That priceless feeling
Love for reading goes back for a long time. I surely can't remember the first book I read, but as a kid, there was always an interesting book coming all the way from Russia – brilliant, colourful illustrations on glossy paper telling stories of kids, animals and places of another land. Then there were the monthly editions of 'Chandamama', a local Telugu children's book with stories of kings and commoners from a long time ago, telling interesting stories illustrated with quintessentially Indian imagery...which also had the forever ongoing story of 'Vikram-Betal' – the king and the ghost that spent their nights in storytelling...stories that in addition to being entertaining, had a lesson to be learnt.
Then there were comics, Phantom, Superman, Batman, and the Amar Chitra Katha telling stories of freedom fighters, and not to forget there was Panchatantram...the five books that taught life lessons to a bunch of princes' aeons ago were diligently read and absorbed. I was always surrounded by books; if that was deliberate or not one wouldn't know, but reading surely happened naturally...
Membership in the colony library meant the reading continued to include fairytales that were just then coming in hardbound abridged colourful versions and more comics, this time Richie Rich, Tinkle, ACKs tales from Mahabharata, Ramayana, and other epics, Nancy Drew, Famous Five and Hardy Boys.
Growing into high school reading became even more intense; would grab every book from father's bookshelf...Arthur Halley, Fredrick Forsyth, Graham Greene, Dan Brown, Ken Follet, Ian Fleming, James Hadley Chase, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes series, 'Catch 22', 'Roots', 'Kane and Abel' and a whole lot of classics. One was in a terrible hurry to read whatever one could lay hands upon. You need to be over 18 to read this book, a well-meant warning was promptly ignored and that meant the book went right to the top of the rack to be read first.
The next library was attached to a girls' college. That meant introduction to Mills and Boons read even while sitting on the front bench in college, safely tucked between pages of a textbook, and Archie's comics that also gave some fashion funda on the sidelines...this was also an opening into a whole lot of new books, Sydney Sheldon, some more of Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham, the entire Robin Cook series...As life went on, the list of authors grew, genres widened, fiction and thrillers gave way to non-fiction and authors beyond the US and England; 'Kite Runner' was just the tip of the iceberg. Journey with books has been one roller coaster ride opening up the world through the pages of the books, which continues to this day...
Now, the world has shrunk, hypothetically of course. We have access to books from all over. Good books from other world languages too are getting translated and the internet has made buying a book that much easier, Kindle helps you carry 100s of books in one hand, and there are audiobooks to be heard on the go. There are books everywhere, but so little time to read. Visual entertainment has taken up a whole lot of space in our lives. One would rather watch a book (made into a film or web series) than read it. A lot has changed, but what may not have changed after all is the magical world, we create for ourselves as we read a book.
We are the directors of the movie we make in our minds. I can still remember vividly the dark and ominous moor that I imagined while reading the 'Hound of Baskerville'; the farmlands and war scenes in Southern parts of America where Scarlett lives her story in 'Gone With The Wind' and the visual in my head of Roark standing in front of a building under construction, while reading 'The Fountainhead'. That feeling you get while reading a good book is priceless, and this feeling remains unchanged.