Many a time in life I regret not having pursued a fine art. Then, the very next moment, I offer myself the consolation that perhaps all my creative energies were meant to be channelized into playing, not with the strings of a violin or the reeds of a harmonium, or with the lines of portrait painting, but with the melody of words. For me, words are ubiquitous black markings on an immaculate sheet of paper. They sing in joy, writhe in pain, express the gravity of our existence as well as the lightness of one’s being, all at the same time.

I have found myself surrounded by books as far as my memory goes back in time. I’m not sure if it was that proximity to books that nurtured my love for solitude, or if I was born with those ‘lonely’ genes that sought escape from cacophony and refuge in books. René Descartes once said, “I think, therefore I am”. I cannot but tweak this phrase and say, “There are books, therefore I am”. I never fell in love with books, for that implies the absence of my fondness for them at some point of time. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I have always loved them.

Once I was past my early obsession with fairy tales, I was attracted to mystery, thrillers and detective stories around the age of ten or eleven. It was no coincidence that the bookshelves in my home were chock-a-block with Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Byomkesh Bakshi and Feluda. The school library went on to introduce me to Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and James Bond. That’s how my interest in romantic literature veered into crime mysteries and investigative stories, and gave the ever-curious child in me, a clandestine entry into an uncharted territory.

School curriculum introduced Sreetama to classic English literature

School syllabus brought in serious literature. The struggle of Pip and Oliver (in Great Expectations and Oliver Twist respectively) with survival, forced labor, hunger and orphanhood, opened a teenager’s eyes to the value of loving parents, food, shelter and clothing – things that most of us take for granted. Dickens’ sensitive portrayal of the ebb and flow of a child’s mind reflected my own.

Shakespeare ushered in a multitude of characters. And though they inhabited a different time and space, and spoke a language quite different from the one known to us, the air of familiarity that they exuded, was not lost on the young mind. Years later, when the stark realities of life hit hard in the form of betrayals from people close to my heart, I was often reminded of Hamlet’s lines: “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain”.

As my journey with books continued, my internal world, which was inhabited by the shades of everything that I had read, became increasingly complex. However, unbeknownst to me, my external world – my social life – shrunk. I failed to realize that I had very few friends, not that it bothered me. Shy, introvert, reserved and taciturn were the adjectives I was often defined with. The silver lining to this predicament was that I was left alone to socialize with words.

Over time Sreetama became increasingly interested in writing

Weaving a world with words was initially a pastime and by and by went on to become my motivation for life. To live is to write – these words became the motto of my life; words reminiscent of life’s most cherished moments, redolent with joy and peels of laughter; words that delve deep into life’s sorrows to come out with the one ray of light that restores faith in life and makes it worth living!

The books I have read are only a tiny drop in the ocean of books available to the literary beings. That minuscule of a drop has sufficed to make me an empathetic soul that reverberates with others’ emotions. With my writing, I wish to return to the literary world a fraction of that minuscule, so that  at the least one soul is touched, sometime, somewhere.

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