I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. The habit was born out of my love for stories. As a child, I remember asking my grandparents to tell bedtime stories. I could never get enough of them. When one ended, I wanted another. There was a day when my grandmother acceded to so many requests that, by the time I was done, it was dawn. One day, I asked my father to recite a story. He was caught by surprise and said, “I don’t know any”. A few days later, he handed me a comic book and said, “Now, you don’t need others to tell you stories”. I was hooked. I started with children’s comics followed by short stories and fables, and then graduated to novels.
Once I take up a good book, it’s difficult for me to put it down. I am always keen to know what happens next. I buy and collect books like a fiend. Every time I browse for books to buy online, my husband raises an eyebrow. I happily lend and borrow books and think they make the best gifts. One summer vacation, I reread all the books I had at home. When I was done, I became so desperate that I read books in local languages despite my lack of fluency.
Reading, for me, has always been a means of escape; a refuge. It is a way to forget about the troubles of my life and immerse myself in the world of another. When I read, my mind blocks out everything else. My mother would say, “When Norah is with a book, it is as if she is not in the house”. There were times when I was curled up with a book in my room and repeated calls from my mother for lunch or dinner went unanswered. It was only when she came all the way to the room that I realized that it was time for a meal.
The beauty of reading is that, unlike television and videos, it allows you to visualize things; the story unfolds in your imagination. Like music, it has the ability to affect your state of mind; to brighten, to sadden, to anger, to placate, to inspire, to uplift, and to enlighten. Good books are works of art and can be collected and treasured, just like masterpieces.
Reading has taught me about people and places, cultures and customs, wars and famines, rationality and religion, myths and facts; all from the confines of my home.
It is through reading that I have learned about the many facets of language and how it has evolved and changed over time. I still remember reading the unabridged version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The usage of language was so different from what I was accustomed to, that I had to read each paragraph twice before I understood it in its entirety.
It has made me appreciate the creativity and imagination of others. Growing up, I always wanted to be an author. I dreamed of writing stories that captured the beauty and complexity of human thought and emotion. Over time, however, I realized that I didn’t have the imagination to pull it off. This made me respect writers even more. Making people connect with a story, and experience the emotion conveyed by a written word is no small feat.
It has also made me realize that as long as you have a book with you, you can never be lonely. You could be in the comfort of your home or in the middle of nowhere. There is no need for a power cable or an internet connection. All you need is a book for company and a source of illumination.
Reading makes you think. It unlocks the mind and fuels the imagination. A good story stays with you long after you finish reading the last page.
So, what made you pick up your first book?