First experiences are always special and remain close to the heart. Ever wondered what it would be like to have many such first experiences all happening at the same time? Well, they simply get etched in your memory forever.

I would have been seven or eight years old when I experienced one such set of beautiful first experiences – first family trip, first time traveling by train, and more importantly, the first time I discovered the beauty of words, which marked the beginning of a never-ending affair with books.

Just a few days before the said trip was planned, we had been taught Robert Louis Stevenson’s well-known poem From a Railway Carriage at school. I had learned the poem by heart and would keep reciting it every now and then. On the day of our much-anticipated journey, before leaving for the railway station, my mother told me that very shortly I will be experiencing the words I had been repeating all these days but had never quite felt them. While I did not understand what she meant by feeling the words, the child in me grew excited and started looking forward to the start of our train journey. It was only when the train started moving, picked up some speed, and began crossing the ‘bridges and houses, hedges and ditches’ that I realized what she actually meant. I could literally see every word from the poem coming to life! I lived every word of the poem for the rest of that journey.

The return trip was supposed to be a night journey. This meant that I would not get the chance to look out the window. I was sad, but yet again words – words and more words – came to my rescue. My father got me some books from a small book stall at the railway station. He said that I could read them in the train if sleep got elusive. For me, he had picked up books such as Aesop’s Fables, Tenali Raman, and 101 Moral Stories for Children, and a few other books for my elder sister. I still have no idea if sleep really evaded me or if I actually forced myself to stay awake just so I could read those books. What I do remember is spending the whole night reading, so much so that I was already done with two of them by the time we reached our destination. I even remember my parents quipping that considering my speed, they might have to build a library for me!

Sushma Odugoudar has tried more than one genre over the years

Anyways, what started as a means of killing time in the train soon became my favorite pastime. Every book I have picked since then has added a new direction, a new meaning to this enchanting journey. Once I was done with the books my father had got me during our journey, I let Enid Blyton transport me to his magical world. Fast-forward one year and I was bitten by the Indian mythology bug. I was wandering in the jungles with Rama, praying that he finds Sita soon. I shed many a tear in the battleground of Kurukshetra. The writings of Swami Vivekananda and the biographies of some other great personalities guided me through my teens. My mid-teens saw me delve into the world of fiction, where I would spend the next few years of my life, and for good reason. After all, the world of fiction has so much to offer! That said, while my preferences have changed with age, my love for words has remained pretty much the same.


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