Every single time I sit down to write something, I thank my school for making me a reader. I believe I didn’t have a remote chance at writing if I was not such a passionate reader. And this affair started at school. I was in class 6th and we used to have a Library period. The first novel I read was that of Nancy Drew. Though I was fond of reading before that, actually ever since I can remember but what took the passion to a height was the Library period.

If I start from the beginning, I remember I used to save the money I got for toffees or chocolates to rent comics books from a make-shift shop under a tree near to my house. I used to love reading those books…there was something about those superheroes that touched me and all I wanted to do was just to keep reading. I, my sister and my cousins would all go to the shop and rent out 6-7 such books. It used to cost 50 p for a normal size book and Re. 1 for a digest (the thick one). And I remember we used to spend a lot of money on renting those and I was never content with whatever I read…I always wanted more. But there was a good thing about renting them together. I was the eldest and the fastest reader, so everyone would ask me to read for them. Did I love it? Absolutely! We would sit on the stairs and would devour all those we could rent in a day. Most children forget hunger and thirst while playing, but I did that while reading. Even when everyone would be bored listening, I would continue reading for myself.

The second in preference were text books. We used to get our text books for the academic year 15 days before the school actually began. And, during those 15 days, I would have read all my English and Hindi text-book stories. Then, I would do the same with my sister’s or cousin’s books, even though I knew I had read them in earlier classes. I remember this one time when I was left with no new stories in the language text books, so I read my Social studies book as well! So what if it was not fiction, there were stories about history, great leaders! That was how much I loved reading.

There were rare occasions when someone would gift me a book. That would be the best gift ever. I remember every single book I received as a gift. I also remember, not with proud, that my best friend of that time lost one of my books, actually the very first English novel I owned (‘Kidnapped’). And I didn’t talk to her for days. It was a shame and I knew I hurt her, but I was just too much in love with my books. I feel sorry for my friend though, it was simply mean.

Coming back to Nancy Drew affair – the first novel I ever read cover to cover. It was mandatory to read the library books and the teacher could ask us questions from the book she gave to us. But I did not need a reason to finish the book, I just simply did. But the rule of the library was not to lend more than one book per student. So I used to borrow them from not-so-enthusiastic readers, and read. In exchange, I would give them a brief synopsis of the book, in case the teacher asked! Yeah, it was cheating, but I wanted to read the books and some students wouldn’t lend them easily.

And after one year, my parents realized that I had become careless towards my studies because I was spending too much time reading. For some time, I was banned from reading more than required and I would hide and read them, still. Now I realize how many rules I broke and how many lies I told just to continue the passion of reading. That was a short phase, thankfully. I grew up a bit and learned to manage time. I trained myself to keep the book down, before finishing it. (It is still a big task for me though).

Of course, later I started reading maturer fiction and non-fiction. One of my cousins introduced me to latter. After I started it though, I stopped my affair with fiction for some time. Yet, old habits die hard. So now, my reading list is always a combination of fiction, non-fiction, self-help, biographies…everything good I can lay my hands on. There are many writers I loved, many classics and contemporary books I loved, some I hated, some had good concept but bad style, others had good style but not-so-good plot…I have read them all. And most of the times I have finished a book I started, even though sometimes, it would take me months to do so due to circumstances. But there are just 2-3 books that I could not finish. It is a rare occurence…averaging to about one book in 8 years I guess. Those were really bad ones and I could not carry on, how much ever I tried. I felt uneasy leaving a book unfinished , yet when I picked them again to read, I could not make myself do it, whatever efforts I put into it. So those were really bad ones, I am sure. If a book lover like me cannot finish a book, it must be pretty bad! And then, there are those that I have read more than once, several times! Shakespeare is obviously one of the adored writers, and I can pick any of his work anytime and read it to the finish, irrespective of how many times I have already read it. I have read the classic poets also. I used to love reading poetry as much as I did prose. That’s why before I was a writer, I was a poet. I could always understand the deeper meanings of the poems, even before the teacher would explain to us. I could visualize the poet pouring his/her heart out into what they wrote. I could come close to feeling their emotions when they composed those poems. I loved poetry.

Then, came the internet era…my dad bought me a PC when I was in college. It opened a whole lot of possibilities for me…I could read as much as I wanted…and many a time, I did not have to buy the books. But honestly, I still prefer a paperback. Nothing can beat the satisfaction of sitting in bed with a book open and letting your thoughts flow with the words of the author. I love the smell of pages and if I had a choice I would prefer writing also the traditional way. The electronic medium somehow doesn’t feel the same. Though of course, I have read many books on this medium, yet I would anytime prefer traditional ways…I am old-fashioned I guess.