It was an accident that I got into reading.
One of the class bully, who was in the habit of stealing lunches, one day poked inside my bag, and found along with a warm lunch box, a cold paperback.
Despite his thick head for the written words, the novel’s shiny cover intrigued him. He couldn’t resist but flipping it open. Then against the expectations of everyone standing around him, he started reading it.
He started reading, slowly at first, then lustily, licking his lips, the scene where a gangster makes love to his muse.
What were the chances of him opening a random page and finding a steamy sex scene described in it! Later when I read more of Sidney Sheldon’s books I realized, quite good.
As he continued reading, more ears got interested. The things were becoming hot now. The description creating a vivid image of Love Making in everyone’s mind. Never had I seen such a rapt audience in a classroom.
That incident had two outcomes. First, the bully stopped stealing my lunch. In return, I was to supply him with such more steamy novels. And second, I got into my first stint of reading.
Before that day, I had never read a novel. In fact, I had made a presumption of novels being a boring endeavor. The primary occupation of those who had nothing better to do.
Even on that day, when that bully had unearthed the novel from my bag, I had brought that novel to school for a friend. I had mentioned a few days back that my father had a large hoard of books. He said to get a Sidney Sheldon if I can find any. I found three. I got one of them.
If that bully hadn’t pulled that book out of my bag, I don’t know how many more years it would have taken before I fell in love with books. That day, it was the first time, I got intrigued by the power of words. Their ability to create images so vivid, a portal to an alternate world.
After that incident, I rushed back home, took out another Sidney Sheldon’s novel, and started reading it with more interest than I had read anything else, ever in my life. In two days I finished the book. I started reading the next one immediately after that.
Ours was a traditional family. Reading novels by schoolboys was considered a wasteful affair. A distraction them from studies, novels were considered. My mother herself had her share of experience in the fantasy genre. She had read Chandrakanta, a seven part fantasy series. Reading that she had realized one thing. That the world of novels could be as addictive, if not less, than the worst of the drugs out there.
Seeing her boy, forgetting the outside world, and studies, preferring to spend hours sitting on the bed in different postures, my mother got alarmed. After a week, she couldn’t stand me like this no more. She used her veto and made me stop reading from the next day. No sports otherwise, she told me.
Cricket used to be a religion for a teenage guy like me. So when faced with such choice I promptly gave up on Books. Though by then I had already finished Sidney Sheldon’s books. And in my excitement had made a grave mistake of picking up Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. A difficult read for a young teenager.
Time went by. Board exams approached, followed by coaching classes. And deluge of engineering entrance exams followed. I soon forgot about novels. It would be three years after which I would be fated to meet ‘Novels’ again.