I am surprised by my memories sometimes. I don’t understand how I remember what I remember, but I do love the details that have embedded themselves in my mind. I remember that I hated school when I first started going; I didn’t like making new friends because I did not enjoy the talking involved to get to know someone else. It was a task for the 4-year-old me.
I remember watching the teacher sharpen a pencil for me and it was fascinating. I had mastered scribbling by then, so I wondered what more I could do with a pencil. When I learnt my first words, graduating from three letters to more, I was fascinated. I remember the excitement I felt when we used to go to supermarkets and I could read bits of the product labels. I believed I had discovered a superpower (though I couldn’t spell ‘superpower’ or know its meaning then) and it was magical.
I took it upon myself to read every bunch of letters I could see and it became a game of sorts, one that I could play all day in my head. And I did. I didn’t need to talk to anyone, nor did I need to have a friend to play with. This was the easiest interaction I had chanced upon.
One of the best days of my life was when I was introduced to the dictionary. We hit it off right away; he was timeless and I was 8. I would read the dictionary once I was done with my homework or before going to bed. Words were my first love. I still feel giddy when I learn new words. If you’re smiling, hello there, fellow logophile! My mother would take me to a tiny bookstore that had a whole shelf of Enid Blyton books for me to choose from; this was our ritual when I used to secure the 1st rank in the primary grades.
Enid Blyton was all I probably read till I was 10 years old; I’ll throw in some fables and fairy tales in there, too. I would read and re-read till I had memorised the whole book in due time. From that age up until I was 15, I was a library dweller. I didn’t own too many books, and I classified that as a luxury I would allow myself as a reward. To this day, libraries hold a special place in my heart. Time stops when I visit them and they are a portal to my bookish fantasies. If I owned as many books as I have borrowed in all these years, I would easily have more than 500 books, apart from the 260 I own now. The librarians always end up becoming acquaintances and friends due to the time I spend walking around, sitting in corners and reading and of course, asking them to help me search for books.
At 13, I graduated to the Nancy Drew series and binged on it, then discovered Percy Jackson and hid the book in the library multiple times so that I could borrow and re-read it after whatever I was reading then. I blazed through the Princess Diaries, relating to them more than I should have and changed tracks when I read Roald Dahl for the first time.
Reading Roald Dahl changed my life; I hadn’t encountered insane imagination and mind-blowing creativity like that before. I naively thought that stories were meant to be believable. When it came to Dahl’s writing, there he was weaving stories that left me hungry for more and the most striking effect on me was that of the words he cooked up. There were words in his books that I couldn’t find in a dictionary and that baffled me. I was limited to the dictionary till then and had never given thought to how words come to be what they are. Someone must have made them up years ago, just like Dahl.
I turned 18 and a lot more changed. Word origins and word roots started making a home in my brain and I began exploring more authors to experience the varying writing styles and genres. Ruskin Bond and William Dalrymple are some other authors whose writing makes me want to soak it all in; it’s not only about what they write, but how they write it. If I have to make it relatable, think of that perfect pair of jeans that fit right everywhere or slicing into butter at room temperature, that’s what their writing feels like in the mental realm. While we are talking about this feeling, I have to show James Patterson some love! I have taken it upon myself to read everything he has ever written. His plots are delicious!
I re-read Harry Potter around this time and couldn’t understand why I hated it before. I wouldn’t call myself a true Potterhead, but that is some fantastic story-telling. Well done, J.K. Rowling. I was also reading books written by Murakami, Arundhati Roy, Jane Austen, and Thomas Hardy as well as other popular ladies and gents. This is why I call myself a scrambled reader – I don’t have a favourite genre! I go through phases all the time. If you have read my previous posts, you would know of the whole year I spent only reading non-fiction; that gives you an idea of the extent of my phases.
No matter what I am reading, there is one habit I have always maintained – to learn something new. Whether it’s a new word, historical event, clever phrase or writing technique, I keep my eyes peeled and my brain ready with a notepad to take things down. I am still in a healthy relationship with my dictionary and also have a whole list of favourite words. I have so many bits of information that somehow find a place in my brain-folds and come to my aid when necessary. I believe reading can do so much simply because I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today if hadn’t fallen in love with words all those years ago. I wouldn’t have been able to write this for all of you to read either.
Reader. Learner. Dreamer.
I am all about the little things in life!