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In this winning entry of December Book Talk writing theme, Kasturi Patra writes beautifully on how books made her make the choices she finally made in her life. A moving post.
This December Women’s Web, with JustBooks, is running Book Talk, a writing theme where you get to write (read) about books that inspire us.
For December, our writing cue was:“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home.” ― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life.
Our first winning entry is by Kasturi Patra.
“Put down that book and go out to play!” The words I dreaded to hear from my uncle, when I five years old. Having lost my dad at a young age, a major part of my childhood was spent at my maternal uncle’s house. My cousin sister and my brother loved playing outdoors but reading was my solace. Having a single parent from the age of three, who also had to work for our sustenance, I’d already figured out that I had a slightly different childhood. I was an introvert and the magical world of Malory Towers or the adventures of Secret Seven or Famous Five made me feel that I belonged at least somewhere.
In school, I remember begging library ma’am to give me one extra book for the long summer holidays. I’d set an alarm for four in the morning to finish an Agatha Christie mystery, so that I could exchange it for another one at school that day.I was one of those children who’d be excited to get her new term books and then finish all the short stories in the literature curriculum in a single day. I remember reading novels, hidden inside my textbooks, while the teacher asked someone to read a chapter in class.
And then slowly while I grew up, I noticed subtle changes in my thought process as well. I didn’t find it necessary to think like everyone else. I was sure that I would only marry if I came across the right person. I was in a girl’s school and there were students who would talk about how important it was for them to get married by a certain age, within their caste, etc. Those were the nineties and these things were still important to many. I always knew that no one could force me to do something I didn’t like. And I believe being an avid reader did bring about that determination even before I could understand what feminism meant! I believed in Love Story by Erich Segal and I was ready to wait. I couldn’t stop crying while reading its second part, Oliver’s Story.
Not only did I grow up into a so-called strong-willed girl but I think books made me more compassionate, too. Reading books on the sufferings of the human race made me feel I was one with them. Right now, the turmoil that is tearing apart our world makes my heart fill up with pain. And guess who inspired me to think that way? Authors like Khaled Hosseini and Rohinton Mistry, who showed me how the hapless are suppressed throughout the world. How Afghanistan changed in the hands of foreign invasion, how India’s poor were treated during a certain period of emergency. Reading A Thousand Splendid Sun by the former or A Fine Balance by the latter made me cry helpless tears. But I guess it also strengthened my inner determination to be of some use to this world, to work towards the cause of humanity.
Not only did books teach me to love fellow humans like we all belonged to a giant family, but they inspired me to love animals as well. I loved reading about James Herriot’s adventures while treating animals as a vet in the Yorkshire countryside. His books made me realize that how simple it is to be happy and yet how difficult it is to be simple. I made my boyfriend (now husband) read his books and he too was hooked. And our common love for animals inspired us to adopt 2 cats and a dog. I believe most of my lifestyle choices are a result of reading books.
I fell in love with my husband because of our similar taste in books and music. I always knew I’d marry a reader. My most precious material possession till date is the Kindle he gifted me on my birthday.
Reading offers me a refuge when I seek comfort from the harshness of the outside world. If I feel lonely, my books give me company. When I’m depressed, I go on a book reading binge and start feeling happy. For me, reading is an outlet. It takes me to places and times I might never go in reality, and it makes me experience those times and those places with all my senses.
Right now, I am smiling looking at the pile of unfinished books on my bed stand. I love gently running my fingers against their spines, dipping my nose into their chests and gathering the fragrance of the words, imaginations, and memories. I like holding them in a tight embrace and promising them more time than I can afford. How I wish I could be words so that I could eternally live within one of those books!
Kasturi wins a Rs.500 voucher for this entry, from JustBooks, India’s First & Largest Community Library Chain.
JustBooks gives you (and your entire family, from toddlers to teens, dabblers to bookworms), a wide selection of 9 lakh books on an affordable membership plan! You can read unlimited books and at your leisure with no late fee. Don’t forget to check out their excellent reading list for women, and other book recommendations!
Cover image via Shutterstock
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