The world gets a little too black at times, and feels like a burden. It’s not enough that we have expectations of our own to meet, our own dreams to chase, our own tune to dance to, we have to look around to meet others’ expectation of us, the dreams we don’t always want to, but which they dream for us, and the coercion to dance to their tune, even if it is at the cost of forgetting our own. “No” is not an answer, no matter how valid our case is. Very few, I feel, don’t feel the immense pressure of the questions asked when our answer is “No”. I feel it, and that pressure is enough to test my strength or at least make a dent in my positive spirit.
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
I fell in love with reading when I was in school. My English teacher inculcated the habit by giving a new book each week and asking us to talk about it in class. But I really discovered its importance when I reached high school. I never went long without reading in those days. I even found a library in my neighborhood, and used to read regularly. At that moment, I didn’t realize that I had the weight of expectations on my shoulders, but looking back, I can see that there was. The constant push from those around me was for higher marks. If I got the second rank, the question would be why I was not ranked first. What took me away from that was the love for reading. I opened a novel, and dived into that world. I used to visit River Heights and Bayport often, solving crimes with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I went into The Leaky Cauldron, to the alley behind it and tapped the brick three up and two across from the trashcan, spent the day looking at broomsticks in Quality Quidditch Supplies or having ice-cream at Florian Fortescue’s Parlor. I went around the countryside, cycling with Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timothy as they had their adventures. I used to read by putting the novel between pages of the huge text books. Wherever the pages took me, whatever world it opened, it took me far away from the formulae in Mathematics, the dates in History and the “maatras” in Hindi. And till the time I was pulled out by my parents, I was happily away from reality.
“I love books. I love that moment when you open one and sink into it, you can escape from the world into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be.” – Elizabeth Scott
For most of my life so far, I have been an introvert. I could not open up to those around me, and there weren’t any who tried to push me out of my shell. Quite recently, I read something on Facebook which said that if you ask someone who has been an introvert for most of their life to go have fun, they’d possibly go to bed. I would too, with the difference that I’d be curled up under the blanket with a book. At times, I still do prefer that. Nothing beats the company of a really good book. In comparison to those who do not understand me, or want me to change to their version of me, I think a book is an amazing friend. Most would have welcomed the New Year with a party, or by cutting cakes, or watching fireworks, maybe even counting down to the moment the clock struck twelve. I spoke with a really good friend, and then read a book for the next four hours. I didn’t even notice the time pass by. It managed a decent 112 books in the year 2015. I’m happy that I am already a couple of books done with my target for 2016.
“Between the pages of a book is a lovely place to be.”
Though I’ve always wanted to buy books and start a bookshelf since childhood, that dream became a reality only after I got a job. On some level, I think, I didn’t want to push my requests to my parents. They had their own priorities, for themselves and for me. I made do with the library. The love for books and reading, though, won out in the end. Over the last few years, I’ve bought a lot of books, and rekindled my love for reading, which had started to die down when the library in my neighborhood stopped adding books on a regular basis. I’ve added the Harry Potter Box Set, the complete collection of Famous Five and Secret Seven, the three Khaled Hosseini books, the Millenium trilogy and the Hunger Games trilogy to my shelf, and that’s just part of my book buying. Be it Flipkart and Amazon, or a trip to Blossoms Book Store, the fragrance of a book is just so alluring yet elusive, it’s no wonder that scent can’t be bottled into a perfume.
“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books, and that’s kind of like the same thing.”
It was quite by chance, and the will of a blogger, that I became part of the book reviewing journey. I’d thought talking about a book, or writing about its positives and negatives would make the magic of reading dwindle. But it wasn’t that at all. Writing about it made me look at the book in a different way. Reading what others thought of the same book, I realized that the book was completed not by the author, but by the reader. A book I loved was disliked by others, and a book I couldn’t even finish was rated five stars by others. It was intriguing. I joined Goodreads, and the reading challenge there pushed me to read sooner, read better, and read more than I thought I could in a year. I joined challenges hosted by bloggers who are now some of my closest friends. Groups on Facebook, where I met other book lovers, further spurred me to read different genres, going out of the “crime fiction” zone which I loved (and still do love). When we talked of books, the introvert me began to fade into the background. It was like I was talking through books, and it was where I was meant to be.
“There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.” – Irving Stone
The world around me, at times, still fails to understand my love for reading and books. It doesn’t understand that reading helps me write better too. And my dream is to be a published writer (or author). Like I said earlier, it tries to push its expectations and makes me dance to its tune. If I had a rupee for every time someone told me, “Why are you wasting money on novels? Buy a book to study, get more experience, and get settled” I’d have enough money to buy more novels. I’ve tried to read less, and see if the path that the world wants me to take is worth it. And I’ve just turned around and walked back to the path that books take me on. Be it books sent by friends, publishers and authors or sites with review programs, or even purchased, reading is something I cannot go without. I’ve even embraced eBooks and bought a Kindle recently (trying hard to not get irritated by the question, “Why not buy a tablet instead? It’s more useful.”) Reading on the Kindle is not the same as reading the paperback of course, but I feel it’s just as fun. And anything that spurs my love for reading is worth it.
“I tried to beat my reading addiction…… worst two minutes of my life!”
Doing what you love is where happiness lives, and I believe it’s important to be happy. Life is all about living, and that doesn’t just mean earning a lot of money by doing something for the sake of doing it (though I am tempted to do that, seeing that it might get me more money for buying books). I’ve often been told by relatives, “Read while you can. It’ll change after you get married.” And I’ve not heard anything that’s more rubbish than that. Reading is not something that changes with the status of your relationship on Facebook. It’s a passion. It’s an escape from the blackness of reality. It’s something that’s as important to me as writing, for it has brought me back from the worst of times. And the experience of reading an amazing book is something that still puts me at a loss for words at times.
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times; if only one remembers, to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore
For this bookworm, that light resides in the pages of a good book. And I’ll happily turn the pages to let the dewdrop of my life shine in that light.
Cheers… to reading!
(© 1st January 2016)