Thursday, December 4, 2008

Of voracious reading and a summer story!

When I was a kid, reading was my life. I would read all the time during waking hours, everything but course books, so much so that my father got worried that I might not clear my 10th board exams, and had sold off every scrap of readable item ( all newspapers, magazines, anything and everything that had black printed alphabets) back then. How it happened was like this....

My mom was a teacher in the school I studied in. Apart from other woes that I faced because of her occupation, she literally had full control on my life. :( She knew everyone with whom I was interacting. Not that it left little for pre teen fancies and indulgence, (of which I had very little of left considering the controlled environment I was brought up in); the biggest blow was that after my eight standard I was not allowed to step in the school library. My parents had this random thought that if my erratic reading habits weren't controlled, they would be witnessing the first ever high school dropout in the family of doctorates (blah, blah, blah!!!). So my mom had confided this fear with the librarian, and the school principal, and hence I was not allowed to go to the school libraries to study irrelevant stuff. And since I could not go, I was not allowed to borrow books.
By that time , however I had read all the hardy boys, famous five series, agatha christie and the likes, and had just graduated to reading serious stuff in life. It was one of the defining moments in my life. For time pass one ought to do something. I was never an out performer, managed somehow to be in the first 15% of the class, and never felt bad about not being able to bag the first prize at competitions,never been the one whose name was announced at exemplary performance at parent's day, etc,etc. My world was happy, virtual and exciting. each day I would bring novels from the library, finish it , and then borrow the second one the next day. I even did multitasking, carrying the book with me to the loo,at other times within the folds of my course books, when sometimes I would pretend to be studying for exams, and on the dining table ( where I would often forget to eat while I was reading, and then a slap from mom, or a long tirade from my dad would force me to nibble ).:p

Even after restriction of my entry in the school library I had not stopped devouring novels and books. I would ask my friends to borrow books for me. I had to do all the reading activity very discreetly after my entry ban . I did not want my parents to know that I had a steady supply of books, so every day I would return from school, after lunch I would pretend to read my text books very seriously. I always study on the bed. So I would put my books open in front of me , read the novel while keeping my ears glued to the sound of footsteps towards my room , and on any sign of someone coming towards my room, I would immediately tuck away the story book down under the bed mattress. Initially it looked very cumbersome, but withing few days I had become adept at this art. My mom never checked on me while i was "busy" reading my course books, my bro would be out playing with friends, so it left only to my father to spy on me. And he literally used to spy. He would tiptoe down to my room every hour or so to check that I was really studying. Since I knew of his habit, the arrangement of tucking forbidden pleasures away at the right moment was working perfectly fine.
Then, one day, as all good things come to an end, this also did.

I was reading Heidi ( an awesome pre teen novel), and heard in time the footsteps of my father approaching my room. I smartly tucked away that fat novel and pretended to read a page that described various compounds of nitrogen and oxygen.My father stood there for a second, looked at me, and then slid his hands and took out the novel from beneath the mattress, and walked away, without saying anything. I was dumbstruck. I was expecting a long lecture ( people whose parents, grandparents have been/ are in teaching profession would empathize), and he didn't say a word. I sat there, expecting my mom to come over , hit me with whatever she could lay her hands on, followed by long discussion between my parents (in which I would be made to sit through) about how I had been trying all these years to bring disgrace to the family by not concentrating on my studies , and how relatives and neighbors would react when they would hear about me flunking 10th standard, and then several days after that when I would be made to feel guilty about getting the story books smuggled from the library.

In fact none of this happened. he had a brief conversation with my mother, after which the next Sunday all printed stuff was sold to raddi (scrap). I went to school and a week was remaining for summer vacations to begin. I did not dare step in the library. Since no one at home said anything, I was all the more confused.
That was the first summer of my life where I had to do without storybooks. Addiction makes you do silly things, more soever if its of reading. After sometime I eventually turned to books ( yes course books), and by the end of summers most of my course for the year was through.
Needless to say I performed well, and then everyone was happy, relatives and friends and neighbors didn't sing praises, but to put explicitly wouldn't digest that I had fared so well.
Its not as if I was not relishing this new found joy, but I was sad also. This success had a very heavy price to pay. Since then for almost 2 years till I moved out of my home, my parents didn't buy any magazine, novel, or a book apart from what was related to my course.

That summer did bring about a lot of change in me.I was transformed from a voracious reader to a person who reads for TP. I still read, but the passion is lost to mundane activities, like taking care of the household, doing my thesis work, and worrying about the nitty gritties of life. Now I read when I have time to idle away, in a journey may be or when I have nothing else to do :|.

PS: I still don't have a single clue on how my father knew of that secret hiding place.


KP said...

As a kid, most common place to hide something is beneath the mattress:).

Reading is great improves your vocab!

Bihag Bhatt said...

Read "The Book Thief". Stealing for the love of written word. While you (and I) stole time from other "important" pursuits of life, this kid steals books for that love.

Pijush said...

That’s how parents are, they can feel the pulse easily. You will get to understand one day :)

Sarkywoman said...

LOL... Like KP said, the mattress is a very common place.. I did it too ;) I used to lock my bedroom door and read. When someone knocked,I stuffed the book under the mattress and opened it. Unfortunately, my bed had this space under it for storing things. So, once my mom knocked coz she wanted to take something out and lifted the mattress and lo and behold there was this whole bunch of books stuffed under the mattress.

After that, I had to look for a different place to hide the books. This continued, I found a different place, they discovered it. Then I had to find a new place....