In my really early years, when I was four or five years old, my mum would read out stories to me, and she wouldn’t finish them so that I’d want to hear the rest of the story the next time. That’s where my passion for books started — from my mum. I had an overactive imagination and she knew that well, so she figured that the best way to channel it was through reading … I could use the stories to imagine things. And it worked — every time she read out a story, I grew really curious about how the rest of it would unfold.
Back then, we were not even allowed to watch TV and whenever I did, it was just Doordarshan at my naani’s place … Chhaya Geet, remember? That’s how I know all old songs! So, since there was little else to do, by the time I was 8 or 9, I had read every Enid Blyton book, and the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys too. I loved Malory Towers and so wanted to go there.
And, I had this amazing teacher when I was in my pre-teens ... my elocution teacher. Once every month, she’d take us to a bookstore to pick a book. I picked a Roald Dahl book, and fell in love with him. I also loved Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling and CS Lewis. And I can still read Gulliver’s Travels and A Little Princess and Panchatantra and Baital Pachisi.
All these books you read in your formative years, they give you a sense of empathy and a sense of right and wrong. They give you morals and ethics. When you read Black Beauty from the perspective of a horse, you realise you need to respect an animal. When you read Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, you realise there are children who are not as privileged as you. It takes you to a place you wouldn’t have ever been to … like Alice in Wonderland makes you dream … maybe there’s a magical place like that which really exists!
I always wanted to be a part of the Famous Five. I wanted to be a detective, a teacher, and when I read Great Expectations, I wanted to be a painter. Books open up this world to you… you feel you can do so much more. I don’t know why today’s kids read strange books or just don’t read!
Does Sonam’s column make you want to revisit your childhood collection of books? Tell us on www.facebook.com/htcity