It started when I was kid in class 3rd or 4th. My grandfather was a lecturer of English and he had some course books of class 10th and 12th with him for the students that came to study tuitions from him. Sometime I sat there listening to him teach and the ideas, the stories, the situations excited me. I got hold of some stories and I read them. Not a lot of those I remember today but one which I remember is the “Gif of Magi” by OHenry. It was a tearing story and it stayed with me. I think Babaji spotted that and he encouraged me to read more. He gave me some more stories to read. And then one day, he recited to me the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by S.T. Coleridge.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
This was the paragraph which sat with me. That was the day, the time that I subconsciously decided that I will love literature. I had made my tryst with it. Water, water everywhere…there was something magical, something which touched an inner chord of a 10 year old. Thenceforth, we moved to some place else and was not able to read so much in the company of my babaji but I read with love the English and Hindi coursebooks. The love for Hindi was confirmed when a story by Premchand called “Panch Parmeshwar” came across. I fell at another altar, that of Hindi literature. First thing I used to do when new books came was to devour the stories of Hindi and English. Other than that, there were the occasional comic books and magazines and books I could lay my hands on in my home or of others. I liked it. Then came the days of choosing a stream. Surprisingly enough, for all the love I had, choosing to do graduation in English/Hindi was not even a thought on my mind. It was the challenge that I wanted to take or the parents’ dream or whatever it was I do not know but Engineering was there, standing in front of me. I embraced it. Got it. Now in these years, although I was a lover, I did not express it much. I was satisfied by pouirng love whenever a chance encounter occured with a book. Let’s say I did not pursue my paramour. I was happy when it came through. Then, I came to college. I went to English and Hindi literary societies. They scared me off. I found that my lover had suitors who were much better read and ardent and had fervently pursued it. I stood almost nowhere and I feld sad and bad and it pinched me. I thought I was so far back that any effort would be fruitless. S, I turned my attentions and had flings with public speaking, dance, painting, leading, joking around and such college stuff. But, when I was in third year, I felt I was tired of these flings. My true love stood calling me. I understood that it had the capacity to entertain millions of people at the same time and it would give them equal attention and pour them all with same nectar of joy. I felt delighted. I got on board again. Another phase of Romance started. This time I pursued. I looked for books, I asked for them, I devoured them. I was getting hold of it. Our relationship began to steady now. I was in joy. Of course, keeping a lover takes time and energy and it hampered othere things. So, I spent a little less time. But this love does not die or subside so easily. This one was showing me new qualities each day, each day I heard about a new fantastic book, a brilliant author, a different style. I was being tenpted in every possible way. Come fourth year, I surrendered to the temptation. I gave myself up completely. We had a torrid affair then. No holds barred. Feverish. Hot. Mad Mad Love. I would not sleep, eat but devour one page of creation after another. Yellow crumbling pages, new minted pages. Big fonts, small fonts..everything. I would not see anyone. I would not talk to anyone. It was insane. But boy!! The experince. It was almost like….. I gushed, I beamed. I felt myself, my heart, my mind expand beyond boundaries I had imagined.
It was then that I graduated into the ranks of permanent lovers. Yes, I became one of them. Well read or worse read does not matter. Now all that matters is that I have shown enough love, given enough proof and I have become one of the permanent, faithful companions of my lover. It will now give me support whenever I ask. It still tempts me but now the realtion is not that of chased and pursued. It is a mature relationship. It is now based on mutual respect. Earlier I would praise every quality to woo him. But now, I can pint out the shortcomings, the not so lovable qualities. I can now speak to it.
I had seen no drawbacks before. I had worshipped blindly. But now I see, I suspect, I doubt but that does not make my love any lesser. If anything it has grown, much more that before. I now appreciate things I did not know how to appreciate before. I am sort of, lets say, happily married. Talking in terms of matrimony, I will go on and say, that someday I will like to have a child too- a book. But that is on the horizon.
For now, my romance with literature continues, as solidly as ever, beautiful than ever before and forever.