Reading

READING

We had left Boy, struggling to make sentences, lost in the labyrinth of the Queens tongue, and suddenly in the last chapter he is hunting through the classics for salacious passages. The awakening of libido can have extraordinary effects, but not quite to such miraculous levels. A curious reader who is patiently following the saga may be justifiably miffed at this bungling.

Actually it is the fault of memory, which leaps around through time and space like a performing flea, and skipped years at random. We will now try to drag him back and make him fill what gaps he can.

It all started with a birthday present in the form of a book, called the Mystery of the Invisible Thief. It was written by someone called Gnid Blyton, or so Boy thought. Struggling through it Boy was completely captivated. Little kids solving crimes that baffled adults, the banter among the children, the yummy sounding food they kept having, in all a new exciting world opened before his eyes. Solving mysteries through clues where the reader can participate in the problem was wonderful.

He soon exhausted the books by this writer in his class library, which to his disappointment was about weird toys and similar silly stuff, but Boy’s father bought him more, and got him more from a rental shop, when Boy seemed to go through them very fast. He discovered by now that the writer was a lady called Enid, and had many more stories about other kids, their pets, exciting adventures where the children got into serious trouble but escaped on their own, bringing villains to justice, exploring islands, tunnels, ruins, getting lost, having picnics, and generally having fun. The boarding school stories made him want to go to one.

This also gave him access to other books like Biggles, Billy Bunter, Jennings, Three Investigators, Hardy Boys, and others of varying merit. Boy wasn’t choosy, he devoured all. The racism of Bunter or Biggles or Sexism of Blyton didn’t bother him. In fact, he was in love with George, the tomboy.

Boy was in a peculiar situation. He could read English but could not speak it as it wasn’t the language at home. He could speak Bangla but couldn’t read it. This was the fate of most children of his circumstances. Soon, however, second language was introduced to his anglicised school. He was forced to go through a crash course in Bangla. This opened another magical world of the vast treasure house of children’s and young adult literature available in his mother tongue. Boy’s mother, a passionate reader herself, subscribed to all the children’s magazines and bequeathed her own childhood library to Boy. Sibram, Sukumar, Tenida and Ghanada became his daily companions. They had a major advantage over the English characters, as they lived in familiar circumstances and lived recognisable lives.

The other wonderful source of reading material came from the beautifully produced and extremely well written Russian children’s literature, and folk tales from around the world. His love for these stories, and familiarity with Russian names containing most of the alphabet, helped him plod through the Great Russian novelists when older. A wag claimed that other than Tolstoy himself and his proof reader, Boy was the only person to have attempted War and Peace.

Always a precocious kid, he soon started exploring his parents’ libraries. Boy’s father, seeing his obsession, had bought him a classics collection and a ten volume encyclopaedia, which kept him engrossed for hours.

Thus he was simultaneously reading Blyton and Dickens; Swift, Defoe and Perry Mason; Sukumar, Sibram and Saratchandra, Saradindu. Half understood, misunderstood, just devouring the printed word. It ruined his eyesight, his posture, his social life, and his report cards; basically did what any addiction does. But it opened a window in his life that lit it up and let in a gust of wind that blew out his blues, his fears, his loneliness, and gave him a fascinating new world.

Boy never recovered from this addiction, and paid the price for it, but it helped him recover from other worse addictions that had entrapped him while experimenting with consciousness in college.

Years later, a senior colleague once warned Boy

“You must not waste your life reading all this rubbish. You are a bright young man. Reading so much dulls the mind, and makes you sluggish.”

The cunning developed earlier in youth while hiding other even less socially accepted addictions stood him in good stead now, and he was careful to hide this embarrassing habit from his colleagues till such time as he himself reached a senior management position, and could set his own examples.

In his preteens, another lightning struck Boy. He discovered a book called Something Fresh. It hooked him from the first passage. It made him snort with laughter and caused major embarrassment. It was unputdownable.

He discovered a new magical world to escape to. This world was as fantastic as Tolkien’s, but much pleasanter. Wodehouse became his chief addiction now. He got thrown out of class for laughing out loud, while sneakily reading during lessons. It altered his language, and expanded his vocabulary to such an extent that years later, he could max the language part of CAT without trying.

He also discovered erotica. When his parents noticed that he was reading everything on the shelves, they did not apply any bans. Instead, they discreetly removed certain titles from the shelves. On noticing, Boy went on a hunt and found them nestling in the clothes cupboards. Intrigued, he investigated, and found a treasure trove of forbidden stuff.

The other source of such searing material was hiding in plain sight, in the form of translations from Sanskrit and Persian texts, Omar Khayyam, Kalidasa, Jaydev, Chandidas, and the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Quite by accident, in his insatiable search for stories, Boy stumbled upon these hidden gems. What was more, it was done in exquisite style. Thus it was that his emerging libido helped Boy get a thorough grounding in the classics, as well as earn him a reputation as a devout boy who read religious literature for fun.

This quest for stories took Boy to the next logical step, that of attempting to write some himself. But that we shall save for another day, for the patient and persistent reader.

Copyright(c) soumya mukherjee

13 Comments

  1. Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold., (for the love of books, its simply addictive)

    The boy starting off with a letter, word and then a sentence , finally a book,his love of books leads him to an enchanted world, in a magical journey.As its said, children are made readers on the laps of their parents
    We have less time in this beautiful world given by the Universe,so spend time slipping to another skin, soul leaving you with many experiences .
    The boy who read anything that he came across from Dickens to Khayyam , has conversed with the finest minds,books became his friend ,He reads so he can live more than one life in more than one place., there’s heaven and earth in a book that took him lands away
    When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life.
    From a small town boy to getting to settle down in a big city with no friends , the multifaceted boy carved into his own world a thousand lives in a mind capsule and dared to grow

    Thank you for allowing me to the mind of a brilliant linguistic whetstone

    Liked by 2 people

  2. No surprise that boy has become such an accomplished writer and love for books honed his skill. Books offer such a world to explore and something I can relate with Mom inculcate the reading habits at such a young age, leaving me in the library. I love the pictures, wondrous and fit with the post. I remember discovering Famous Five that lapped to Agatha Christie, in adult years post-college discovered PG Wodehouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Soumya, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
    I loved reading Baum’s The Wizard of Oz in 1966 and discovered Enid Blyton’s The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat the following year. Soon my Mom bought me several more from the series.
    Later on, it was Biggles and Gimlet followed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Nick Carter and Louis L’Amour.
    Reading comic books, magazines and books automatically made me into a good writer.

    Liked by 1 person

Your feedback is valuable, let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s