I remember one of the first books I kind of read..as much reading as is possible for a 5 year old. It was the story of king Bhoja who had a set of toys in his shelf. In the night all the toys would come to life, dance, and have fun. More than the story, I was fascinated by the images in the book.
I started asking for books, more for the images in them than for the book itself. My real reading started with the tinkles and champaks. There was a small shop at the next street where I used to borrow these at about 25 paise per day. Even when Chamataka was plotting against Doob-Doob, I used to read with the anticipation that nothing evil could happen to an innocent creature like Doob-Doob, and so it used to turn out to be. The very good Kalia always helped the right and deserving at the right moment. Then there was Chandamama, which I used to read in both English and telugu-most of them when I went to Chennai, my grandparent’s place. The bhetal, who always told Vikram that his head would burst to a thousand pieces if he didn’t answer his question. And needless to say, Vikram, the wise guy always got the answer right. Even ghosts could talk and pose very intelligent questions those days.
One day, when I was about 14 or so, my aunt gave me a Mills and Boons book. Wow! What a present it had been! A kind of turning point in my reading, you can say. I was a part of a family where even if there was a love scene or anything slightly crude in the TV, my mom would switch the channel and put something like Discovery or National Geographic, inspite of the fact that I was 14 and I was not as innocent as she thought I was. So you understand what it was to be reading a Mills and Boon. I simply fell in love with the first book I read. LOVE, ROMANCE and bit of you know what :-). I wanted to read more of Mills and Boon. But I really couldn’t get them home, I mean with the kind of exotic covers they have. So, I would give a newspaper cover to the book, and read it. Very soon, I was bored of this stuff. And to add to this, one day my dad caught me reading Mills and Boon (I forgot to give a newspaper cover that time :-(). He told me,‘You are too young to read Mills and Boon’. Those days, we 14 year olds just knew a computer, and internet was not so prominent, unlike these days where some 14 year olds bunk schools and watch porn in net centers. So I left Mills and Boon, more out of boredom than my dad’s reprimand.
It was in my 15th year that I was introduced to my favorite character – SHERLOCK HOLMES. We had ‘The hound of the baskervilles’ –an abridged version of course as part of our academics. And that was the beginning of my Sherlock Holmes mania. At school, about 2 or 3 friends used to read the other stories, and we would discuss the various methods he used in the stories. At one time, when somebody was writing and drawing crazy stuff on the school walls, we the little detectives wore a Sherlock Holmes hat and started our search on who it could be – the approximate height, an apt position, who stays after school hours, and other such things. We almost got the guy too, but didn’t want to expose him. And thus continued my saga.
Those days I used to believe that Sherlock Holmes was indeed real, and lived in Baker Street in London. I was a bit disappointed, ONLY A BIT when I came to know that Sherlock Holmes was just a fictitious character – a work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After that, I read every story of Sherlock Holmes that I could lay my hands on. And after I finished reading the stories, I re-read them. My way of reading a Sherlock Holmes story includes – finding a quiet place where I am less likely to be disturbed, pause in between, create a mental image of London in the 19th century, horse-driven carriages, and how Sherlock Holmes would have looked like. I was so engrossed in those stories that I kind of even forgot the fact that it was fiction. Fiction appeared more real than reality itself.
Sherlock Holmes played by Jeremy Brett (in my opinion, the best character who played Sherlock Holmes)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the MASTER who created the Master.
(to be continued)