Growing up in the middle of lots of books, I was always curious about what could be so special about those big, voluminous bundles of paper. I still remember the day my father brought me Anondomela, a Bengali children’s magazine. This was my first introduction to a hitherto unknown treasure. To put things into perspective, I was just five or six years old at the time, and this was the first piece of non-curricular ‘literature’ I read.

The short stories in the magazine accustomed me to the rich flavor of Bengali literature. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long journey. Over time, I also started reading books like Gupi Gain Bagha Bain besides other Bengali books and comics. Professor Shanku was my absolute favorite back then! I so wished he were real. I could really do with his fish pill for my cats.

The first full-fledged novel I read was Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay’s Chander Pahar, which, I believe, made me completely fall in love with Bengali literature. I became part of Shankar’s wild and dangerous adventure in the dense woods. I could simply close my eyes to transport myself to some remote forest in Africa, where Shankar and Diego Alvarez were fighting all sorts of dangers. Personally, I found the man-eating lions the scariest part of the book. Even today, Chander Pahar remains my favorite adventure novel.

I have read almost every genre and have adored them all. Back as a child, I read Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. It almost felt as if I were assisting him with his investigations. After Feluda, it was Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Kakababu O Sontu that bedazzled me. I really wish I could be part of their adventures.

I once read a novel titled Captain Thompsoner Guptadhan by Sourav Mukhopadhyay and could not stop thinking about it for nearly a week! Adventure and mystery were the elements that I most looked forward to in a book.

So much in love I was with adventure novels that they became my portal to another world. It felt like I was living every story, every novel. As I stepped into my teenage years, my choice of books matured as well. I wanted to get a feel of real life, and that led me to choose masterpieces like Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali. Apu and Durga’s journey, their sweet-and-sour relationship, and their concern for each other were what made me fall for them. The final few pages of the book were especially charged with emotions.

As I grew up in Santiniketan, I got to experience Tagore’s creation closely. I read his Golpoguccho in my formative years. When I grew old enough, I read his Chokher Bali and Nastanirh. These became two of my favorite books by Tagore. Actually, Bengali literature is full of such gems. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya’s Devdas, Charitraheen and Pather Dabi, and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s masterpieces like Anandamath and Kapalkundala left a lasting impression on me. I can read them over and over again without getting bored.

Books are like like a mirror. I see myself in them and relate to them. If I am having a rough time, it is only books that can cheer me up by taking me to an alternate reality.


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