It is the 23rd of April today; William Shakespeare’s birthday, Satyajit Ray’s death anniversary and in the past few years in India; gaining prominence as World Book Day. A lot has been said about Shakespeare and we will let it rest at that! Satyajit Ray well definitely a series of posts are lined up soon. An icon, a master magician with the camera, a poet, writer, musician and artist. For someone like me who spent his childhood in Calcutta, Ray and his creations were a part of life! I digress again, another day we will look at Ray Moshai in earnest.
Coming to the crux of this post – BOOKS – Yup, books that created a life-long love affair with books and characters; this post is going to be about books. The few friends that I have and the fewer friends that have visited my house know the state of my house. Shelves stacked with books, cartons full of books, bags full of books, you get the drift! With my mother constantly threatening me to drive me out if I don’t stop buying books, I seriously think I might have to rent a small office/godown space to stock my books. In a world of e-books and e-pub files and Amazon Kindles; I guess I am still an old fashioned romantic who has to hold a printed book in his hands! Sorry, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks :)
Like most youngsters around the world Enid Blyton formed an inevitable part of growing up! Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, Secret Seven, The Adventurous Four, Mystery Series were all devoured and one longed for picnics and adventures with sumptuous spreads of scones, buns, sandwiches, jams and ginger ale!
As one grew up the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Three Investigators garnered interest. How many of you remember the S.E.Paces series of abridged classics that would be a part of the English syllabus. They opened our eyes to classic tales of adventure and history. Gokulam and Chandamama played a big role as well. Tinkle was surprisingly something that did not captivate me much then. The few Indrajal comics that somehow I got and Target magazine were real fun as well. How many of you remember Gardhab Das the donkey-singer and Detective Tegrat?
Jaico abridged illustrated classics were safe and sound birthday gifts and I recollect receiving a few of them one year. By the time I was 12, I had moved to Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse and Shakespeare’s first full length play – ‘The Merchant of Venice’ part of Class Eight English lessons. At this juncture one has to mention ‘The Abridged Shakespeare Tales’ by Charles and Mary Lamb with some lovely line sketches that offered a clear insight into Shakespeare’s plays.
The first Sherlock Holmes story that I read was ‘The Red-Headed League’ a single tale hardbound cover in blue and a love for Sherlock Holmes and the science of detection commenced. One of my treasure possessions for a long time was a Jaico book – ‘The Hound of Baskervilles’. Years later I bought the ‘Complete Sherlock Holmes’ it was by a small-time Calcutta-based printing press and nothing fancy. But the book still remains safe and is very close to my heart. I think it was the first book that I bought on my own at a book fair in Chennai. The princely sum of Rs 200 after discount was paid for the book – 16 years ago.
Other authors whose books created an impact include:
- Jules Verne – for two very treasured books – ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘The Journey to the Center of the Earth’.
- Alexandre Dumas – ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ and ‘The Three Musketters’.
- Anthony Hope – ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’
- Satyajit Ray – ‘The Complete Feluda Stories’ – Penguin’s two volume set is again a special book!
But the one character who will always be special is —-???? – Guess???
It will always be Tintin :)
Herge and Tintin taught me a lot about the world, values, human nature and loyalty and friendship than all my teachers combined!
‘The Blue Lotus’ was the first Tintin book I got. My sister’s friend had the entire collection and thanks to her, every vacation I would go to her house and read the comics again and again. The greed of these publishers Methuen/Egmont has grown to unimaginable heights as they charge a premium price for these beautiful comics. Thanks to the internet old scanned copies are available and Tintin and Snowy will always remain close to my heart. I always hoped someday like Tintin, I would be a reporter, travel the world and have adventures. Instead, I have become a cross between the bungling Thompson twins, the forgetful Professor Calculus and the angry Captain Haddock. The closest that I had to Snowy was my dear Brownie, who now lives on a farm, I visit her once in a while.
The years have been gentle and kind at least in letting me buy and read books, I do not have too many vices, I splurge on books and movies, I am thankful for a job that lets me indulge in these two interests. Over the years novelists like Jo Nesbo, Ian Rankin, Stieg Larrsson, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, U.R. Ananthamurthy, and the translated works of Sivasankari, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Jeyakanthan, O. Vijayan, Basheer have created a strange sense of longing in the heart.
Will there be someone with whom I can sit together and read a book, share a coffee and a hug and hold hands and listen to the birds chirp as the sun sets, letting the breeze kiss us gently as I slowly part the strands of her hair and smile. The sweetest love story that I have enjoyed is a 10-minute introduction of the beautiful movie ‘UP’. I hope I will find someone with whom I can share my books, my life, my movies, my music and my dreams!
Where art thou my Queen of Hearts? Where art thou???