One of my hobbies is reading. As long back as I can recall, I have loved reading – started off with the Amar Chitra Kathas of the world, devoured comics such as Batman, Tarzan, Phantom of course and moved on to more comics such as Archies, Tintin, Asterix, etc. Phantom was, and remains, an all-time favorite for me. The various names and the mystique remains a fascination – The Ghost Who Walks, Devil, Walker, Skull Cave and his horse – do not recall that name. The beauty of it was that it transported me to a world where it seemed that anything was possible. Live in the jungles of Africa, fighting the bad guys, move like a Ghost, have a Wolf for a pet and live behind a waterfall, move like lightning, etc. At that age, I could dream of a possibility – maybe even I can become like the Phantom, strong, mysterious, intelligent, fighting injustice and invincible. Books held that power.
Then, it was the turn of Amar Chitra Katha and abridged versions of the classics. I am proud of my collection of books from those days, so many years ago. There were the many stories of India in those comics on Mahabharatha, Ramayana and even political stories and stories of the heroes of India’s fight for Independence. I did not realize it at the time, but it was obviously extremely informational and educational, even. Maybe I would not have read as many of them if I had realized that it was actually going to be educational! I was even the member of a library close to home – oh! the joy of borrowing books from that library, almost every day!
The abridged versions of the classics were another favorite of mine. At that stage, I did not really understand what the word “abridged” even meant. All I knew was that those books had figures on one side of the page and words on one. I read through and still have a copy of at least some 25-30 of those books. Classics such as “Twenty Thousand leagues Under the Sea”, “Oliver Twist”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Tale of Two Cities”, “The Three Musketeers”, etc. were a huge hit with me. I must have read those books so many times over and over!
I could write and write about all the books that I have read from those years. I suppose the fascination remains that they have the ability to transport you to another world. The power of the written word is such that it can take you elsewhere and also inspire you, mold you and change you ever so subtly, one book at a time. The virtues of the heroes of the books are virtues that I tried to emulate even sub-consciously. The true magnificence of the author comes alive in the science fiction genre. My all time favorite book is “The Lord of the Rings”. I must have read that book at least 4-5 times and those that have read it even once, can attest to the time that would be needed to read it that many times. Nowadays, I can truly admire the brilliance of some of these authors, who can imagine a canvas of that scale and actually create characters and stories on them. It is such an art – I wonder at their minds and their creativity. I salute the likes of JRR Tolkien, Guy Kavriel Kay, George RR Martin and Phillip Pullman. How many years of their lives were spent in creating the stories that they did?! People like me have been inspired, shocked and enthralled by their efforts. Ultimately, books provide such a relief from the sometime sordid reality of life. A good book can be a life saver. More on that, later!