad’s collection of Reader’s Digest and started reading those little anecdotes at the end of each article. There was no looking back from there. I started reading the articles next, and before I knew it, I had read every issue that he had and his collection ranged from the ’60s. I then graduated on to P G Wodehouse and used to spend every waking moment reading!The magical, mystical world of books that I would disappear off to, oblivious to everything else around me! My mother used to say that nothing would break my concentration once I started reading.

Those days, I used to be fascinated by all the delicious food that Enid Blyton used to describe! Her eclairs sounded nothing like the Cadburys eclairs that we used to get. And I had imagined scones to be something, oh so yummy! Only to my intense disappointment when I finally did eat it! The eclairs, however, more than lived upto it’s reputation.  Sardines – I used to think was something yummy too! Until my granddad showed me what it was! I used to wish and wish and wish that my parents send me off to a boarding school! One of our friends threatens their daughter that if she gets naughty she would be sent to boarding school – and those were the days when I would yearn for that life! These days, of course, Indian authors seem to evoke the similar kind of sentiments. I read a book by Lavanya Sankaran, the other day. The Red Carpet, was a set of short stories set in Bangalore and it evoked a nostalgia, a wonderful feel of the city.

The funny thing is that the kind of stuff I used to conjure up in my mind while reading, might have been far, far away from what the author intended.  That I think is what I like about reading. The words would allow me to  dream, imagine, in my own way.  That, I think, was the reason, why most of the movie adaptations of books leave me disappointed! When we read, I think , each of us conjures up our own versions, our own mental image  of the book. Reading for me, is my way of vicariously, enjoying different lifestyles, cuisines, cultures and countries.

I was also lucky in my teachers at school. Even my Maths and Physics teacher was an avid reader. I remember that he had recommended Alex Haley’s Roots and reading that was a revelation for me. I remember being blown away with Gone with the Wind. Waiting with bated breath for the sequel – Scarlet and then being so let down by it! For me, so many memories are linked with books. Books that were gifted to me, books that I got as prizes. Books that have served as milestones of my life. One of the things I always wanted was a library in my home. And I intend to ensure that that becomes a reality once we move to India for good.

These days, I try and pick up obscure books that I have never heard of. The libraries here are amazing in that respect. The huge collection they have, ensures that I can experiment different authors. Some time back I had picked up a book by a Srilankan author. I had never heard of her- but loved the book. I have learnt to rely on my instincts more these days. There was a time when I used to haunt the best sellers and pick them up. These days, I go for books that I have not heard of, and I have to say that I have been fairly lucky so far. I do get some good books. Over the years, the one thing that has not changed for me, is the passion for books and reading.

The only thing I regret is that I cannot read in Malayalam. My parents had a wonderful time when they came to London. They found lots of Malayalam books in the library there and they made the most of it. Maybe, one day, I will try and learn enough Malayalam to read a book..

The world of books opened a new horizon for me. My love of reading has contributed significantly to the way I think, the way I interact with people.. If I could gift anything really precious to my daughter, it would be the love of books.. The joy of reading…