This is a story that spans more than three decades. This is the story of me. And my first love, books.
As far back I can remember, I have always been, what is technically known as, a bibliophile. I can read anything, fiction or non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, classic literature, noir literature, any genre from poetry to essays to travelogues, short stories or novels, modern and post-modern and philosophical treatises – just give me a book to read, and you may rest assured that I will be in my element. I still remember how I wept with joy the day I discovered the magical land of book fairs, and was sobered by the solemnity of the occasion when I first visited a temple, which is otherwise less commonly referred to as a library.
It’s hard for me to think of a time when me and my books were separated from each other. Even when I visited my friends or relatives for a social gathering, I would get bored quite soon and potter around in search of a book to read. On one such occasion, when I was around 9 or 10 years old and we were on a visit to a relative, whose son – or my elder cousin – was preparing for his eleventh-grade exams, I picked up one of his physics’ textbooks and started leafing through the pages. It goes without saying that this was motivated more by my obsession with books than an interest in the periodic table, which, of course, I could not fathom one bit. A few years down the line, I would fondly recall this incident after I had opted for the science stream in high school.
One of the more obvious turning points in my life was when I was a first grader. I had somehow discovered that the top three rank holders were awarded with a book each during the annual day celebrations. That was motivation enough for me, so I vowed to my parents that I would do anything it took for a podium finish. Having them buy me books on our way back home was no longer fun, after all. It didn’t quite feel like getting a gift-wrapped book, which you could bring home from school! As if out of a conditioned reflex, I started studying hard, and my efforts were duly rewarded at the year end when I got the prize I had been yearning for.
My love story with academics continued well until I was in the seventh grade. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that medals and mementos had knocked books off their pedestal as a prize. However, by then, my love for reading and a mental association of it with studying hard had become deep-rooted. Whilst I could never really reproduce my previous academic successes, I was, by no means, an average student. I wasn’t complaining, though. After all, this is how I had come to develop a deep and long-lasting bond with books. To this day, I can never go shopping without going inside a bookstore and making impulsive purchases of whatever tickles my fancy. Online shopping is such a nightmare, and I avoid it as much as I can, for the temptation to load my cart with books is too difficult to resist, and I am compelled to exercise caution due to financial limitations and prudence.
There are a multitude of incidents strewn across my life, which make my love for books an affair to remember. I once tried to decode the earliest days of my childhood and how books had became an integral part of my identity and my soul, by trying to piece together clues from reminiscences that I made my parents share with me. But it is a tale for another time, I guess, as it can fill out pages with fond remembrances, but no conclusive evidences.
How can I explain why I love books? Is there any love story in the world that can be measured by words or be logically deconstructed and understood? However, the one thing I can and will say is that I learned about inner peace, which makes me feel a cosmic relationship between me and a book. Cast me away on an abandoned island, stripped from human society and interactions, but in the pleasant company of books, and I can assure you that I will survive. That’s because when I read, I feel the world that everyone knows and lives in, slipping away from me, and am transported to a different dimension of space and time. In those moments when I am reading, I am the God, creating my own universe, and finding a joy and a calm that are purely divine. It makes me feel empty and sad when a book is over and I have to leave my realm to once again participate in a life with lesser mortals. But there is always a consolation. There is always another book to read!
A NOTE TO OUR READERS
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