This week saw one of the most memorable evenings I had in recent times. It was a fiction quiz i.e a quiz to test your knowledge about books. The first look at the notice had me signed up for the quiz. I went for the quiz totally blank (mostly thats the case these days…). The prelims had questions ranging from Shakesphere to the most-loved tinkle. As I sat there listening to the various questions posed to the finalists, my mind took a nostalgic journey..the journey of my relationship with books.
My first book I remember was Cindrella. It was those beautifully illustrated Walt Disney books.The story did not take more than 20 minutes to complete. But I used to stare at the print. (The sketching of the pictures took away the rest of the time) I loved the look of words on paper. The way the ‘F’ was beautifully written in Fairy Godmother, or the lovely glass shoe and not to forget the ballroom scenes. I loved it all. I wanted more. The next few months saw me engrossed in other Walt Disney tales like Snow White ( Oh! I used to hate her step mother so much…and even suspect the apples kept in the fridge) or Sleeping Beauty. Raphunzel, Peter Pan, Little Mermaid ( I love Sebastian the crab…I kept pestering my mum for a pet crab which could talk hehe.),Lion King, Jungle Book,Puss in boots, Rip van winkle followed soon after. Before I knew it, I was in love with books.
The train journeys saw me always engrossed in Tinkle. Naseeruddin Hodja, Suppandi, Ramu and Shamu, Shikari Shambu and Tantri the Mantri are some my all time favourites. Then came the age of Amar Chitra Katha. They were my friends for all of primary school. Mythology was my passion right from when I was much younger (Thanks to my grandfather’s summer recitals of Ramayana…it used to go on for days and weeks…and at one stage I could narrate the whole thing sub plots included). I was disappointed when everyone refused to narrate the Mahabahrata (its not good to be told or something like that..I eventually got the entire 12 volumes and read it..but it was much later) But there was a treasure in Amar Chitra Katha. I probably have the entire collection of Indian folktales. Akbar and Birbal, Vikram and Betaal, Panchatantra, Aesop’s fables completed the collection.
One train journey from Chennai to Jabalpur after my summer vacations changed it all. I met a girl on the berth next to mine who was reading Enid Blyton. Having exhausted my tinkle in less than one quarter of the journey, I politely asked her if she could lend me her book. “Five go to Kirrin Island again”. It was class 6. A beginning of a new era in my life.
I loved Enid Blyton. (Though the description of food in her books always made me hungry..), I managed to complete the Famous Five series. ( I had made up my mind about naming my dog timmy!). The Secret Seven, The adventurous Five and Biggles followed soon after.My dad’s birthday present of Swami and Friends a year later brought RK Narayan into my life. Grandmother’s tales, Malgudi Days, Mr.Sampath, The tiger of Malgudi and the finale was the Guide. The book club in my school did wonders to me. Although “MAD” magazine remained a favourite among all its members, it brought the English writing into my life. What began with Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, continued all the way upto Jeffery Archer and Sidney Sheldons. At home, I was always encouraged to read classics. Pride and Prejduice, Frankeinstein, Tale of two cities, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry fin, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Invisible Man, The time Machine were staple diets. But I loved science fiction.Jules Verne remained my hot favorite with A journey to the centre of the earth, 20,000 leagues under the sea etc etc.
The foreign comics were hard to get. The Week magazine carried a page of Tintin which I diligently read. But often missing an issue would make the storyline go haywire. They werent stocked in our library also. The Blue lotus was the only one I remember to have completed. The Asterix was a cartoon in The Hindu Magazine and The Phantom was something I inherited from a much older boy in our colony.
The english textbooks were always the source of pleasure. The poems were so much fun. They used to make me happy and sad. Laugh and cry. Be it the fun of framing whacko endings of “The Lady or the Tiger” or the very famous “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. English classes in school were fun.
So, ( Im sorry if this post has contained nothing but titles of books) it has been a long journey. From the days of cindrella to RK Narayan, from Jeffrey Archer to James Frey, from HG Wells to Fredrick Forsythe or from simple Tinkle to Calvin and Hobbes and Tintin (thanks to DC now I have the entire collection!), it has been an awesome ride for me. Books are my greatest passion. Somehow the e-books dont carry the charm. The charm of black ink on white paper is enticing.(The added pleasure of reading them lying down is irreplacable) The literature section in our library remains the biggest lure for me even during exams.
Its sad now that I have stopped reading. The quiz was more than a reminder of my rusty memory. I guess I have to complete this gruelling task of getting a decent education before I plunge myself again into the world of books.
PS: I think you all would have realized where a majority of my salary would be spent. HEHE.But thats a long way off…