English is not my first language, but I have always been enamoured by the beauty of this language, sometimes it overawes me. Although my school was an English medium school, but most of the teachers were inclined towards talking and teaching in Hindi, and consequently all of us also conversed in Hindi. In retrospect, I think I have fared quite well in learning this language, slowly but steadily, over the years. Of course, there is a long way to go where I would like to see myself. If you genuinely love something, you will definitely find your way. Thankfully, I have always been inclined towards reading, and when you are trying to improve your language, you must read a lot. It slowly enriches your language and vocabulary. The beauty of any language is in the precision of expression.
I have always been quite a reader, as long as I can remember. As a kid I was completely devoted to all sorts of Comics, but I had not been initiated into reading English comics so much. I discovered Archies, Betty, Veronica and Jughead much later. I was more into Super Commando Dhruv (those days I used to dream that I will marry Dhruv when I grow up!), Chacha Choudhary, Pinky, Billoo, Nagraj, Raman, Champak, Nandan, Suman Saurabh and the likes. I used to have a huge collection of comics, and I would talk to absolutely anybody or go to any place, if there was an opportunity of getting new comics.
I started reading novels from Sixth Grade. My early companions were Famous Five, Secret Seven, St. Anne series, etc. I had read all the books on Famous Five available in my school library. It was exciting to read the adventures of school kids as young as us.
After reading all that was of Famous Five, I graduated to Agatha Christie. Somehow I never fancied reading Nancy Drew series or Hardy Boys series. I could never overcome the initial discomfort of starting a new series and trying to get a grip of new characters.
After a while even Agatha Christie became predictable. That was when I picked up Sidney Sheldon. Right from ‘The Windmills of the Gods’ to ‘The Rage of Angels’; I read everything I could lay my hands on. But somehow, it sounded too unreal and filmy. Meanwhile, I also read quite a lot of James Hadley Chase which was yet again from masala genre.
Soon I got completely bored of all these writers, that’s when I got acquainted with Erich Segal, who came across as a very sensitive writer – ‘Man, Woman and Child’ still continues to be my all-time favourite book. I also loved ‘Doctors’ from the same author, although ‘The Class’ was not as good.
Some people like Medical thrillers, some like Psychological; I am generally attracted towards “Legal” works like John Grisham’s. I love those court room dramas. I still remember I had read a book called ‘Indictment’ by someone called Barry Reed, and it was fabulous. I still read John Grisham once in a while, but as you grow up, your taste in books also evolve.
Somewhere in between, I think during my later years in school as well as in the early period of college, I was absolutely into Mills and Boon series. There was this ‘circulating’ library which used to give old Mills and Boon books for 5 bucks and used to take it back for 3 bucks, so it was awesome deal. I would use my savings in getting bag full of books from there. It does sound embarrassing right now, but I did read more than 100 books from M&B series. I read somewhere that M&B has several male authors who write under the guise of a female name, may be it connects with the majority of readers who are women. To come to think of it, I have never seen any guy reading M&B. I also borrowed a lot of Archies’ from that ‘circulating’ library. I still love Archies series a lot but it is always advisable to buy it second-hand.
During my Post Graduation, I was lucky to have a wonderful library in our college. I read some autobiographies like Lee Iacocca, some fiction like Arthur Hailey, some Indian Authors like Khushwant Singh, even Shobha De (horrible!), Anurag Mathur, and most importantly, I was introduced to Shashi Deshpande (sensitive). I also read Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Nair and so many of them. From then I started appreciating Indian writers and started reading more of Indian English Literature.
When I moved to Mumbai, for my first job, it further broadened my exposure to English writers. I joined a library, which used to take some deposit and some nominal monthly charges like 200 bucks. One was allowed to read any number of books and exchange again for new ones. From here I started liking Non-Fiction also, and read a lot of autobiographies and other non-fiction works like ‘My Feudal Lord’, ‘Maximum City’, ‘May you be the mother of Hundred Sons’, ‘Holy Cow’, ; and hordes of Archies.
Surprisingly, I have never intentionally read any works of William Shakespeare, Somerset Maugham, D.H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Chekhov, etc. That is where I move next. Hindi literature is also another world, which is yet to be explored. I have read a couple of books by Premchand while in school, but back then I did not truly appreciate it. ‘Nirmala’ was part of my course and I also read ‘Godaan’ but I was not able to empathise with the characters well at that time. Now I think I am ready to explore the works of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Premchand, Mahasweta Devi, etc. I already know a couple of works which I can start with like Rashmirathi by Dinkar, Urvashi by Dinkar again and Chandrakanta. Mahasweta Devi was quite an activist and several of her works have been made into films like Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa, Rudali etc. I also like Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poetries a lot.
Sometimes I ‘m overwhelmed by the quantum of literary work available in this world. There is so much to read that even a lifetime is not enough.