I am an avid reader. I gobble up books like a famished refugee would gobble up food. There has never been a time in my life when I have not read (other than when I didn’t know how to read). Exam time, holiday time, night, day, end of project crazy time, I have read through them all. In fact other than sleeping, I must have spent more hours reading (for pleasure) than on any other activity.
I have never read a non-fiction or self-help book. I have tried but they just couldn’t interest me. And for me reading is my happy thing to do. Something I look forward to everyday. So I just can’t read something that I think might be good for me but which I’m not able to enjoy. Ultimately I end up reading fiction. And reading fiction has changed my life in so many ways. Though they may be ‘stories’, those stories have taught me so much about the world, about the kinds of people I may never meet, the places I may never visit, the emotions I may never experience, and lots of tiny, tiny things I would never even know about. Plus for me, nothing in the world can compare to snuggling up with a good book and being lost to the world for some time. Reading is like an all-consuming passion for me. I can forget everything when I’m reading. When I’m reading there is nothing I’d be rather doing – be it going out, watching a movie, shopping, anything.
One of the only things which distinguishes me from most people I meet is my love of reading. I don’t have any talent to speak of – can’t dance, sing, draw, paint, write. Nor am I very good at any sport. What I can do is read. And I can honestly say that I personally don’t know anyone who reads more than me. There are people who read a wider variety of books, who are more knowledgeable about books, but in sheer volume, nobody can beat me :). Also there’s the speed at which I read. Again I don’t know anyone who reads faster than me. Reading fast is both good and bad. Good because I can read so much more in limited time. Bad because I am often left with nothing to read. Bad because sometimes I don’t completely enjoy what I’m reading. I’m always so much in a rush to know what happens next, that I sometimes miss out on the small subtleties which can make a book so precious. One upside of this is that I can re-read books I like multiple times. I have read some of my childhood favourites more than 10 times each. I once went back to the first page of a book (I think it was The Patchwork Girl of Oz) as soon as I finished the last page because I had nothing else to read. My brother still teases me about this. Since I read through a book so fast, I discover something new with each reading, something which makes the experience new each time. Plus in subsequent reads I’m always more relaxed and pay more attention because I already know what will happen. Re-reading one of my old favourites is still one of my top things to do, specially when I’m feeling low.
I never-ever peek into the last pages of a book to see how it ends. I learnt that lesson years ago when I was reading a book called Thelma. It’s a love story and I peeked to see the ending. It seemed that the heroine had ended up with the hero’s best friend. I was devastated. I was maybe around 12 years old and extremely idealistic about love. I read through the more than 500 pages with a heavy heart. Only to find out that I was mistaken about the ending. That was the last time I peeked.
Since Anna was born reading has taken a bit of a back-seat. I still read on most days but rarely for more than an hour. I think the time in my life when I have read the least is the few months after Anna’s birth. That might be one of the reasons I felt so low for some of that time. When we went on the first flight with Anna,, I realised that I was traveling for the first time in my life without even a single book for company. I am obsessive about having enough books to read when I am traveling, and here I was without a single one. One more reminder of how my life had changed.
Anna is showing some interest in books. She has a few board books which she picks up multiple times in the day. She is able to recognize and fetch the correct book when we ask her too. I’m hoping so much that she loves reading as much as I do. It will be the ultimate mother-daughter bonding for me. I can’t wait till she’s older and I can start sharing my childhood favourites with her. My love of reading has stood me in good stead throughout my life. I have never been bored or felt alone, all because of my beloved books. My thinking has broadened in more ways than I can count.
My darling Anna, this is one gift Mumma can give you which will always be with you. Even when Mumma is not. Here’s to many many years of reading!