|The Fascinating World of Books|
|© 2002 Indira|
The world of books is like a vast ocean or like the sky with countless stars in it. In one's lifetime a person can perhaps read only a fraction of the boundless store of books. I do not remember when I started reading story-books - maybe when I was in Class 3 or 4. As I was studying in a convent school, we students had to speak in English in class. That helped us pick up English fast. The atmosphere at home was also conducive to reading, as my father (a bibliophile) had a wide variety of books stacked away in five or six bookcases.
Fairy tales were of course my first introduction to the world of books. Aesop's Fables, Grimm's Fairly Tales, Panchatantra tales, etc. were consumed in no time. Then I graduated to reading books for girls - like those written by Angela Brazil, Susan Coolidge (What Katy Did series), Rose Mulholland and so on. (Enid Blyton had not yet made an appearance then in our town.)
At school, I looked forward to the library period, which came only once a week. I was so fond of reading that I would request other girls to lend me their books too. (Many girls borrowed books just to impress the teacher but did not read them!) I used to rummage among the books at home for good books, not necessarily story-books. My elder brothers would bring books from the Public Library; I would read only the books which were my type.
I began to read detective books by the time I reached my teens. Books by Arthur Conan Doyle with his famous detective Sherlock Holmes; Edgar Wallace's novels (I remember The Four Just Men); Agatha Christie's incomparable Hercule Poirot series; romance novels by authors like Ruby Myers, Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel books - I could go on and on as I find names appearing on my mind's screen. Those were really glorious days, wandering in the world of romance and adventure, without a care in the world.
Soon books by authors like Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, A.J. Cronin, Daphne du Maurier, Alexander Dumas (his Count of Monte Cristo was my favourite) began to interest me. At home I found some quaint romances by one Jeffrey Farnol written in old world English - about gentlemen and crooks, of runaway maidens and gallant heroes. I had become a bookworm and with difficulty came down to earth, only when absolutely necessary.
When I was about 18 and doing B.A. Hons (Economics), I got a good friend (also an Indira). She always wore a white saree and blouse and talked about spiritual matters. She had been my junior in school but at that time we were not so close. Now, like me, she had left the convent after Intermediate and joined the government college to do Economics Honours. Her house was just a few minutes' walk from mine. She and two or three other girls would come to my house and we would go in a group to college. In the evenings, we used to walk back home talking about this and that. She told me that her early morning routine was to get up at 4 a.m., bathe, read the Bhagwad Gita and do meditation. Her daily talks were inspiring and I also wished to read the Gita. On knowing about my desire to have a Gita, my father gave me The Gita According to Gandhi edited by his close associate, Mahadev Desai. It is a gem of a book which I have with me to this day.
I started reading a few slokas per day. The sheer lyrical quality of the twelfth chapter made a great impact on me. If my memorising powers had been good, I would have been able to recite the Gita from beginning to end. That was not the case, and after I stopped reading it daily, I could remember only a few slokas from here and there. Though the slokas are in Sanskrit, English meanings given in simple language, Gandhiji's observations, quotes from the Bible, the Koran, and references to the Upanishads, made them soul-lifting.
I have always liked travelogues, especially if there was an element of mysticism in them. Also I liked books about China, like Pearl Buck's Pavilion of Women, The Good Earth, Han Suyin's Love is a Many Splendoured Thing and Destination Chunging. I read the classic Gone With the Wind only after my daughters grew up.
Along with my daughters, I have enjoyed reading Enid Blyton's stories (this is when they were in school). When they started reading novels in the Mills and Boon series, I used to admonish them as some of them were rather too unfit for young girls. When they read books by Sidney Sheldon, Alistair MacLean and Robin Cook, I have also gone through them. I keep in touch with latest writers like Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh and the sensation-making J.K. Rowling - through reading reviews of their books.
If there are any among you not fond of reading books - do start now, maybe with a short story or short novel. This appeal is especially to youngsters glued to TV sets. Reading widens one's outlook. The right kind of books can turn even a pessimistic person's thinking into a positive one. Books are like good friends whom you can turn to when you are lonely or depressed.
Nowadays I read only magazines and newspapers, as reading novels and voluminous books strain my eyes. Modern technology has changed the scene so much that anyone having a computer and an Internet connection can get various types of information right in their homes, at their leisure.
I feel that the best way to spend your leisure is to sit in a cosy chair
with your favourite book, especially on a rainy day. Wish you all happy