The foundation of my relationship with books was laid by my desperate need to find a pastime.
We didn’t own a television back then. It didn’t have anything to do with poverty, though. You see, my father had this notion that the idiot box was nothing but a sure-shot way of damaging one’s eyes. As me and my brother made our way back home from school one day, our beloved TV set had disappeared into thin air.
It won’t take an Einstein to guess how boring life suddenly becomes for a fourth grader without her favorite TV shows. While my brother was quick to switch to the appealing alternative of going out to play cricket with his friends, the less sporty me was left scratching her head.
Little did I know that boredom often leads to great things. My ennui culminated in me coming across an old trunk, which was full of books to the brim. They belonged to my father. As if the sheer thought of reading picture-less books wasn’t daunting enough, my age and the consequent inability to comprehend them meant that I couldn’t have been more indifferent to those voluminous books.
Frustrated at not being able to find anything useful, I started putting the books back into the trunk – and that’s when I found this book that just looked too appealing to ignore. It was the Aesop’s Fables. Just as I had done with the other books in the trunk, I might have ended up disregarding it as well had I not cared to thoughtlessly flip through its pages. And, as any child on the planet would testify, an illustrated book with pictures as captivating as the ones I saw is just too hard, nay impossible to resist.
The one picture that really hooked me to the book was that of a fox longingly eyeing a bunch of grapes hanging from a branch. The more I skimmed through the book, the more interested I became in giving it a read.
Grabbing the book, I sneaked up the terrace. I don’t remember how long I sat under the comforting and surreptitious shade of the water tank. What I do remember is that I finished reading the book on that day itself and felt hungry for more. This appetite for stories grew manifold over time. Eventually, I did fall in love with books devoid of pictures, thanks in part to their characteristic dank smell. As queer as it might sound, I dream of starting a company that can come up with a perfume like that – I know I’d have a huge market of like-minded bookworms to count on!
That fateful day kick-started my expedition into the charismatic world of books. From Aesop’s Fables to Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, the journey has been a long and enthralling one. I guess I should be grateful to my father for what he did with the TV set, for that’s why I found such trustworthy friends in books.
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