A book is the only place in the world in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without the fear that it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.Spot on Edward P. Morgan Sir !
I grew up in a home filled with miscellaneous context!Apart from the chaos of frequent transfers, new schools and the struggle to stay afloat with studies it was peaceful for most part. It was a relay race per se of house guests, mess parties ,Coffee mornings , musical evenings , moonlight picnics and Sunday brunch and quiz .But by far the most exciting and eagerly awaited event was the monthly Book club meet followed by cocktails and dinner !
When I was younger the focus was on the food Maa served … the juicy Chicken parcels with pineapple, vegetable cutlets, and wafer thin liver pâté sandwiches, carrot salad, and cherry cake. The menu changed every month and no dish was ever repeated. Years after we lost her, I found a diary in which she had made notes …of the guest list ,the food and beverages! A humble salute to this petite kitchen General!
Nothing much has changed over the years, food is still a priority but what did change was my relationship with books! The journey from a diffident reader to this monster who devoured books was an arduous one !I am convinced that my love affair began when Papa gifted me a book after several not so subtle hints .It was a personal present and did not come with the abhorred “to be shared ” tag ! Grimm’s fairy tales! It was a collection of 6 stories.. Rapunzel, Snow white and the seven dwarfs, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella!
Having sibling’s means one learns very early of life’s essential unfairness and one had to be good at fractions to survive because anything divisible would be divided ! Luckily the dedication on the book was proof enough to establish my exclusive ownership rights! I had lost count of the number of times I read the book …over and over and over again! As was the custom those days to cover all reading material, I did so too, with paper I had saved from a then popular magazine the Illustrated Weekly ! The book was stowed away carefully in the right hand drawer of my cupboard along with my other treasures!
Each story left an indelible impression on my mind and the characters had a special niche in the temple of memory from which their image was never cast out or trashed because one had outgrown it! They were alive and lived so deep in my heart that no one could visit even in their dreams!
Books for me were like costumes that I got to wear and become someone else and live in some other state of being or in the Milky Way where constellations swirled and popped creating vibrant lustre vortexes in the night sky!
Maa always set up a tiny study room with books, a comfortable reading chair and the rickety pedestal lamp that had outlived its use and needed a decent burial !! I shared my life with these books. Between each book, shelf, crevice and below it along with a little bit of dust lay wrapped ,the story of my life! They were a silent witness to the jazz! They walked alongside through it all … my first book , my first bicycle,first crush, first love,first baby, first grandchild and …… now ! It was like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon with your arms outstretched and feeling the wind in your hair. Only those who have experienced that will understand!
Books encouraged me when I was despondent, brought light and sunshine into shadow! Books in the true sense became my warrior of light. Shakespeare, Henry Miller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austin, PG Woodhouse to name just a few.. they all watched my show from a front row seat!
Then one day I woke up to the reality of my life. I was married,two kids,a dog, cats, a beautiful home ,family and friends! So the only gratitude gift I could think of was … A book club. Life had come a full circle! The menu planning had begun with great passion ….. yet again!
I’ve spent a large part of my life asking people what they get out of reading and I’m consistently finding new and surprising answers. People read for a whole host of reasons – for escape and for challenge, to be private and to share someone else’s experience. Just as we have different clothes for different occasions, we have books for different purposes. Every so often we make a judgment when we see someone with a specific book – there goes a romance reader, he’s obviously a fantasy fan,how can he read such junk or maybe she’s clearly trying to convey she’s an intellectual!
It is interesting too.. to know what the author had in mind when he or she wrote the book . It gives me a new insight and makes reading a very spiritual experience. One of my book club recommendations was ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ‘by Junot Dias. It was a noisy book and I read it at a time when a lot was happening in my life. On a whim I mailed Junot .To my utter surprise he wrote back! And then there was Garth Stein and his touching novel’The Art of Racing in the Rain’.I had saved it as my hospital stay read. It opened up so much in me! I mailed him about the impact the book had and how much it inspired me to get better. One depressing Monday evening I get a call from a strange number and guess who? It was Garth Stein himself.He told me of how my mail touched him and said he, his family and dog would pray for me! This cosmic connection between the author, his book and me is in effect a quantum theory where all the three are correlated to predictably interact with each other regardless of being separated by an arbitrary spatial distance. I may not be as voracious a reader as I would like to be but I do believe that I have inherited a few qualities from my parents !! I know they are watching over and thinking.. ‘How lovely! Yet another generation is going to inherit a valuable treasure … Books!! ‘