the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity
I consume words, in copious amounts, like a glutton does with food and finery. It began from the books my mother would buy me as a child. She never bought me dolls, and I am proud to proclaim that I never played with a Barbie. Like any other kid, I did yearn for one, but the desire was soon replaced once my tiny little fingers would touch the heavenly fragrant pages of an illustrated children’s book. Summers at my grandfather’s beach town were spent going to and fro to the tiny library that was surprisingly stocked with an excellent collection of books for children. My heart holds memories of several summer afternoons joining the likes of The Famous Five on several of their escapades, adventures and picnics.
Amid the rows and rows of slightly dusty glass lined bookshelves, I first experienced the heady aroma that is born when old books and teak shelves make silent, passionate love. It was here where I read Othello at age 14, nearly untouched and I remember how thrilled I was to be the first one to get the stamp on its library card. An ancient-looking, unabridged version of David Copperfield was next and I can distinctly recall my fear of tearing the delicate yellow, vanilla-scented pages on that beautiful hardback. Back home in Mumbai, the kindly neighbor would give away stacks and stacks of local Indian comic series that her son, ten years our senior, had clearly outgrown. My mother has lost count of the times she’s threatened to refuse my neighbour’s generosity when she caught me sneaking to read comics instead of completing homework or cutting back time on studying for a test.
My real romance with words and the insatiable hunger to feel it all happened in grade 9 and 10, while being tutored in English from the great classics by my mother. First was Great Expectations, a book that remains extremely special, followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights and Pickwick Papers. The exercise expanded my love and understanding of the language alright. What it also did was to pass on a unique legacy – the lovely way she was tutored by her British teacher at her school in Cairo. I think my mother more than succeeded. Not only did I get excellent grades at exams that mattered, but also was awakened to a lifelong addiction to books. I read as an escape, to quieten my mind at the end of a day that was too much to handle or simply to experience a life in a universe far more magical and beautiful than my own.
Something inside me smiles gently as I reflect on the peaceful frenzy I experienced when reading Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Then there are countless ebooks that I have spent many a night reading on my tablet or smartphone (no, I do not discriminate between the medium, for a book is a book). As the list of my to-read and unread books at home and my Moonreader e-library grows, I know one thing for sure; my old-age is never going to be boring. Pretty sure my love for books and the tendency to hoard them won’t wane with the advancement of age.
I’ve amassed books from annual book sales at school, cosy bookstores, and very recently, rescuing abandoned books from resort rooms :P, second-hand book sales and the like. A majority of my collection comes from the love of friends, who unfailingly gift books on birthdays (the best kind of gifts ever). As an adult, I now dream of having a whole wall in my dream home lined with books, a cozy chair with plush cushions placed next to a window that provides ample natural light and a view of birds tittering home at dusk.