The year was 1983. My father, who was serving in the Indian Air Force, was posted from Singharsi, a nondescript town in then Bihar, to the garden city of Bengaluru. I was a fourth grader at the time, and I had to study everything all over again due to an accident that kept me out of school for about a month and a half during the exams. I got on with this setback and made new friends in the days to come.
Now, I was not regarded as a bright student, though I was not one of the dull fellows, either. My academic standing notwithstanding, I once had this wonderful idea to excel at my exams – cheat! It was during one of our monthly English tests that I decided to put this into practice. I copied my answers from a textbook I had inconspicuously hidden in my bag. This proved to be a turning point in my life as I went on to get the highest marks on the test. I even got some warm words of encouragement from my teacher. My love affair with the English language had begun in the most unexpected of manners. And I had all the resources to sustain this relationship.
You see, my father also happened to be an avid reader, which meant that there was a regular inflow of magazines in our house. Apart from the Indian Express, I also started reading magazines like The Illustrated weekly of India, India Today and The Week. I also had a good time reading comics like The Tinkle and Tintin. I was never into reading novels, and this hasn’t really changed over the years. However, I did get the chance to go through a couple of editions of Nancy Drew besides some novels of Robert Ludlum.
The southern part of India is a region where English enjoys more popularity than Hindi, and even auto drivers and bus conductors are well versed in the language. English happens to be the medium of instruction in most schools there. The stage was, therefore, perfectly set for me to begin writing and reading in English. Reading articles in the journal published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and other monthly magazines like Reader’s Digest became a routine affair. I also consistently scored well on most English exams I sat for – by fair means, I mean. By this point, I had started seeing the English language as a decent career option.
I joined the aviation industry after completing my graduation. Working in shifts meant that I had little or no time for reading or writing, which was my real passion. I never lost my habit of going through the newspapers and magazines, though. I did read quite a few novels during this period. In fact, Josef M. Bauer’s As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me still remains my favorite by a distance.
I do replenish my mind with new English words by reading intensively whenever I get the chance to do so. Reading and writing invigorate the mind, which otherwise gets sullen with routine, monotonous work. In fact, I still harbor the hopes of realizing my writing dream. I would like to conclude my story with the following quote by Robert Louis Stevenson:
I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.
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