As a child, I had only my siblings to play with and we played a lot. Both boys, they soon outgrew our backyard and dashed to the playground to play cricket with other boys. I was suddenly left alone. No companions to play with or talk to. After studies and homework, I went into a world of my own. It was then that books kept me company. They became my best friends. They kept me entertained and busy. Once a book came to my hands, it never left me until the last page was turned.

I thank my parents for feeding this interest. Wherever they went they came back with books, for themselves and us, kids. There was a constant flow of newspapers, magazines, comic books always. Those days if subscribed comic books like Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Phantom, Mandrake, were delivered to doorstep on a weekly basis. It was such a treat to our appetite for books and reading. We used to wait for the day these books were delivered and compete with each other to read it first.

We also used to get weekly magazines and they came brimming with interesting articles, short stories and serials. My grandmother loved the Kannada weeklies but she preferred someone reading out the stories and serials to her. So I read aloud and she listened. Looking back, I am grateful for that opportunity for it improved my diction. I was introduced to the world of short stories and novels which came as serials in these magazines. Also the kids section came with puzzles, riddles and stories. I loved the crosswords. I used to look forward to the Reader’s Digest that came by post every month. I loved the real life stories, jokes and the vocabulary section.

Superhero comics like Phantom, Flash Gordon and Walt Disney comics were available in Kannada as well, then. Works of Enid Blyton were the first of English books I read. My love for mystery and adventure began with these books. Even today, I love to read Secret Seven and Famous Five series. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew kept me on edge with their mysteries and colored my imagination.

Our home housed a huge library, there were books everywhere, covering all genres. Whenever we needed to research for our school projects or homework, we just had to look in those rows of book shelves and we were sure to find one that suited us.

Another avid reader who influenced me when it came to books was my maternal grandmother. We always found her with a book in her hand. She introduced me to books like Scarlet Pimpernel,  works of Georgette Heyer and Pearl Buck. Visit to her place meant more books to read. She read all sorts of books – fiction, philosophy, spirituality, mythology, Puranas, mysteries, romance. An expert in stories, her narration of Ramayana and Mahabharata and other stories is a treasure I cherish still. I learnt from her not to limit our interests to any particular subject, whatever age.

Taking up literature as a major subject in college kept my affair with books alive. The bond strengthened. I learnt here, to assess a book of its strengths and weaknesses. To look for hidden meanings in poems and read between lines. This phase of life was full of poems, essays, plays and novels.

Wherever I see books I am drawn. Just like my parents did, whenever I get a chance I buy books not only for myself but for kids as well. I hope the passion for books is rubbed on to them, for you are never alone when you are with a book. They not only keep you occupied, they impart knowledge,entertain, enrich and are always around if needed – just like a best friend.

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