My reading journey dates back to when I was a ten-year-old girl on a family trip to Haridwar. On our way there, my grandfather excitedly bought me the Ramayana and the Mahabharata from a small book stall at the Ganga ghats. While the easy-to-read two-volume Mahabharata had vivid imagery throughout, the Ramayana proved to be rather complex for a child sitting by the windowsill, trying to figure out who the bad guys were.
Well, it took me more than a couple of books to become an avowed reader. Back when I was a seventh grader, our Cambridge-affiliated school used to organize the annual Scholastic Book Fair. This fair was my gateway to Narnia (read the fantasy world of books). I was taken aback – for good – that the world had so many stories waiting to be read. But the twelve-year-old me knew that it would take more than a lifetime to read all those stories. My millennial teenage soul picked up the then-famous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. And then, every year thereafter, I waited with bated breath to find another one of those harrowing books at the book fair. A few pages turned into a few chapters, which then turned into a few – well, who am I kidding, many – books concealed behind my school textbooks.
Remember, I am the protagonist here! Time only reinforced my love for books. Our beautiful English literature curriculum introduced us to William Shakespeare, Enid Blyton and Charles Dickens early on. I also got the chance to read Louis Sachar’s underrated novel, Holes. That, honestly, was the turning point for me. The protagonist had officially become a bibliophile.
But then, I wouldn’t qualify as a legit Indian reader if I didn’t read the hyped Chetan Bhagat novels, would I? Just like he did with several other Indians, he also made me realize that writing a book probably wasn’t so difficult after all. He brought the reading culture to India like no one else ever had. That said, thankfully, my Chetan Bhagat phase was short-lived.
It was time to fuel my bibliophilic soul and churn the bookworm wires of my brain with more characters, imagination, plots, protagonists, and antagonists. And the likes of J.K. Rowling, Rupi Kaur, Douglas Adams, Priyanka Khanna, Robert Kiyosaki, George R.R. Martin, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George Orwell, Kahlil Gibran, Yuval Noah Harari, Elif Shafak and Jhumpa Lahiri delivered just that.
In all these years, books have taught me the patience to live through my destined arc, the joy in the endings, the fearlessness of the beginnings, and the gravity of a mid-life crisis.
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