My immense love for reading began with an admiration for the sheer number of books I used to see at my elder cousin sister’s place. I always saw her husband, who was a lawyer by profession, surrounded by books. That would often prompt me to direct a barrage of questions at my mom, such as, why is it that he has so many books?, what are those books about?, do those books contain any real stories?, is it possible for me to have so many books?, if yes, will mine have any different stories from his?, will they be real stories?

These questions inspired my mom to look up children’s books for me. Back in those days, Chandamama and Champak were the only well-known and readily available children’s books. With my cousin sister’s help, a mini-library soon sprung up in my room, and as astounding as it might sound, I was just a primary school student then!  My mom and my cousin sister motivated me to read as much as possible, though only after I was done with my homework.

I would finish reading one book every day before narrating whatever I had read to my mom. Later on, I was so mesmerized by storybooks that I would complete my home-work at school, so that I could get more time to read at home. Since those were the days when power outages and blackouts were norm rather than the exception, sunlight during the day and kerosene lamps at night were what kept me going. My fondness for books received a shot in the arm when our school teachers encouraged us to learn more languages, such as Hindi and Sanskrit.

My reading habit continued unabated until it was time for me to pursue my college studies. In order to avoid being told off by my older brothers, I would hide in the washroom to get a precious few more minutes to read my favorite books. My penchant for readings books in different languages prompted me to go for renowned English books such as the Mills & Boon novels. James Hadley Chase and Arthur Hailey became my favorite authors.

Even in her old age, Sarita is a fervent reader

In those days, I was preparing to gain admission to a medical college. This wish of mine, however, could not materialize as I was not allowed to pursue my medical studies at a place outside my hometown. Eventually, my passion for reading started waning, thanks in part due to the time that I dedicated to the preparation for my master’s. Marriage and the responsibilities of married life further abated that interest in reading.

However, the time involved in pregnancy, delivery, traveling and, later on, the summer and winter vacations I was entitled to in my professional life, rekindled that fire in me, and I soon ventured into reading religious literature. Presently, while most of my time is consumed by reading the assignments prepared by my Ph.D. students, I feel that, a deteriorating eyesight and other age-related problems notwithstanding, there is nothing that can (completely) subdue my zeal for reading. All in all, I am grateful to books for having enriched both my personal and professional life.

Thank you for taking the time to share your touching story with us, Sarita! We are glad that reading has been a constant in your fascinating life.

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