The Chronicles of a Bibliophile

The Chronicles of a Bibliophile

“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”

― Gustave Flaubert

For as long as I can remember, I have called my obsession with books a “hobby”. It’s after three painstakingly long years of having a reading block that I can say with absolute certainty that the habit of reading isn’t a hobby- it’s an acquired and rather essential skill. And just like skills, if you choose not to practice this habit regularly, it’s bound to fade. It’s not an easy practice and it’s certainly time-consuming, but the world of books is a fascinating one that just gets curiouser and curiouser. As someone who has spent all her childhood summers in libraries and gardens and even mango trees (true story), absorbed in books, it pains me to say that the last book I finished was over two years ago. So consider this a record of my fifteen years long relationship with books and why I think it’s vital for all children everywhere to inculcate the reading habit. 

Both my parents are avid readers, and it’s no secret that I come from a house where instead of buying barbies or hot wheels- we bought books (willingly). We had trunks filled with books ranging from fiction to classics to historical non fiction to encyclopedias and even cookbooks. You name a genre and the Girisaballa household would have a hard copy. My parents never had to force me or my sister to read either, you could say it was just in our genes. My mother would read to me and my sister every night before we went to bed. My father introduced me to the worlds of J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan and opened the doors to historical fictions and non-fictions- because in his words “history is just the story of our pasts”. In the fateful summer of 2017- I read 24 books in the span of two months! Every train ride would be preceded by a visit to the station book store where I’d buy two copies of tinkles and one random fiction book that I’d end up finishing before we reached our destination. In fact, I used to carry a bag with me everywhere I went, and it would always have a book in it. It wouldn’t matter if I’d end up reading it, the book I carried was always my safety net. My poor parents had spent so much money on buying me books that they decided to make a one-time investment and buy me a kindle for my 12th birthday because at the rate I was fleecing them, they would’ve gone broke in a few years. 

Soon, I made the transition from fantasy fiction to classic fiction. From the Bronte Sisters to George Orwell- I spent hours of sleepless nights absolutely captivated by the Gatsbies and the Lizzie Bennetts of the fictional world. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice six times believe it or not, and I even highlighted my favorite lines and wrote down notes in my copy of the book. It was around this time that for some reason I just stopped reading. I can’t remember whether it was academics, or teen angst, or just plain idiocy, but for some reason I put down a book one day (Jeffrey Archer’s collection of short stories) and I never picked one up again. I tried reading again a few months ago, but my attention span lasted for 15 pages and I just couldn’t sit with it. I even tried to make a schedule and read for fifteen minutes every day but nothing worked. That was when I realized that reading was like a sport of sorts. Imagine you stopped playing tennis for a few years and then went back to the court with the expectation of playing at the same level you did before- that’s not going to happen is it? 

So, after a few days of frustrations and exasperations I stopped trying to read in the hopes that I will someday regain the ability to be absolutely absorbed by a book again. It wasn’t until last week that I finally decided to put in that effort again when I was sitting in my living room with my parents planning out my first solo trip. The trip was a 8 day long trek along a valley near a famous hill station in India called Mussoorie. The word “Mussoorie” immediately took me back to Ruskin Bond’s short stories, and I picked up his collection ‘Uncles, Aunts and Elephants’. I breezed through the pages until I found a story about one of his boyhood adventures across the hills of this beautiful city. I sat and read the entire book that night, and this was the first time in years that I managed to achieve such a feat. In fact, I decided to extend my trip by two days just so I could explore Mussoorie the way the characters in those stories did. 

To quote Bond himself, “[t]he world keeps on changing, but there is always something, somewhere, that remains the same”. Change is the only constant in this world, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my eighteen years, it’s that the pages of a book never change. There will come times when you won’t be able to pick up a book and finish it, but trust me, all that matters is that you pick it up.  They will always be there to comfort you, to motivate you, to inspire you and above all else to gratify you when nothing and no one will.

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