My first brush with a novel/story-book was when I was in my sixth standard. My dad was going to the library and he suddenly asked me if I wanted any book. At that time, we had a short passage from ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ as one of our English chapters and we were stunned by the description of a person (in the book) escaping from an island-prison. So, I asked him to get that book.
After I got it, I read that book within a week and forgot about it. After about five weeks, the librarian came to our house complaining that the book was not returned for a long time and hence my dad returned it after paying a fine. Predictably, he was upset and told me that he would never get me another book! With so much fun-to-do activities outside the house and indoor games inside the house, little did I care.
Two years later, our English teacher told us that the syllabus was going to be changed from 9th standard onwards and the only way we could score more marks was by reading storybooks and novels. Mugging up from text books will no longer work! Being the studious person that I was (back then), I now had a challenge – From where do I get a storybook?
We had a library period (once in a week). All that me and my friends would do was chat, play and read Tinkle/Chandamama. Our library teacher found this attitude of ours quite disgusting and she (rightly?) said that we would get nowhere in life! A few students were taking some books home but we didn’t bother with all that.
But now, this was our only chance. So, we (me and two more guys) went and asked our librarian if we could take books home. No wonder she was surprised,
“You three? You want to read a book? Tell me the name of the book you want?”
We had no clue. “A novel or storybook”
Again no clue. “!!!!!!!!!”
“I always knew you three were fit for nothing. I am telling you right now, if you lose the book or if you tear it you’ll have to replace it with a new book. Understood???”
We shook our heads in affirmation.
“Go to the last shelf and take one book in the Famous Five or Secret Seven series”
Two names were now etched in our memory – Famous Five and Secret Seven (written by Enid Blyton). Shortly, the books will get etched in our hearts as well!
The stories were simple – They were about some kids going on an adventure (to the woods or somewhere else) and getting involved in a mystery. Of course, the mysteries were always solved by them, without any harm to themselves!
But when you read it at that age, the adventure would just encapsulate you and take you on a thrilling virtual journey. The characters would seem so real and the description will give you a realistic feel of the environment.
Even though we had no idea about the British countryside or other aspects of the British life, we would still be transported to the situations mentioned in the book and our hearts would race whenever there was a suspenseful situation. It was as if we were solving the mysteries ourselves! We were virtually transported into the world created by the author. And what an experience that was!
I remember being so thrilled that I would lie down in my bed, cover myself with a thick bed-sheet and then start reading the novel immediately after coming back from school. During the time I was reading, I would forget about everything else and not even go to play cricket! I am sure my friends thought I became crazy.
I found the Famous Five series to be better than the Secret Seven series. I think I read most of the Secret seven/Famous Five books in our library and soon the collection was exhausted!
And I went back to normalcy – playing cricket
PS: What were your favorite books during school-days?