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There was this girl in my school bus. She was always reading Nancy Drew books. She was my senior. Her name was Jane P. Thomas. She had a heavy bag and a water bottle to hold on to. No matter what the weather, or how stuffy the bus got in the afternoon trip back home, Jane always had a book in her hand. She was always reading. I was more into playing games with my friends and yapping away the time. Often playing silly role games like sister-sister with my two close buddies. But Jane always reading in the seat opposite to me sort of irked me. Why? I don’t know. One fine day, out of the blue I randomly started annoying Jane. ‘Nancy drew Jane with pink glasses!’ She was getting frustrated. But being the sweet person that she was, she just kept shooing me away. This went on for a long while, until Jane got really mad at me. Then she shoved the book in at me and said, ‘ Now as a punishment for troubling me, take this home and read it. I will ask you the story.’
That was the best thing that happened to me! I took it home too stunned to reply to her. After my lunch, I casually browsed through. After all, what kept Jane so engrossed?
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In my fourth and fifth grade, our library at my school had beautiful big fairy tale books. They were so colorful, glossy with a big print. I tried to read as many as I could. But we had library period once every alternate week. I couldn’t finish one story in one period. And the one I had finished half wouldn’t even be there in the shelves the next time. Also, my reading wasn’t so good. I couldn’t understand some words, so the meaning was altogether lost to me. I was too afraid to ask anyone for the fear of being laughed at. I soon lost interest in reading.
Until Jane gave me the book in 7th grade. The story was mind gripping. Again it had words I couldn’t get, but by then I knew the power of an Oxford Dictionary. I read as fast as I could. The night was falling. I had homework to do, food to eat, helping around chores at home, praying and playing with my siblings. Much of the book was left. In the morning trip to the school Jane asked me if I had read it. I said yes I did. I needed more time to finish it though. Jane got it issued for another week for me from the library! I read the whole book by the end of the week.
And thus began my reading spree.
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The school bus took one hour to drop me at my home. After all, I was the last stop in a bus of what seemed like 50 students to me. I read a lot in that one hour. My friends got annoyed at me. They used to snatch away my book and hide it beneath the seat.
On hindsight, maybe I lost most of my friends this way. I read too much for my own good.
Anyway, my list began with reading all of the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. I moved on to the Goosebumps series of R.L.Stine. These were really scary. I always had the hair on my hands stand up when I read these horror books.
Another thing that really fueled my reading were my siblings. They loved to hear stories that I used to tell them when mom and dad left us at home to go out. It kept them entertained for hours. I even used to make up bits in order to elongate the story. I can still remember their awestruck faces as I used to narrate the mysteries and horrors. They would literally heave sighs of relief at the end of the narration.
I explored more shelves in our library when the Nancy Drew series got over. I moved on to Hardy Boys, The sleepover Club and few others.
Then one day I got my hands on an Agatha Christie book. Wow! I cannot, I simply cannot narrate how thrilled I was reading it. ‘And then there were none’, that was the name. My siblings still remember how I told them about it and the story itself.
My dad was very happy that I was always reading. To him it meant that I wasn’t wasting time, rather utilizing every moment. He has always been very supportive of the whole concept of reading. He got me a lot of books from his university library too. This went on fine, till the pages of my books began to increase, and the time shortened. Math was boring. I hid my story book inside my text book! Mom never doubted. But dad couldn’t understand my constantly average grades. So he raided my top bunk of the bed. Lo and Behold! Dad caught me hiding and reading. He whisked away my book, warned me not to repeat.
The mysteries were too delicious. I was once reading an Akbar Birbal compiled witty stories. I had the book and couldn’t wait to finish it. After my Hindi test, I hid the book in my table draw and began reading. I thought, since my test went well, I still have around 15 more minutes for the Hindi period to get over, I could read a lot. To my misery, my Hindi teacher came around and took the book away. I tried to reason with her. What was I to do sitting idle 15 minutes? I could read, what harm was it? She got annoyed that I reasoned with her. She said if the book would have been Hindi, she would have let me read it. Like Duh! She didn’t give me back until a week later, when the due date was past a day. That was sad to me.
At that time I made a list of books I had read. It had crossed hundred! I was elated.
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I read through the night, right up till dawn. I was scared of the dark, so we had a night lamp on all night. I read my books in that light. Mom used to come at times to my room, and loving tell me to go to sleep. She would say I would lose my eyesight reading in dim light.24 Hours were too short for me.
There was this Million Dollar Mystery book, of Nancy Drew. My sister got it for me from her friend. (Yep, I began borrowing from wherever I could, because the library allowed us only one book per week, and I was done with one book withing three four days). Dad caught me reading in the test week. He ripped it apart to my utter dismay. He told me I was warned. But I couldn’t give up. My sis was mad at me. I rebound the book, finished it in the bus and gave it back.
Once, my sis and dad decided to hide my book when I was asleep. It somehow landed in the trash. I was soooooooo scared. I had to return it to the school library, or pay a fine or get a new one replaced. It costed some bucks and dad wouldn’t budge in to giving me the fine. Well, all of my pocket money had to go. A friend of mine bought me a new one and I sheepishly replaced it to the library.
Agatha Christie became my most favourite author in my 9th, 10th and 11th grade of school. The librarian, Mrs. Elizabeth ma’am became my favourite person to meet in the break times. She let me borrow as many as I wanted. Always ordered new books and told me about them first. At times she even kept the new ones aside for me to grab them first! I loved her for that! I miss her a lot. I wish I could go back to school once more and sit with her, read and borrow and chat with her.
I moved on to novels. I read up all the Agatha Christie books in my library. There just weren’t more of them. I read Sidney Sheldon, James Patterson, Dan Brown and many more. (these three became my utmost favourite).
Even though I had exams, or tests or illness, or anything, somehow I always found time to read. It broke my heart when I finished schooling. I did not know of a library beyond my school that would let me read books. My dad’s friend who borrowed books for us from the rec center library had retired. Then one day dad bought 50 books from a clearance from the library. I was mind blown! What a time that was!
But soon this got over too. So I took reading to the next level. My dad had gifted me my first laptop for my Tenth Grade honour roll. It was a beautiful, sleek awesome silver laptop. I found novels online in PDF format. And that was it. I hunted down so many sites to download and read.
I read through my degree years and even during my job. Then marriage happened. I got married. I got so enthralled by my very own Prince Charming, I forgot all about reading.
I have two little kids of my own now. I want them to read too. So I have gotten back on track. Back to reading!
People ask, where do you see yourself after 20 years? Many places. But most probably snuggled cosily in the corner of my own library.
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