My sojourn with books began as a very small child. Even before I learnt to read :) With a dad who reads extensively and an elder sis who had already been drawn into the world of books, reading caught my fancy quite early in life. As a little kid who could make no sense of the letters in a book, I would simply take one, turn pages and chant a line which I had learnt from a TV ad, pretending to read. Funnily enough, the line was 'No more bathrooms' :). It featured in an ad from a company that sold luxury bathroom fittings I think and I somehow took a fancy to it. So every night, when dad and sis buried themselves in their books and so did mom for she had no other choice, I would also sit with a flashy book, turn the pages and religiously chant 'No more bathrooms' much to amusement of all of them. I'd do this exercise for about 10 minutes, announce that I had finished the book and only then would I dutifully go to sleep.
In spite of this encouraging beginning, I had trouble learning to read when I was in class 1. I still remember the trepidation in my heart on the day when we had to read a page from the story 'Hansel and Gratel' for an oral test. I knew the contents of only the first page, not that I could read it, but because it was a simple one liner that I had heard many times in class.I was roll number 1 and was frantically hoping that the teacher would call out to read in the roll number order so that I could simply say the one liner from memory and get away. But as luck always has it, she started according to seating order and when my turn came, I got a huge paragraph which I could make absolutely no sense of ! Yes, I could individually make out the alphabets but had no clue how to read them when put together. Now if I think of it, I can only wonder why :)
Finally it was mom who taught me to read, not my teachers in school. After she got a complaint from my class teacher, we both went together all the way to Higginbothams in Mount Road, bought Hansel and Gratel and exercised with it until I could read all the pages. In fact, I was given so much practice that I started reciting the book with eyes closed after a few days and defeated the purpose :)
To this day, one of the greatest pleasures of life for me are the hours spent at the library or a bookstore. It feels very much like being among loved ones. To be lost among the shelves without any regard for time is such a luxury. The exhilaration that sweeps over when I find a book that I may like is simply priceless. Even if I I walk out without picking any book, the exercise is so therapeutic. I can perfectly understand all people out there who love window shopping :)
Even though we now live in the world of flipkart, amazon and kindle which have made books a lot more accessible and buying a lot easier, I would still say that the smell of books in a well stocked library and the experience of holding a physical book is unparalleled :)
I am so glad to have been drawn into this priceless world of books. Beyond entertaining the reader, books open up the mind and broaden one's perspective. There is a limitation to the experiences we can get, the places that we can visit and the people we can meet during our lifetime. But books can give you exposure well beyond this physical limitation. I could attend boarding school with Elizabeth, be a part of Jane Austen's bygone era and English society, live in Harry Potter's enchanting magical world and peek into the brahmin housleholds of Vinayk Mudali Steet without having to actually live in those times or visit those places. Apart from this, I strongly believe that reading enables you to understand people around and evaluate situations that you face in life in a much better manner. It shapes your thinking and character and enriches your personality to a great extent.
Books have been my constant friends in life, crossing the hurdles of age groups, place and time. They have changed along with me and evolved in the same pace. And yes, these best friends of mine do sometimes elude me very much like their human counterparts. There are days of frustration when I am unable to lay my hands on the next good read and go groping in the dark, stumbling and falling. But nevertheless, the next gem does come and land in my hands, transporting me to a different world and refreshing my mind, intellect and soul. This is a very special bond that I will treasure for life!