I joined the navy as a boy recruit when I was 16. I had not really read anything other than textbooks and Archie comics until then. I was more into sports than books during my school days.
I continued my obsession with sports in the navy as well. When I was transferred to a naval base in Bombay from the first ship I served in, it fell on me to look after the department of Sports & Recreation in the small facility. Besides games and sports, the public broadcasting system within the base and the library were also in my charge.
One Sunday, I had tuned the radio to a BBC music program in which the popular group Jefferson Airplane’s song Rejoyce came on the air. The music was good but the words were better. They made me wonder about how a rock group, of all the people, had come to adopt a literary classic like Ulysses written by James Joyce and sing a song on it.
I had heard about the masterpiece of a book that was Ulysses and subconsciously, wandered towards the rack of books to look for it but the library obviously didn’t have it in its inventory. I embarked on an idle search with no particular book in mind and came across Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence. I pulled it out, sat on a chair and started reading it. I found the going tough and soon became weary of the string of words, the syntax and the style. It was getting even tougher as I turned the pages.
I was in two minds to give it up and engage myself in an immensely more interesting activity of imbibing a glass of chilled beer just before lunch. After all, that is what a Sunday forenoon is for! However, there was – and still is – a streak in me that never allowed me to call it quits easily. I put the image of a glassful of the frothy brew out of my mind and continued reading.
By the time I finished the tome, I felt as if I had successfully, albeit laboriously, completed a gargantuan task. By all parameters, it should have been my last book to read, such a heavyweight it was. But no! I was more inclined towards reading than shunning books. I kept reading one after the other and could boast of reading a host of good writers including Agatha Christie, Alistair McLean, Irving Wallace, John Epstein, Frederick Forsyth, Maxim Gorky, Emile Zola but most of all, P G Wodehouse.
I was completely astonished by the way the writers used ordinary words extraordinarily and made me ravenous for more. The plots were ingenious, which made the books hard to put down. They were novels only in name but a treasure trove of information. For instance, Leon Uris spent fifteen years researching for his book Exodus! It is no wonder that the story is gripping in its intricate details and replete with facts.
I soon was addicted to books. You would be hard put to find me without a book in my hands. I was enamored by the inexhaustible humor that P G Wodehouse liberally dished out. I read all the books authored by him. His characters came alive in my imagination.
I was firmly in the clutches of books (in a positive way, of course!) and became a willing prisoner. It was but natural that I took the next step: writing. I started writing tentative articles and stories. My work in the Navy consisted of writing reports and messages. The books I read helped me compose them effortlessly.
When I left the navy, I started teaching English independent of any organization. I wrote three e-books. My latest book, an anthology of crazy little stories, is going to be launched in less than a month and sold in brick-and-mortar bookshops as well as online.
How did I happen to write? I read, read and read more!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Asokan! We hope that it would inspire several young readers to start reading.
As for you – the voracious Indian reader – what are you waiting for to share yours? Here’s your chance to get published!