Friday, October 28, 2011

Reading – The one thing I love.




                 I probably have mentioned it here a bit before but, I’ve finally decided to dedicate a full post on it because it deserves one.

                I have been an avid reader since time immemorial and that’s partly due to the fact that I was introduced to reading at an early age and had easy access to some of the best child-fiction authors. That is something that I’m very grateful for. My parents cultivated the habit of reading for pleasure into me while I was a kid and it has stuck to me ever since. If I am able to write and talk fluently today, it is because of the amazing literature I was exposed to very early on.

 I will try and re-live this experience of mine.

                The earliest I can remember is when my mom and me, along with my brother, used to make regular visits to the British library. (The British library at Hyderabad, is without doubt, one of the best in the city and I’m glad that I went there.

I don’t really remember my first visits to the library. All I remember is that I used to pore over the books in children’s section, pick out some that had interesting summaries at the back and then, I faced the hard choice of picking 5 out of them because that was the maximum I was allowed to borrow.

  I didn’t choose the books that the other kids chose.

You know, the ones with huge illustrations and very little text. I could finish them right there in the library within 10 minutes and I thought it wasn’t worth it to lug them all the way back home just to finish them in under 10 minutes. Instead, I chose books that didn’t have as many illustrations but were ‘thick’ enough to last for an hour or more. Actually, the ‘thickness’ of the book became one of the many factors that I considered while choosing a book.

While running my finger over the books, I hardly gave a glance to the ones that were too thin to be of any use because they obviously couldn’t contain substantial text to keep me interested. I still don’t give a second glance at them.

Added to that, there were other perks that I picked up while choosing the books. All the books were arranged vertically and I had to bend my neck 180 degrees to read the titles. I couldn’t bother myself to do that so, I formulated a method of finding the books of my choice easily instead of reading the name of each and every book that my finger ran across.

As time passed, most of my books were from a single author, Enid Blyton. 

(In case you're wondering. That's Enid Blyton)

I had grown to love her stories and the library always seemed to have lots of her books to borrow. So, the books, they had some code plastered on their sides. After a bit of research I found out that all books of Enid Blyton started with the same code. Voila! So, every time I went to the library to search for books, I used to search for the author’s code. I can’t remember it but I think it went along the lines of “EBN” or “EDBL” or something like that. These codes were much easier to search for since they were written horizontally.

So, every time I had to borrow books, I would just simply search for that specific code and soon my arms would be full of stuff written by her.

I always used to spend the last hour or 30 minutes of my day, lying in bed and reading through the latest books that I had borrowed from the library. That was a ritual that continued for I-don’t-know -how-many-days. I would just lie in my bed and read, read, read until I felt that it was late and then, I’d give a call to my mom to switch off the lights in my room. :D all of us are guilty of that! We’d rather shout at the top of our voice and call our mom who is in some remote part of the house, than getting up from our cosy bed and switching off the lights.

                I don’t really remember what happened next. My prowess in English began increasing by leaps and bounds (or so it seemed). Before I could realize it, I could finish all 5 books that I borrowed from the library before my brother had even finished reading one (In his defense, he was in 10th grade or something then and didn’t spend much time on reading while I on the other hand, had all the time in the world!). My vocabulary started expanding, my spelling started getting better and I started writing better.

Soon, I was taking and passing all kinds of English proficiency tests that the British Library offered. I finished like 5 or something before I finished the 3rd Grade. That’s when I sat for an exam called the “FCE”. I can’t really re-collect what that acronym meant.

That exam was the equivalent for the TOEFL (apparently!). But, I failed (There you go, point blank). I didn’t really take it to heart or feel terribly dejected. I was still in the 3rd or 4th grade then. I was told that, from the following year, only students in 10th grade and above would be allowed to write it.

To be honest, I look back at examples of my writing during those days and think “How the hell did I manage to pass those exams?”. Really, I look back at some examples of writing about 7 years back in my diary and think “wtf? I wrote like that?” I wrote like a kid, but then again, I was KID back then.



                Time passed, and I began scouring for more literature. I kind of moved on from the short stories Enid Blyton and onto the ‘thicker’ novels. I began reading more of Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Ironically, they were from Enid Blyton as well. But, I began borrowing some other novels as well. I don’t really remember what I read during this period. The time I took in finishing books was considerably lower.



                The thickest novel I remember reading from those days was “Harry Potter and the Philospher’s stone”. Mind you, it was the actual un-abridged/long version, nothing like the 300+ page book that the kids today read. It was about 650 pages long and with minute text! I don’t mean ‘minute’ as in sixty seconds, I mean ‘minute’ as in terribly small sized. I was ‘awed’ by the size of it. Here’s something I very distinctly remember. I read exactly 50 pages from it the first day I brought it home from the library. That’s it, 50 pages, before I passed away from exhaustion. However, the coming days, my resilience grew. I could manage 90 or more pages before I passed away. Here’s the catch. I don’t distinctly remember finishing the book but, I had to! To be really honest, I don’t really remember much of what I read. But, as far as I know, I did indeed complete reading the full book even though most of it felt greek to me.


                Then, I remember reading the last part of the Chronicles of Narnia. THE LAST BATTLE. It was a pretty lengthy novel (Actually, I think it was short..but, it was thick!). And, I had to read through almost 100 pages of it before I could start making any sense of what was happening out there but, I managed to decipher it and get through the end of it. Though I don’t really remember it’s contents, I remember reading through it.

                Coming to think of it, I don’t really remember the names of the books that I’d read during this period. But, chances are, if you tell me part of the story, I might be able to tell you the remaining of it.
Time progressed and I just kept getting better (dare I say). I constantly kept reading new books and the newspaper. 

Yup! The newspaper. It was my daily digest of content. Previously, I used to skip right to the sports page but, nowadays, I often check out the editorial and other stuff before I go the sports section.

And, I was pretty proud of my English ‘skills’. It even turned into a vanity before reality brought me back down to Earth :P (The last part is from Sk8er boy by Avril Lavigne by the way. The ‘down to earth’ part. I don’t know, I just felt like citing it.)

Around 1 ½ (or maybe 2) years ago, I stopped renewing my membership at the British library. 

Why?

 I just did the math and realized that it wasn’t worth it. Added to that, I realized that due to growing homework, I could no longer spend time to read the books that I borrowed from the library and after I had renewed the dates on the books several times, I decided to scrap my membership altogether. I couldn’t be bothered to stick up to their deadlines to return the book before the mentioned date. I didn’t want to be bound by something that would make me rush to finish reading the book, robbing me of the pleasure of reading at my own pace. And, the books I found there just didn’t satisfy me.

Truth is, I lost my interest in reading fiction sometime during 2008 and 2009. I just lost interest in them. I would read every now and then but, that would be more because I had to rather than because I wanted to.

                Instead, I decided to get books of my own, books that I was interested in reading in and in my own time without any deadlines or anything of the sort. I hardly found the books that I was interested in at the library because more often than not, they would have already been checked out by somebody else and it would be weeks, maybe months before they returned it.

                My mother then pointed me towards some book stalls and told me to buy my books from there. I was impressed by the books that were present. And, they were really ‘thick’ as well :P Almost all of them were 400+ pages long and could easily satisfy my thirst as well.

                Things start getting blurred right now. I don’t remember the exact sequence in which they happened.

                At some railway station during my journey to Jammu and Kashmir, I picked up a book. I had heard a lot about it. It was ‘amazing’ according to people. I don’t know, why I did it. But, when I saw a book named “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown at some railway station. I knew I had to buy it. I don’t know why, I just had to, I did it impulsively. The price tag of ‘300’ didn’t deter me. I bought it.



                It was 650+ pages long. Wait a second, let me check, 671 pages to be precise…. During some train journey, when I was feeling bored, I took this book out to read it. I don’t really remember much. Thoughts are blurred for that day. I just took it out and started reading it. Something possessed me. I finished that book in a single day. In a single train journey, at a stretch, six to seven hours with only a break of about 15 minutes to finish dinner. I don’t have words to describe why or what made me do this. I just did it.
                That, according to me, was the turning point. I realized that the ability to read for hours at a stretch had not abandoned me. It was still there inside me.

My love for reading was reborn.

                I took a liking to thick novels from them on. As luck would have it, I read Jeffrey Archer’s - A prisoner of Birth and I was totally hooked. I went on reading as many Jeffrey Archer novels as I could.

As of today, since the time that I finished reading The Lost Symbol, I’ve read close to 13 to 14 novels. Around 6 of them written by Jeffrey Archer.

                 If I look at those numbers, it feels as though I haven’t done anything mind boggling but, I know that something has indeed taken place.

                Every time I buy a novel, I turn the last pages of it within 36 hours (I tried to write something different than just the usual “Complete reading the book” but, I guess my try wasn’t good enough). They’ve managed to enrapture me that much. Every time I read a Jeffrey Archer novel, it feels as though I’m watching a movie. I experience the thrills and form close bonds with the characters.

                                Actually, I just finished reading my latest novel today. It was another Jeffrey Archer, A matter of honour. It was really good! And, recently, I finished reading a non-fiction book called “Tuesdays with Morrie.” It was an e-book and I finished it in one sitting as is the case with most books.


                If there is one thing that I can say that I truly love, it’s reading. Reading takes me to a whole new dimension. Some place that I wouldn’t want to leave for all the treasures in the world. (I’m serious. However, if you offer me some extra-solar planet, I will surely reconsider!)

                Reading has had such an impact on me that anything I say about it will be an understatement. To say the very least, had I not been introduced to reading at an early age and had it not cultivated into a habit, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this post and my blog probably wouldn’t have existed.

                So, a big cheers to reading! (Don’t blame me! I couldn’t come up with a better thing :P)

                I really hope that I continue reading for fun, for the rest of my life.

Here’s what’s next on my reading list.

 n  Jeffrey Archer – Prison Diaries.
 n  Robert Ludlum – (some title…some weird title. I’ll remember it when I see it)
 n  Some Tom Clancy book
 n  Chicken soup for the Teenage Soul
 n  7 Habits of highly effective Teenagers

So, the last two aren’t novels but, my horizons have expanded than just fiction. I’m finding non-fiction interesting as well! Give them a try!

Anyways, this is the end of a 2400+ word post. I hope it made up for all the reading deficit that had accumulated during the last 5 days (My longest gap in quite some time).

Until next time,
Adarsh!

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