Since time immemorial, the written word in the form of books has been used to spread knowledge. Todays world is no different. Even with the choice of multiple media like television and the Internet, there is nothing better than spending an afternoon reading a good book. As newspaper and magazine articles tend to get shorter (and in some cases, dumber), the book remains the best way to expand ones horizons. In our instant and real-time present, there is something about a book which slows time as one is transported into the world of new ideas and characters created by the author.
Books are not limited by space as newspapers and magazines are, or by time as television stories are. Because books do not distract with ads or visuals, they allow the formation of images of our own. In that sense, books are the ultimate personalised experience. Each of us has our memories about our favourite books, especially the time when we read them first. They take us back to our past, becoming synonymous with memories of an era gone by.
My earliest memories of books are the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Hardy Boys series. I remember going to the local library every week and picking up the books, and then anxiously waiting for time between school studies to read them. They helped nourish my language and fed the imagination. Those adventures became my own. Books and I started a friendship which has endured ever since.
Next came Agatha Christies Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, and Arthur Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Every story, every book enveloped me in its own mystery. Along similar lines was Erle Stanley Gardners Perry Mason series. The goal in reading all remained the same could I solve the mystery before the end of the book. The authors inevitably outwitted me, and that made me read the next in the series hoping that the next time, Ill be smarter!
Somewhere along the line, PG Wodehouse took over. The delectable wit of Jeeves and the inimitable Bertie Wooster meant that every book just had to read and re-read. The subtle humour, the tricky situations, the wonderful language this was English literature at its best for me. I still remember going to Strand Book Shop in Mumbai hunting for the PGs that one had somehow missed!
One of my regrets is that I did not read much from Indian authors. I only read a little of RK Narayan. Perhaps, there is still time to go back to them. I dont know why I read less about India maybe, I wanted my images of India to be self-formed. I do remember reading Vikram Seths tome, A Suitable Boy. For the hype it had generated, I couldnt but feel disappointed.
My four-year stint at IIT reinforced my love for books. Maybe, it was because books were more easily accessible (through hostel mates and the well-stocked library). Or, perhaps, because one always had plenty of time: skipping (boring) lectures on Electrical Engineering, spending the time reading a book and then discussing it with friends later in the evening was seen as cool.
Tomorrow: Books and I (continued)