I still remember how I fell in love. I was in 2nd grade when it happened.
We were visiting one of our relatives. I was looking forward to meeting their daughter, who was my classmate and a friend. But when we reached there, she was not home. My parents were chatting with her parents and I was getting thoroughly bored waiting for her.
I had nothing better to do. There was a book sitting on a table next to where I was sitting. Till then, only books I had read were my school textbooks. I had heard a lot of stories from my parents, my grand parents and my favourite aunt, Lata Atya who stayed with us. But I had never read a story from a book till then.
I picked up the book and started reading it. Soon I was caught up in the story and couldn’t keep the book down. When my friend arrived, I was not willing to keep the book aside. She wanted to play, but I refused. When it was time to go home, I was just half way through the book. I didn’t want to leave, but we were getting late and I had to. In the melee, I forgot to see the name of the book.
I was hooked. I had fallen in love with the book. For many days, I would pick up any book that I saw anywhere, hoping that it was my half finished book, and read it. In the process, I read many other books and that made my bond with the books even stronger.
One of the treasures I discovered was at my Aunt’s, Tai Mavshi’s, house in Colaba, south Mumbai. My cousin, Vivek Dada, had a collection of almost 10 years worth of Chandamama, a children’s monthly magazine. On every opportunity, I would make a beeline for his house, and would read as many of them as possible. It opened a completely different world for me. Chandamama’s emphasis was on character building of the young ones. Every story had a subtle (or not so subtle) message or a moral. I virtually fed on these magazines. As I grew older, I discovered many other books in Vivek Dada’s collection. My first introduction to humour, to P. L. Deshpande, the well known Marathi humorist, happened through Vivek Dada’s books.
Next remarkable episode related to books that I remember was when I was in the fourth grade. There was a scheme from a publisher during the Diwali, the biggest festival in India, to get 40 story books for 10 Rupees. I wanted to have them and asked my father to get them for me. He told me that it was the budget for the fire crackers, and either we could have the books or the fire crackers. I consulted with my sister, persuaded her, and both of us agreed to go in for the books. However, my father couldn’t really bear that we would have no fireworks and miss the fun in Diwali. So we had both, books and crackers.
My love for books kept growing. I was a very regular reader & borrower in our local library and soon finished all the books there. Then I became a member of a larger library little away from where we stayed. Till then, almost all my reading was in Marathi, my mother tongue. Then I went to IIT and was introduced to English language books. I came across James Hadley Chase, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie. I had read the Marathi translations of Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. However, now I read the originals. These books indirectly worked on developing my logical thinking, particularly strengthening the cause-effect relationship.
I also read P. G. Wodehouse. That was a completely new and different chapter for me. I always liked humour. P. L. Deshpande & P. K Atre were my favourites. Wodehouse added a whole new understanding to what I had learnt till then, and helped me develop my sense of humour.
I am also a self help junkie. Apart from fiction, I read a lot of self help books and try to inculcate many of the things I learn from these books.
I have a special love for the books. As I had written in “Are you reading?”, In a way, the author lifts us on his shoulders so that we can see much farther. For this reason, I personally use the books very respectfully. I don’t write my name (or anything else) on the book because I think it’s defacing the book. I don’t highlight stuff in the books. I don’t bend the books backwards as it will damage the binding of the books.
I like to buy books and I try to read most of the books I buy, but not necessarily all of them. Some books, I buy in the hope of reading it when I get time. When I visit a book exhibition, I am like a child let loose in a toy shop. I want to buy every book that seems interesting. I visited the Strand Book Stall Exhibition today (see the picture above) and that’s what prompted this post. I bought five new books today. So now, I have about 10 books with me that I have to start reading.
Even though I buy a lot of books, I don’t horde them. I lend them to people freely. If they return the books great! If they don’t I believe they have a bigger need for that book that I have. Many times, I have bought a new copy of the book because I couldn’t locate the old one.
I always choose books as gifts. I think they make a great gifts. In fact, the first ever gift that I gave to my wife, after we were engaged, was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
I think this love affair will continue and remain as strong as my love affair with my dear wife.