I love the way a good book can take you on a magical journey, an adventure to a fantasy land. As a child, I loved reading. We had an old wooden almirah in our living room, the back of which was reinforced with rather thick planks of wood. I would use these as footholds and climb up to the top of the almirah. There I would sit, for hours and hours, lost to the world, lost in fascinating worlds created by Enid Blyton and others; worlds of famous fives and secret sevens and other such intriguing characters.
Most of my summer vacations were spent reading. I’d go to a library nearby and pick up a rather large stack of books. I’d come home overjoyed, impatient to get started on them.
Mealtimes were bothersome. I’d have to put down the book and go eat with the rest of the family. I tried reading at the table, but my father wouldn’t allow it. I’d stay up late into the night, thoroughly absorbed in the adventure and the mystery that was about to unfold in the book I was reading.
As I moved into my teens, my reading list changed, but I’d still read a lot. I went from Enid Blyton and Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Erle Stanley Gardner and the likes and of course Ayn Rand, among others.
And then came adulthood.
Business school. Job interviews. Work. Marriage.
Suddenly, I realized, I had stopped reading.
I no longer seemed to have time to be part of those wonderful escapades. I was now having rather mundane adventures of my own. Tons of course material, group assignments, internships, job interviews. Project deadlines, tedious meetings, performance appraisals. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry.
Another thing I noticed was that I was always weary and stressed. The leisure time I’d scrounge would be spent in front of the television or catching up on precious sleep. I was grumpy and exhausted and life had become very monotonous.
Life was busy, too busy in fact. Yet I felt empty and distant.
Then one weekend it hit me. Literally hit me.
I was tidying up my all-the-stuff-I-don’t-know-where-to-put-so-I-stashed-them-in-here wardrobe. Jigsaw puzzles, old bedsheets, cards and bookmarks, pieces of ribbon and lace, old notes from college, Christmas decorations and other trinkets.
I saw a piece of bright yellow fabric sticking out from the top shelf. Ah! I thought. Let’s use that for something, a colourful tablecloth maybe. I caught the end of it and tugged sharply.
As I did, an object that was resting on top of the piece of fabric came sliding down along with it. It collided with my head and landed on the ground at my feet. I looked down to see a copy of Laughing Gas by P.G. Wodehouse.
I made to put it back but something stopped me.
I picked it up and turned it over in my hands. Where were you hiding old chap? I thought to myself smiling. An old gem. All P.G. Wodehouse books are. Jeeves. Ha! What an utterly brilliant character!
A deluge of wonderful memories flooded me and I was suddenly a little girl again, ensconced happily among her books with her fictional friends, enjoying an adventure.
I decided to settle down for the day with Laughing Gas.
By the time I had finished the book, it was evening. I had laughed along with the dry English wit as the book progressed, and had thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was like reconnecting with a very old and faithful friend. A friend that had fascinated me when I was younger and still charmed me today. It felt like coming home.
I now knew what I was missing all these days. I knew what I had to do.
And so, I’ve taken out all my old books from their dreary hiding places and have bought a few new ones. I’ve got my own little library now. It’s my most valuable treasure. My books cheer me up, make me laugh, teach me new things and help me escape to my happy place. I’m happier, less stressed, and I’m never too exhausted to read. My books are my friends. After all, the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.