Many thanks to Cupitonians (http://cupitonians.wordpress.com/) for the below post. Anju has a wonderful blog which I would encourage you to visit.
My love for literature began when I was a toddler and my dad would enact Tom Sawyer or Oliver Twist before bedtime. I would squeal and jump about with glee, trying to imitate him every night. This was often accompanied by my English Teacher mom correcting my dad’s horrendous pronunciation of names (“It’s Shar-Lut not Char-lut-eh!”) and shaking her head in disbelief. Mum would tell different tales, lores from the various places she had lived as a travelling family, folk tales she’d heard from her friends from around the world, stories she ripped off from Chinua Achebe books. We grew up as a family with a lust for things that captured our imaginations.
It came as quite a surprise to my teachers that I was so passionate about my English Literature classes. Everyone else hated it and for good reason. I studied in an all-girls convent school that was formerly a British hospital turned to a school for British-only students. Later, they opened the doors to Indians as well (I have since found out that my grandmother was among the first Indian students to set foot in that school). This brought in a lot of changes but the one thing that didn’t change was the syllabus. A huge part of our curriculum included all the famous British authors, including our beloved friend, William “Bard of Avon” Shakespeare.
While my classmates moaned and whined about how they wished “these damn writers would die” (“Erm, but, they are dead. That is sort of their claim to fame”) or the examination board would burn down and we would be free from these wretched exams, I would make jokes about opium eaters and how England is my soul country and how if you pricked us, would we not bleed? One particular teacher really resented me for correcting what I thought was her half-baked knowledge on my artists. And they were all MY writers, spinning stories just for me. To prove that my theories on her ignorance was right, for my final project where we were meant to write a story on based on a proverb, I copied word for a word a story from Nicholas Nickleby. She gave me a 100 on 100. Hence proved!
By the age of 15 (when I passed out from Indian high school) I had devoured every “masterpiece” that was on the top “to read” lists. I was reading Tolstoy & Nietzsche, James Joyce & Virginia Woolf, The Bronte Sisters & Jane Austen, Mark Twain & Ernest Hemingway. I came across a list of books that the school had banned, and being the rebel that I claimed I was, I read the Harry Potter books. When I went to University, I was studying (purely for the pleasure of it) American Literature, Indian Writing in English, Commonwealth Literature and well, I could go on. There also comes a certain arrogance from reading books such as the ones I was hooked on to – only a select group of “intellectual” people could read and discuss them. After a while, conversation with them would seem contrived because I wasn’t reading for form and the grammar. I was reading it for the story, for all the things unsaid and shining through in between the lines, for the places that only a great book could transport you to. I do have a wanderlust to quench after all.
I still try to tick off book lists, that’s just me. I’m 21 down on the top 50 banned books and steadily making my way through the 100 greatest books of all time. But picking books isn’t as deliberate anymore. Sometimes I go to my favourite used book store and pick up a book whose title has caught my attention. Sometimes I open the front of these books and then buy them for the unique message someone had written to someone. If I have one flaw, it would be that I don’t like going by popular opinions, I need to form them myself. This has led me to losing 5 days of my life reading the Twilight series (which I have to say is a masterpiece compared to 50 shades, which I also read) and gaining so much more from reading the Hunger Games Trilogy. Like everything in life, there is a chance of a hit and miss but one thing’s for certain, there will always be the thrill of learning something, anything and the chance that you will come upon magic.