Friday, November 14, 2008

Belong to Books

Books have always been great friends and companions to me. I grew up without any peers in my house or in the neighborhood. The only friends I had were in school and connecting with friends during the vacations or off-days were not so much in vogue, as it is nowadays. Today there are better, advanced methods of communication, and cheaper rates to use them. Add to it the whole idea of hanging-out with friends for movies and shopping didn't happen back then in the small town I live in. As a result, I had to remain holed up in the house and find ways to keep myself sane.

I never liked TV much. Listening to songs was great, but I got bored of the same songs after a certain amount of time. There was no FM or MP3. Writing about those days now, I feel I'm talking about some pre-life! So books were what I took to, other than the daily newspapers. I feel uncomfortable if I have not read the newspaper even today. My parents never asked me to put down a book that did not belong to my syllabi, even if I was reading it on the day before an exam. That built in me the faith that reading books was one way in which I can keep them contented. And so began my love affair with books and I would not hesitate a nanosecond to say that books are my first love.

I read a lot of Hardy Boys and Enid Blyton stuff in middle school. I think I have read all the Hardy Boys' books! We had a lot of them in our school library. There was a group of Hardy Boys readers. We were allowed to have only one book per week. So we exchanged books between ourselves and read about three books every week! In high school I took to Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon. I have read almost all works of Archer and quite a few of Sheldon. It was only in college that I began reading Bengali literature and English books that had depth in content.

When I started teaching English to high school students in private, I was appalled that they had never read a book except the ones that they were forced to read, thanks to the school syllabi. I pushed books from my own collection under their noses, but still they would not sniff at the alluring fragrance. I lost a few books because I forced them to take my books home and read. They never returned them, lest I quiz them. I told their parents to encourage their children to read more, but they did not pay attention. They want their children to get marks, not learn.

Books can make a life out of the mess you may be in. To anyone who does not like reading, I say that it is akin to not liking the process of breathing. Lack of education and knowledge even among people with degrees and scholarships under their belts are making things worse for the society we live in and also the future we are heading towards. I'll elucidate on this in my next post.

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