I was a typical child – one who would read anything put in front of her – including billboards and posters on the side of the street. It was, after all, a good way to kill time.

The turning point came one summer vacation in July. I, a bored school-goer, discovered my older sister’s old school books. They were all classics ranging from Jane Eyre to Moby Dick. I was instantly interested because I had never seen those books as part of my curriculum, even when she was only four years older than me! Anyways, I picked up the smallest book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, heavily abridged for children. It took me just half a day to finish it. To this day, I remember the story vividly because it was the first time I had read something other than Jataka Tales, and it made an indelible impression on my young mind.

The next book I picked was Great Expectations. Thereafter, I spent the entire summer vacation reading up those classics until none was left. Constant reading would leave my vision blurry by the end of the day, yet I could not stop!

Once she started reading the classics, there was no turning back for Srutimala Deka

This, however, was just the beginning. It was not as though I were unaware of my sudden, newfound hankering for books. In fact, I was always looking for more books to buy and borrow. I began frequenting the school library and the local book fairs. My parents were into reading as well, so it was fairly easy to convince them to come along. Even easier was to tell my mother that I was reading a non-curriculum book during the exam week because I had some extra time on my hands. She would give me a mild telling-off, but those words increasingly fell on deaf ears as college life beckoned. I think she found it amusing when I read books during my master’s exam. I mean, it is a need you cannot escape. If you are a reader, you know what I am talking about.

I started getting bolder with my preferences and would not hesitate to pick up more complicated books like Isaac Asimov’s Robots and Empire, which still blows my mind. Next came Harry Potter, which – and I am sure I am not the first person you are hearing this from – managed to change my life. Even now, as an amateur writer, I refer to the series as a guide on how to pen down vivid scenes.

Srutimala Deka feels that reading has also helped her improve her writing skills

By the way, will you find it surprising if I were to admit to falling for YA fiction like Twilight and Vampire Academy as a late teenager? I think young-adult fiction books always make an impression, even if you are past their intended reading age group. It might be easier to claim to be a reader of serious books in order to come across as a typically serious adult. Well, having read Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game, I guess I can make a case for being a serious adult. Now on the edge of my 30’s, I am finally beginning to read adult fiction (and more classics, as always), but you can bet that the YA section on my bookshelf will only get denser from here.

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