I was born an avid reader. As far back my mind goes, I remember I never forced myself to read. It just came naturally to me, and it is something I still love doing.
One Sunday, my grandpa took the first-grader me to the Sunday Bazaar (also known as Gujari Bazaar). “Buy anything you like,” he said. Strolling in the market, I came across a vendor selling books. I had made up my mind.
“I want to buy a book,” I said excitedly.
He pulled out a book titled Chacha Chaudhary, which did not really intrigue me. However, another book that read The Jungle Book did manage to catch my attention. After all, a monkey hanging on a tree and a boy riding a bear’s back made for a unique and interesting cover! Well, that was the first book I read to kick-start my journey as a reader, but that is not to say that its beginning was a smooth one.
My English was not really good enough back then. Demotivated after reading a few pages, I kept the book aside for a while.
Those days, our class teacher would hand out a book to every student during our ‘reading’ period. I would desperately wait for this period every week so I could get a new book to read. We would mostly get Gujarati-language books, which included Raja Harishchandra, Mansaina Diva by Zaverchand Meghani, Pruthivivallabh by Kanaiyalal Munshi, and Moticharo and a few other books by Dr. I. K. Vijaliwala.
By the time I got to high school, I had started writing poetry. Of course, that was down to my reading habits. Moreover, as an introvert, writing helped me vent my thoughts. Before I knew it, I had become passionate about it. My teachers’ admiration only stoked up this passion. I began reading more to improve my writing skills. I also gave tuition to some tenth and twelfth graders to be able to buy books on my own.
College life taught me to appreciate other great English authors. I read some of the best works of Rabindranath Tagore, Ray Bradbury, Anton Chekhov, R. K. Narayan and W. S. Maugham, among others. In my sophomore year, I could not look beyond Twilight. Well, even so, I learned about the writing styles of different authors from different eras. I realized that an author’s historical and socio-cultural settings had a great bearing on their life and writing.
Over time, my taste underwent a paradigm shift. I was absolutely smitten with Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I gradually started exploring the historical fiction genre as well. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were the authors that impressed me the most. In fact, it was from this genre that I got my all-time favorite – Victor Hugo’s Les Misèrables. I also grew to appreciate Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems besides the ghazals by Mirza Ghalib and Nida Fazli.
Not short on motivation, I decided to pursue my master’s in English literature. This introduced me to a variety of hitherto unknown genres. I got to read Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Jeanette Winterson, Harold Pinter, Joseph Conrad, and Sylvia Path. Every book I read broadened my horizons.
I began freelance writing to earn from whatever I had learned. I kept improving my skills, even doing a couple of professional writing courses along the way. In fact, I recently contributed to an online travel anthology – my first published work – and I could not thank books enough for it.
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