Falling in love…with books

Perhaps the first book I held in my hands was the stories of Krishna, when I was about three or four. It was a slim volume in Hindi, published by Geeta Press and had a picture on each page with a few lines explaining the story in the picture. Some pages were garish blue, some green and others pink. I could remember every detail in the pictures and ‘tell’ the story much before I learnt to read Hindi.  One could call it a picture book. My elder siblings would tell me stories from the mythologies and I became a storyteller of sorts myself at five, when I would make up stories and narrate them to the children in the neighbourhood.

In my early childhood, I had been struck by some bug that laid me up in bed, unable to move my lower limbs, for many weeks. My elder brother — the second of the two — kept me entertained with stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. How I loved those sessions as I waited eagerly for him to get free and come to my bedside.

So the sum total of my exposure to stories was limited to the mythological tales of Rama and Krishna and the ones I made up!

When we came to Nagpur and I joined school straight in the third standard, reading became a passion. Having so many books to read was new to me. I could read all the three languages fluently – English, Tamil and Hindi. I would read all the stories and essays in my school books and then read from the books of my other cousins who were in different classes. We couldn’t afford to buy books, not that affordable ones were available in India those days. Indian publishing was largely restricted to text books.

Our grandparents’ house was just a street away and we would spend many hours during summer there, running up and down the stairs playing hide and seek or some indoor game in the large  two storey house. For me and my other cousins who lived in one and two-room houses in the adjacent streets, our grandparent’s house was a veritable palace. We envied the cousins who lived there and had the run of the huge house all the time, while we only visited.

That was where I discovered THE MAGIC ROOM!

It was a largish, slightly dark room on the first floor and filled with rows and rows of books. Even the loft had books! It was the collection of my youngest mama who was a book lover. There were fairy tales, volumes of Reader’s Digest — some of them American editions and every issue from the time it came to India, unabridged classics, a volume of Aesop’s fables in Tamil, and hundreds of comics – Phantom, Mandrake, Little Dot, Sad Sack and Richie Rich. (Are they still available?) The Grimm’s Fairy tales was an oversized yellowing imported edition that broke into bits like biscuits. There were also Tamil periodicals and novels. I read some of those novels too, Parthiban kanavu and Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki, among them.

Summer holidays in hot Nagpur meant ice creams and sleeping out on the terrace, but most importantly books. I could read all I wanted. I cajoled my uncle to let me borrow books from the ‘library’ room in grandfather’s house. We didn’t have holiday homework as kids do now, but my brother insisted that I learn the problems in math for the next year 😦

Summers were story times too. There was a bhajan sabha where religious discourses and harikathas were conducted during summer months. Some of the performers stayed in our grandparents’ house for the duration of the programmes which went on for a couple of weeks.  I remember one particularly, a grandfatherly figure, who regaled us with the children’s version of the epics during the day, forgoing his noon siesta. How we loved those sessions!

Coming back to the library room, after I completed reading the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s Fables, and the comics, I began reading the classics. The language was tough for an eight-year-old and went over my head. But it didn’t stop me from reading up all of Charles Dickens’s works, the novels of Jane Austen and P.G.Wodehouse, Lorna Doone, Heidi, The song of Hiawatha, and even Wuthering Heights! I hardly understood them though I meticulously noted down difficult words and looked them up in the dictionary. (We had an ancient one that all but fell apart in one’s hands having been passed down two generations or more!)

That first summer in Nagpur, I fell deeply and irrevocably in love – with books.

By the time I was 12, I had read stacks of Perry Mason novels – the courtroom dramas used to be so interesting to me at that time. O.Henry, Hemingway, H.G.Wells, Pearl.S.Buck, P.G.Wodehouse, and — Lobsang Rampa! Have you heard of his books on metaphysics and the occult? Well, I read him gamely and tried to understand the contents.  Along the way, I read Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale too. Then I read the books of R.K.Narayan But let me put it on record that I only liked Swami and Friends, maybe because it was about children or maybe because it was the only one I fully understood at that age.

I was introduced to Enid Blyton after all these heavy tomes, in the eighth standard by my school friend in Mumbai. She had a great collection of them. We lapped them up, discussed the stories and drooled over the impossible to imagine/see — leave alone get to taste — the scrumptious goodies that were so graphically written about by Blyton. For the first time, I was reading books appropriate for my age and enjoying them! I don’t remember seeing Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. Maybe they had not yet come to India in the 60s or maybe my friend didn’t have them.

The teens saw me savouring A.J.Cronin and the bestsellers — Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsythe, Ken Follet and others. I also read Ayn Rand, Leo Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Kamala Das, Kamala Markandeya, the feminists writers and many many others.  It is just not possible to list all the books I read during those impressionable years.  I just read every book I could lay my hands on. It was an eclectic mix of books, many of them bought by my brother and the rest borrowed from the libraries at college and the University. One of the books that made the most impact on me at that time was Jonathan Livingston Seagull, followed by the holocaust books by Leon Uris.

Reading is a passion in our family. My father was the champion of them all. He had temporarily given up reading during his work years when he sometimes worked double shifts to make that bit of extra money to meet expenses. But after his retirement, he read continuously, anything he could lay his hands on. By then, my elder brother had begun buying books and once he finished them, he would begin reading my college books – I had taken humanities. He even pored over the newspaper bits that came as wrapping from the grocer’s! After losing vision in one of his eyes due to retinal detachment, he read with one eye and when vision began failing in that too, he held it close to the eye and read. He never quit reading till the end. All of us siblings have no doubt inherited his reading genes.

It was therefore natural for me to get my boys interested in books too. But that is matter for another post!

So which was the first story you had heard as a child? The first book you read by yourself? Wouldn’t you please share the memories associated with them?

(I began this post little realizing that it would lead me from one topic to another. Stay tuned for more…..)

Homepage image courtesy: www.visualphotos.com

76 comments

  1. […]  Falling in love with books […]

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  2. […] first three parts of this series on Books and Reading can be read at  I, II and […]

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  3. The Magic Room looks so inviting. I hope to make one in my house too.
    For years I have seen Daddy sleep only after having read a page or more from a book and thats what made me fall for them. My first book was picture Ramayana and since then there has been no looking back. Nancy Drew, Famous Five and Hardly Boys were my absolute favorite in the teens. A book is the closest companion one can have.

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    1. Thank you for the comment, Manjulika. Do make that magic room ASAP. It will be a refuge, not only to you but also for others. Hope you read the other posts in this series too. I just posted the fourth in the series 🙂

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  4. […] the third in the series on Books and Reading. The first two parts can be read here and […]

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  5. Sairam · · Reply

    I wasn’t fortunate enough to read children books. It was always kalki, kumudham, vikatan right from when I was in 1st standard. They were the only books at my home. I remember that I had read Rajaji’s version of epics by the time I was in 3rd standard. I used to like Mahabharath way more than Ramayana because Mahabharath was this twisted, complex tale and Ramayana was all about morals 🙂

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    1. I know you like Mahabharata, Sairam. I was a fan of the Maha Paratha series, with its stick cartoons, remember? Miss that one.

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  6. Pkayen · · Reply

    Well written. I could follow you in your journey through various ages and various genres of books. For me, much of the reading I did when I was in school was in Tamil. I never read any Enid Blytons or Nancy Drews. In college, I read the usual – Alistair Maclean, Chase, Gardner and so on, but also the classics and of course PGW. I still turn to PG for a good read. It is not just the humor but his language is amazing. I have learned so many quotations (Shakespeare and other authors) from Jeeves!

    These days, there is much competition in the form of TV and video games and the internet and so reading has generally taken a back seat, but I have recently managed to revive the habit.

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    1. Thanks for taking time to read and comment, Pkayen. In those days we had to settle for Tamil books unless there was a well stocked library at home or in one of our neighbour’s/relatives’ house. And so predictably the journey would have been sort of similar 🙂 Apart from what I read in my childhood and teens the books I read over the decades is even more varied defying any classification — from feminisit literature to serious ones to travelogues and above all, children’s books. The last is my favourite genre now. Life has come a full circle 🙂 Ah, PGW is food for the soul and Jeeves has been my favourite character of his.

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      1. Pkayen · · Reply

        Don’t get me wrong. I loved Ambuli Mama as a little boy. The stories drawn from our tradition were absolutely magical. Later, in high school, we had Kalki, Jayakanthan, Jegacirpiyan, Sujatha, Balakumaran, etc. But while the tradition of story-telling in India is ancient, novels came probably only in the 20th century. Even now, I don’t think there are that many being written in India (I could be wrong). For lovers of books, English provides a pretty much inexhaustible source.

        I probably haven’t read that many books. I guess I can keep myself occupied well in retirement 🙂

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        1. You are right. Novels in Indian languages are not as many as compared to English. Even today that is the case, when Indian English writers rule the roost. But I think our regional language literature is more varied, intense and infinitely better compared to English literature even today, whether it is Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc. etc. And I guess you will have a wonderful time catching up with all the books you couldn’t read during your working life 🙂

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  7. My earliest recollection of being introduced to books was my Mom reading out stories of pixies, goblins, fairies and brownies from the world of Enid Blyton. Soon I was grabbing the books on my own from her and reading them myself. I think the first book I read was Brer Rabbit that she had brought from her school library where she taught. And ofcourse, the subscriptions to Tinkle, Champak and Chandamamas kept me busy as well. Back in those days when books were not that affordable and the local library provided only Mills and Boons novels, the next best place to get them cheap was the friendly neighborhood Raddiwala! He even started keeping my favorite authors out when I came and had to forever admonish me for not finishing up the books at the store instead of buying them! Ah! the good ol’ days! And now I hope to pass along the habit to my baby girl who I regularly read out the very same stories to 🙂

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    1. Oh, I forgot mention the old book shops which used to be my fav. hangouts too. I have bought some wonderful books for as little as Rs.5! Reading children read. Period. But to create an atmosphere for reading is the parents’job. Glad to see the post brought back memories of the book kind. Read the latest post too. You will recall more memories 🙂

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  8. […] Continuing the series on books, reading and children, I thought the next post should be on the role of stories in a child’s life. The first part about the magic room in my grandparents’ house, can be read here. […]

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  9. jaishvats · · Reply

    Hi Zephyr

    I inherited the love for reading from my father too. I don’t remember what I read first though. There were children’s magazines like Gokulam and balarama in Malayalam. The best thing was my dad encouraged this habit and I am grateful for that. I am digressing but this brought back floods of memories of my dad whom I lost a couple of years ago. Thanks for that 🙂

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    1. I am so glad that you remembered your dad after reading the post and those memories were pleasant and made you smile. please stay tuned for allied topics in the next few forthcoming posts, Jayashree 🙂

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  10. Grond · · Reply

    As a kid who fell ill at the change of a degree in temperature, I was mostly house-bound during my early years. Doubling my agony was that we stayed in an area where there were no kids my age for me to bond with. So books became my escape. I remember the maddening box of books that I’d finish off in one sitting: Tinkle, Champak, Chandamama, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Jeffrey Archer, Perry Mason….

    My father had a decent collection of Perry Masons, lovingly maintained, that he would give to me and my sister very sparingly. Being the mischievous brat that I was, I’d always read the last chapter of Perry Mason and open the story to my sister while she was still on the first. And she’d start bawling and complaining to Mom that I’d revealed the mystery to her. Boohoo, I’d say.

    I would also love to go to my mother’s parents’ house – my uncle also had a larger collection of Perry Masons & RDs that he would bring out 5 at a time for all cousins to share and read. Only when everyone finished them all would the next lot come out.

    When I grew a bit older, I would join the local circulating library during vacations. I would read one comic at the library on the pretext of looking it over, and then check out another to read at home. Once I took way too much time to come home from the library, and Mom got worried and started searching on the road between the library and home. Guess where she found me? On a divider, on the road I would have to cross to come home, book in hand, reading, completely lost and oblivious to all that surrounded me. That as a child I could get this lost in a book is not surprising to me at all. I still do.

    Interesting nostalic post. Liked it.

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    1. When it comes to books the most straightforward person can become sly, right? Didn’t the librarian catch you out while reading the comic in the library? I liked the idea of your uncle only taking out limited number of magazines for reading. But I bet there must have been quarrels over someone reading fast or slow! Thank God you didn’t come to any harm while reading on the road. BTW, what you did to tease your sister, my father did to avoid the tension of suspense. He would read a few chapters and then read the last few and once he knew who the murder suspect was or the solution of a crime, he would sit and enjoy the story without any tension 😀 I had written about it in some post.

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  11. I just loved this post,not only for the peep into your childhood but also into all that i had read and forgotten.Wow,hats off to you for remembering them all.You sure have not skipped any author it seems.
    Ithink my first read must have been of Chndamama and the kids’ page of Saptahik Hindustan which my mother used to get.When i moved to the fifth class i entered the library -there was none for the junior classes-and was totally mesmerized.I still remember the cover of my first book bright green-‘Noddy goes to School’.
    Ah,those were the days !

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    1. This comment had landed in the spam and thanks to my habit of glancing through the spam bin before emptying it, I found it. Now that it has been marked as not spam, you will be able to post comments. Sorry for the inconvenience, Indu.

      And no, I have not listed all the books or authors I have read. It would have become too long and boring. I have given too many titles as it is. And no again, I seem to have forgotten so many titles and only when someone mentions them, do I recollect having read them. I am sure it is that way with most of us. You were lucky to ahve functioning school library. For us, it was there only for cosmetic purposes in middle school and by high school I had changed schools thrice. All my reading was done away from school. And yes, those were indeed the days!

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  12. The first book I dont remeber .. But I remeber the stories and the first story was that of the Little bird who had that One seed of wheat .. and she sowed it and had a plenty ..

    My nani would tell me, and I would insist Every night.. and she would say Chidhi Ai.. Thumak Thumak kardi ai..

    God bless her and I hope she lives long and my age goes to her too

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    1. Oh, then you should wait for and read my next post, Bikram. God bless the nanis and dadis of this world! I bet you would have imagined the chidi coming thumak thumak when she said the words!

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  13. So, you are a Tamilian? 🙂 I too want to read Ponniyin Selvan and Parthiban Kanavu – I have heard rave reviews about both the books.

    My book journey started with Enid Blyton and then ended abruptly (I guess due to board exams and studies). Then, after 12th Exams were over, I was totally free and loved reading books by Micheal Creighton, Sidney Sheldon, Arthur Haley, John Grisham, etc. A lovely lending library near my house has exhaustive collection of books, even today!

    I should have read many books during college, but by that time, I was already into non-fiction and I loved them too. Only, I am a slow reader and hence I have read relatively few books. Work took a heavy toll on my reading adventures. But now I am back. With a vengeance. I have downloaded and started reading classics on my Kindle now – Buy the Kindle Zephyr, it’s excellent for reading 🙂

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Oh, you didn’t know I was Tamilian, what with me liberally peppering my posts with Tamil words? Often work life interferes with reading habits. My husband, who used to read a lot suddenly stopped reading once he got immersed in hisc career and now that he is winding down with work, he has picked it up again. Sadly Rajesh, for me the computer is even more of a harmful thing and so have reduced my online time too. So no kindle as of now 😦

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      1. Kindles are different from normal displays as they use e-ink displays, which is just a digital version of a normal page. You need external light to read it, just as you would need for books. Except, only one screen on one device to display all the pages of all the books you may ever need. Just scroll left & right to go to the previous and next pages.

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        1. Right now I am continuing with the regular reading on computer. But if needed I might go in for one. Not just now. Thanks for the info, Harshal.

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  14. Lovely post on a very dear topic ! When I was a child, I wished to be shipwrecked in an island, which would have enough food and good books for company. My first books were Amar Chitra Katha comics, which my dad used to get from the library. I was hesitant to try the the ‘no-picture’ books till I was in Class 3 and won my first Enid Blyton as a prize for standing first. That was the first book I read. I had reminisced about my childhood experiences with books in a very old post of mine.. http://themoonstone.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/romancing-the-books/.

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    1. You were ready to read a ‘no picture’ book by the third standard? Wonderful. I know of some kids who wouldn’t till they came to middle school 🙂 As for getting shipwrecked on a deserted island, my fanstasy matches yours too. What is a good book without something to munch, right? I will read your post, Ash. Thanks for the link.

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  15. I must have started with Amar Chitra Katha I think and then with other comics, Phantom and Mandrake and what not. 🙂 Then to Enid Blyton and from there I read whatever I got in my hands. Thankful to the parents that though the budget was tight, they never said no to books.
    Lovely post Mami rekindled memories of summer, mangoes and books 😀

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    1. I am glad that the post triggered happy memories for you, Bhagya. Books always unlock memories and most of them are lovely. Does Taksh read as much as you did when you were a kid?

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      1. no, he doesn’t 😦 But he does read whatever he gets in his hand whether he understands it or not, only he knows. I mean his reading is yet to be structured.

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        1. He is too small to have structured reading, Bhagya. Be happy he is reading 🙂 And keep tuned for further posts.

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  16. Hi there, visiting you here for the first time. Came across this post through Rachna’s page,you see the mention of books is enough to take me everywhere 🙂
    Well, I started with Champak and Chandamama. I guees because my Dad was a voracious reader, my sister and I got hooked on really early. From Champak and Chandamama, moved on to Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, Classics such as Jane Austen, Mark Twain and then onto Jeffrey Archers, Sidney Sheldons, John Grishams, Saki, O Henry, Guy De Maupassant…during the teens.. later moved on to Wodehouse, Perry Mason, Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Walker, Amitav Ghosh and the list goes on…
    But frankly regardless of age, I think i could still pick up a champak and enjoy it as much as I do an Amitav Ghosh or a Saki today 🙂
    Loved it that my first visit here was about books 🙂

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    1. and how could I forget the comics! The journey began from Tinkle to Tintin, Asterix, Mandys, Archies, Bahadur, Mandrake, Phantom.. the list goes on 🙂

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      1. Ah, the comics! We don’t get many of those which were around when I was a kid, like Sad Sack.

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    2. Welcome to Cybernag, Seeta and I am glad this post brought you here. You will be reading more of books and reading in the coming weeks here. So hope to see you around 🙂

      Your book journey has taken you through the correct sequence of reading — from Champak, Chandamama to Amitav Ghosh and Saki, unlike my upside down one 😀 No matter, but the journey has been exhilarating and continues to be so. I am happy to see someone who has read Peryy Mason too! And yes, I agree about the eternal charm of Champak 🙂

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  17. What a trip down the memory lane, Zephyr! You too found the “magic room”? Uncanny. We (my sisters and I) used to stay with my maternal grandparents over the summer holidays. And lo and behold, the middle room was filled with all kinds of goodies for a school boy hungry to read. I think every (TamBrahm) family back then would have at least one in the family who gave the IAS exams a go. We were not an exception. The room had like a hundred editions of “Competition Success (and Review”) and I ran through them too. I must have been ready to write IAS by 8th standard or so, I think 🙂 This post brought back memories of the British Council Library in Madras, of which we were faithful and grateful patrons for nearly 20 years. I have my Dad to thank. He was a voracious reader. He taught himself English after going through high school in Thamizh medium, and went through a lot of trouble to make sure his kids went to convent schools.

    Anyway, sorry about that ramble. Books, memories.. it’s irresistible to ponder one’s own journey 🙂

    Topic selection: Super awesome (like my grandma’s filter kaapi).

    You as a person who’s read a lot would. It’s evident. You bring the sensibility of one who’s been in thrall of the masters of writing and wishes to provide a similar experience to her readers. Add your quintessential authentic touch to this, it’s an awesome combo. Thanks for writing this. -Srini

    ps: For reasons unknown to me, I missed this post when it first came out. I usually read on the same day I get the email. 🙂

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    1. You seem to have found the pulse of Tambrahms perfectly when you say that at least one member of each family would have attempted the IAS. One of my uncles did too, but he was not the one who had collected the books. It was my youngest mama who was also a collector of music from all over the world. Ah, that has given me the idea for another post 🙂

      Only after reading the comments I remember all the other books I have read over the decades. And yes, Competition Master, Competition Review et al were part of the stuff I have read too. The classics were the best though. First as something to read and then to savour in high school. Unfortunately, I was never a member of BCL till I began working.

      Thanks for the wonderful words of praise, Srini. I am not sure how much of it I deserve. But thanks for the lovely comment and the tweet.

      I have put in some filter unknowingly and now all my mails go into the All Mails folder. I have been wondering why I am not getting any mails or notifications of posts till I opened this folder and found them ALL there. Now I have to check my archives to see if there is any new mail. Dunno what I did 😦

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  18. There is a saying….You judge the standing of a family if you see their book shelf

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    1. Very true! And that is why it disturbs me when I go to houses where I can’t see a single book or magazine, but an elaborate home theatre!

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  19. Getting me hooked to books was a task for mom. I was not too keen on reading books; but could spend hours infront of comics. And alarm bells started ringing when I started getting hooked to Chacha Chowdhary comics; which was very evident it started influencing my English 🙂 The first book I ever completed reading (and it took me many weeks) was Swami and Friends, and I never really understood the story because end of each week I forgot what I had read the week before. Now when I think of how I breeze through books like Shantaram; I feel I’ve come a very long way!

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    1. Oh, so you remember my travails, do you? Well, that journey is going to be part of another post, so beware of the secrets tumbling out 😀

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    2. Vineet Isiliye Tumhara dimaag computer se be tez chalta hai. And remember ke jab Saboo ko gussa aata hai toh Jupiter par jwalamukhi phatta hai :D. I loved Chacha Chowdhury comics in school. We never used to get them close to our house in Mumbai. So my brother and I would take a bus once every few days to a bus stop close to which was a kiosk that always stocked these. The vendor used to smile and chat with both the eager school kids who traveled the distance for their CC :).

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      1. et tu Rachna??

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        1. Did I completely kill my good impression on you? 😛

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          1. You will see my reply in one of the posts in this series 😀

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  20. Ah! What a super post…I grew up on Tinkle, Gokulam, Chandamama, Enid Blytons and then dad introduced me to Wodehouse and that was a love affair that still continues…Reading gives so much pleasure and what fun…

    and that magic room, sigh! I am so jealous of you 🙂 I love comics…Asterix happens to be an ever favorite! my dream is to own the entire collection of Asterix comics..if I get some substantial amount in my retirement, you know what I am going to spend it on 🙂

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    1. Perfect! That is how reading progresses. BTW, Asterix comics are not so expensive and you can buy it much before you come upon that substantial amount 🙂 I sometimes can’t believe my luck at having access to that magic room and shudder to think what would have happened if I had not 🙂

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  21. Wow! I had no idea you had read so much so early on. I remember when you moved to Mumbai last year and I was given the task of arranging your books. I thought I got of easy since there were so many other things to do; only to realise there were so many cartons of books, books, books. I enjoyed flipping though the pages of them; some new, some very old volumes, very few that I had already read, so many that I would love to read. Since then I have been borrowing books from you and you can call your book shelf my magic room!

    My first books (when I was 3-4) were 2 illustrated stories of Ram and Krishna. My father used to narrate the to me after he returned from work and was done with his evening puja. It used to be my happy time of the day, spending time with dad while rejoicing the stories of my beloved deities.

    Even though I knew the two stories word to word and image to image, it was always exciting to hear them over.

    Thank you for reminding me of those times, it’s so comforting to think about it 🙂

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    1. I remember you asking me where to keep the books 😀 Well, many of my books are at your place and that reminds me, you have to return the Russian children’s book 😛

      Stories of Ram And Krishna can never get boring especially when narrated by a loving elder. I can still listen to well done discourses. I won’t forget the Bhagwad saptah I attended in Rishikesh all those years ago. I am glad you went back in time and found comfort 🙂

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  22. Oh! Wow! My reading journey is very similar 🙂 Started off with Ponniyin Selvan (Cross my heart 🙂 ) Rajaji’s Ramayan and Mahabharat in Tamil, then Perry Mason, PGW, Louis L’Amour and all before I touched upon Enid Blyton and the rest of the children’s books 🙂 AND those cheap books of Russian writers – Chekov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn…and, hey, I have read T.Lobsang Rampa – all about ‘aura’s and out of body experiences 🙂 In my case, it was Esnophilia that kept me grounded during the monsoons which set off this reading spree, which is yet to stop.

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    1. I forgot to mention Rajaji’s Chakravarthi Thirumagan. It had made me weep copious tears. I think I was in class 10 then. But starting off with Ponniyin selvan? I came to it after several dozen comics and Grimm’s fairty tales. You have read Lobsang Rampa? Honest? I remember trying to see the áaura’ of people after reading his books 😀 And may the reading spree never wane. What are we without our books, eh? Great to know that we shared a similar reading journey 🙂

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    2. I swear Zephyr! My family had this habit of cutting out these pages from the magazines which carried these novels as ‘Thodarkathai’s and binding them up. So, when I had too high Esnophils and was not allowed to play, they plonked those huge volumes in my lap and asked me to stay at home and read. So, i read Ponniyin Selvan when I was in my 3rd or 4th at School 🙂

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      1. Tearing up the pages of the serialised stories still continues in many houses, Suresh. There were many novels like that in that magic room too, but I remember these best. Looks like we were about the same age when we read those novels 🙂

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      2. Oh dear God! We cut the pages of “ponniyin selvan” and made a bound book at our home too. It was in 85-86. I think. (I was in 8th). There used to be a fight in our house for reading ponniyin selvan. Since I was the 4th of five kids, I always was at the fag end of the line. Bitter sweet memories 🙂

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        1. You were lucky! In our house, all the Tamil periodicals were banned. So I got to read Ponniyin Selvan only in my grandparents’ house. And cutting out the pages to bind the novels seems to be the done thing in families. Even today, my sister cuts out articles on temples and other spiritual features from the magazines. My sympathies on being the last to get to read the magazines!

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  23. Your post took me back to my childhood years Zephyr since I too tasted and relished all( well maybe most..) of the books that you mentioned – only the English ones though ! We started with Hindi staple….the much loved and enjoyed Paraag/Chandamama….before graduating to Blyton ! The rest followed…
    Fascinating post !

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    1. My journey was sort of backward journey, I guess, what with Wuthering Heights and Pickwick Papers preceding Enid Blyton 😀 I read Chandamama in Tamil and then English, but not Parag and Champak, which the L&M did. Long time, missed you!

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  24. A fascinating account of your foray into the world of books Zephyr! Somewhere, I felt I had undergone almost similar experiences starting from hearing stories from aunts and cousins to falling in love with books! Keep writing more as rarely does one get to read things with which one connects so well:)

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    1. You might just ask me to stop, because I have planned out a series of posts on this subject, not my reading, of course, but a lot of connected topics 🙂

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  25. Hmmm….enjoyed reading your book reading tales, Zephyr! I had written about my book reading tales, here http://maradhimanni.blogspot.in/2009/06/books-our-familys-first-love.html I had started reading in Kannada which was the only language I knew when I was very small, it was ‘chandamaama’. Then the obsession continued. I think I should not write a post here! It is already here!

    I was reading in Kannada, Tamil and then English. Though I know Hindi, I never tried to ‘read’ books. It is nice to know that you read in Hindi too! Maraati?

    People who have got the habit of reading never get bored in life, I feel, right?! In our house, my mother was a voracious reader. She was like your father…she used to read even wrapper paper! Paarthiban kanavu, Sivagaamiyin selvan and Chandilyan’s books were her favourites too! Now, let me stop!!!

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    1. I will read your post and comment soon! The first language I learnt was Hindi, because my mother knew only Hindi and Marathi. I learnt Marathi only when I came to Mumbai in the 8th standard, though I could speak in the language in Nagpur. You lived in the south and so not knowing Hindi was normal.

      I was not too fond of Chandilyan, but the novels of Kalki were something else!

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      1. No, I can’t say I liked Chandilyan, but in those days, these types of historical stories were new. We had nothing else to pass time! We read everything! I remember sivagaamiyin sabatham and ponniyin selvan than ‘yavana raani’ (Chandilyan’s).

        I can imagine your grandfather’s Magic room which was like my mother’s cousin’s library. The whole room was full of bound books of mostly Tamil novels (thodar kathai)…pages torn from weekly magazines and then bound! We could visualise the characters through the drawings/paintings which came every week in the magazines and they were there in the bound book too! Gopulu, Maniam selvan were famous artistes in those days. I hope my children also talk about their book reading habits like we do now, in later years! All four of us read nearly all the time, esp. before TV days…Satellite TV days! You have kindled my enthusiasm about books and I can go on talking/writing about it! Thank you, Zephyr. Keep on writing whenever you can…we will be waiting to read. You are too good!

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        1. Looks like we old timers thrived on Tamil periodicals and children’s magazines when available. I love Gopulu’s drawings and also Manian’s. You might get bored with my posts on reading and books. Beware! 🙂

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  26. I knew that you must have been a voracious reader from your posts and the impact of this exhilarating exercise on your writing style. When you have a passion to read anything that you can lay your hands upon and luckily with the vast collection of assorted books acquired by your uncle in your ancestral home, I can realize how much happy you must have been then. You must have identified yourself with some good characters in the book and imbibed their values as after all reading maketh a woman!
    I must confess with a sense of shame that I have not been an avid reader but that deficiency has been made up by my two daughters who read books by cartloads.My interest lay not in classics but in light reading of detective and action filled books. I am therefore not in a position to make any perceptive comment on your post and that is the reason for the delay

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    1. Oh KP, this post is just an intro to the series that is going to follow. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you 🙂 I just needed to read and so read books that were hardly age appropriate. Reading Ponniyin selvan at 9, surely is not common, is it? 😀 The fact that your daughters read books is proof that you are a reader too. One needn’t only read books there are other things. And besides, you are a writer of stories yourself! What more could you want? And frankly, unlike so many of the avid readers around, I can’t quote from the books I have read or even remember the names of the characters sometimes 😦

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  27. Found In Folsom · · Reply

    No wonder you read so many books…I’m jealous of you now and of the magical room..For me reading came late in life. May be around 7th or 8th grade. Undoubtedly, it was Enid Blyton. But I would read all stories from telugu magazines…even though it is not child content 🙂 I read Kamala Das’ “MY Story” right before my 10th finals 😛 Chandamama, balamitra…Hindu’s Young world. My first poem was published in Young World in the summer of 1992. Ohh..you bought back so many memories, BM. How sad I didn’t read many books in the childhood summers…there was only one library in the town which was far and I don’t remember they carrying any english books. Waiting for your next post. Now, my kids have every library and any book at their door step and I have to push him to read…:(

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    1. The list is by no means exhaustive. I kept remembering so many books even as I wrote and after I wrote. After all, I am sooooo old, Latha 😀 In those days libraries had not become common and school libraries were more for decoration and to show school inspectors! The books had to be borrowed and begged from those who had them. I was lucky that way but they were not at all age appropriate. So when the boys grew up I gave them all the books I could afford. Don’t stop pushing, he will begin reading one day. It is always in the gened, believe me.

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      1. Found In Folsom · · Reply

        I know..I won’t give up..just not having enough patience and time to sit with him through out…he is enjoying the secret seven series now..but still lazy to read them.. He finished Dairy of the Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter series…lazy bum he has become..send him an email when you get time and ask him what he is reading currently and that you want to know abt it…at least he will read to impress you 😉

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        1. Oh don’t you go calling the child lazy, will you? I am sure that he will surely become a reader soon. After all, he has read two series — HArry Potter and Wimpy kid, and now reading Secret seven right? There are so many who haven’t even done that! What more do you want? Just chill.

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  28. My first memories were of Nandan, Champak and Parag before I got hooked on to Famous Five and Nancy Drew tales. I have bookmarked this post to take some ideas for my kids’s reading :D.

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    1. We didn’t buy magazines in uor home, but the L&M remembers those. For me the Enid Blyton books came very late. Please don’t bookmark this post. The ones for kids will come in the subsequent ones. I will give you a heads up when I post that one, ok? This is more of an intro to the series and a sort of selfie post 😀

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  29. My first story that I remember was one that Mom had written. Someone called “tathamai” who used to mock political fasting and say how we eat costly fruits on that day so we don’t stay hungry. First book I read by myself was something from Chandamama. Dont remember which.

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    1. Interesting story from an interesting person 🙂 If you still remember it, it must surely have left a mark on you! Oh, Chandamama! I forgot to mention that wonderful periodical of children’s tales, especially the Vikramaditya tales!

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  30. What a lovely post, Zephyr. I was nodding and smiling and chuckling all the way through. And I must confess that I’m a wee bit jealous of the Magic Room.

    The first story I heard was how Hiesenberg came up with his Uncertainty Principle. I must have been 2 or 3 and my oldest brother told me the “story” from his Physics textbook. In fact some of my most vivid memories of my childhood are sitting next to my brothers and watching them study.

    The first book I read by myself was perhaps, “Hansel and Gretal” or Amar Chitra Katha’s “The Pandave Princes”.

    Waiting for more in this series. 🙂

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    1. I can imagine a little Sudha listening solemnly to the ‘story’ narrated by her brother 🙂 Did you try to find out more about the Uncertainty Principle later? I had to re-read all the classics when I was in high school to be able to appreciate them fully. But the thirst for books and reading is something one has to experience, right? I envy those who were born and grew up in the Amar Chitra Katha period — including my Brats!

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