I love books. I read less and less though since i became Mrs. Sharma. I keep on collecting books on my overloaded wooden shelf in semi-dark cabinet en route from living room to bedroom. We’ve never got that central light repaired since we moved in a year back, right after the wedding. There are certain things in indian house which i could never get started, leave it alone to get done. Half of the temple (Idols of Hindu gods) i had in my earlier apartment, still rests unpacked in undusted guest room entresol, awaiting to move in to the brand new shrine of our own home, whenever we have one. Next to the kitchen, there’s a store room full of corrugated boxes, – folded, empty, loaded with unused things, Diwali diyas, Christmas decorations and agarbathis that we burn in tiny shrine nested in the corner. We’d be ready to leave this rented apartment next to the hill in suburbs of Pune, one day. And major part of the luggage would contain books.
I learned to read when i was 4. My mother hoped i get admission at School of Asian Languages, famous that time.The test was to look at pictures and remember as many words in Hindi and Chinese as possible. I passed the test, but eventually joined regular school, as parents could not afford to ‘help’ school financially or with material goods. Education was free of charge, but that was regular “request” at times of Soviet Perestroika. Ever since i loved reading and lived in the world of books.
My first serious book was The Jungle Book, – a birthday gift from my mother in 2nd standard. I read it end-to-end about three times and read aloud to parents during summer vacations, which i normally spent at home, in moms’ ancestral residency in outskirts of Kiev. I was’t allowed to travel till age of 18. Books borrowed from local library made me travel places and times, discover life through stories, and feel connected to myself and that unknown someone at the other end of the book. Its been intimate experience ever since.
In teens i started questioning things and life itself. Why people are as they are, who are they and where do they go, who am i, and where do i go, what am i doing here… I questioned religion rigorously, was searching for answers in psychology and finally esoteric teachings which included hinduism and Vedas basics. Books became my friends, consoling on bad days, accompanying on good ones, advising when in doubt. That’s been a blessing to befriend someone who’s always there for you, doesn’t complain, talks when you’re ready to hear, keeps silence when you’re not.
Since i started my professional life, moved to India, got married, books became my guilty pleasure, – a half an hour of stolen bedtime when i relax and reconnect to myself after a long day. When i read, i don’t see words, i see movie going on. And i can watch it as long as i want and intimately connect with experiences, and lessons learnt in the transience of Earthly Life. I dream that one day i write a story myself and watch someone read it at the other end…