My paternal grandfather had a great collection of books…books that many in the family fought over at the time of selling the ancestral home. My brother got a chance to retrieve a few for his library.
Father was very fond of reading, and the germ bit my brother and then me. The brother went on to do his bachelor’s degree and the masters in English from the Delhi University. I did Science — Zoology to be exact.
In school, the top three students of each class could buy their choice of books as their prize. I remember collecting abridged versions of various classics each year till about eighth standard. Subsequently, I graduated to reading my brother’s collection. There was ‘Emma’, ‘Huckleberry Finn’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘And Quiet Flows the Don’ and more.
Those were the days before the cable network and we depended on Doordarshan, which would acquire English language programs from BBC. So, there were Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister among other things. We would also get some American programs, like Here’s Lucy and I Love Lucy. I vaguely remember watching ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, a BBC production. It was sometime in the senior school that I got hold of my brother’s Thomas Hardy and read the book. I loved ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ and there was a contest on which was my favourite before Les Misérables beat them to it. I read a few Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, and then it became an obsession to read the book before watching the movie adaptation.
I would spend a lot of time in the school library reading Tintin and Asterix. Sometime in the eleventh standard, I found ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ in my school library. It was an 800-page, small print, daunting little piece of work. I loved it and kept getting it reissued till I finished it. When you think of Alexandre Dumas, you think of ‘Three Musketeers’ or ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’. Sure enough, papa had not read this one. I remember getting it reissued for another couple of months for him to read. And sure enough, he enjoyed it thoroughly.
Soon enough, I was addicted to Jeffery Archer. After reading his ‘First Among Equals’ and a couple more, I picked up ‘Kane and Abel’. A master storyteller Jeffery Archer had me completely hooked on to this classic of his. I had to share it with my father. He had to read this intriguing piece. We did not stop at that and read the others in the series — ‘Prodigal Daughter’ and ‘Shall We Tell the President’. We both were completely sold out to Archer’s books.
There are volumes that I can write about my father. But, this sharing of books was our father-daughter connect. Just like politics, or rather discussions, was, maybe, my brother’s connection with our dad. There are many more fond memories.
When my son started showing interest in reading, I unsuccessfully tried to coax him to finish ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. He did enjoy P.G. Wodehouse’s humour and his flamboyant and complicated style of writing. Then I shared ‘A Prisoner of Birth’ by none other than Archer. He was heartbroken when half way into the book his favourite character gets killed. It took me more than a few months of convincing to make him finally finish the book, which he admitted to liking immensely. I could not convince him to read J K Rowling, which my daughter read readily.
Someday my children will look back and figure out their best connect with me. It could be the movies and the serials we enjoy together. For now, I am happy to share my favourite books with them. After all, I have created a library for them for future.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||