Have you ever watched a movie that was based on a book? You read the book first and then watch the movie only to find how disappointed you are in how the movie turned out to be and how it, in no way, lived up to the expectations of the book? Because while reading the book, your mind perceives images of the story, almost movie-like, in your brain, so that the outcome of the movie becomes standard and mediocre, since you have already watched it once over in your mind.
As children, our parents instilled in us a deep and immense yearning for reading. Both educated and arduous readers, they encouraged my siblings and me to read as much as we wanted. While other children received toys and gadgets for their birthdays, we got books, books, and more books, and even though we had a massive collection, the need to read was an insatiable one, and we never had enough. We would read, and then re-read books until the important lines were etched in our memories, and we could recite them without actually reading the book. Every spare minute was spent reading, and there were times when we went long into the night, finishing books up one by one, greedily devouring each loving sentence painstakingly created by its author.
We would scour libraries for new books, new genres, new thrillers and plot lines, sometimes checking out two, maybe three books, trying to curb the appetite, but it was never enough. Reading to us was not a hobby or a pastime. Reading was life. It was our lifestyle. We never ate without a book in our hands, never went to bed without finishing a chapter, nay, a book in whole. Not once did our parents chastise us for being so engrossed in our reading. They knew how it felt to hold a book in our hands, one that hadn’t been read before. The thrill of knowing you’re about to go on an adventure you have never embarked on before, to delve into another time, another life. It was a means of escape from this dreary world. It’s by far one of the most important gifts we received from them, one where my love for writing began. To read each intricate sentence by sentence intertwining into a beautiful vision of a story.
English Literature soon became my favorite subject. By the time we came to reading the allotted book, I had already read it twice or thrice and knew the story line by heart. The classics were intriguing and magical. Reading about life in the Victorian age, orphans who asked for more, Lovers who killed themselves for love, beauty locked with tragedy, Love with sadness. My vocabulary was well ahead of my age and my writing skills impeccable and articulate. They say a reader lives a thousand lives through his books, and I couldn’t agree more.
But what I remember most about my childhood through adolescence to adulthood, was this beautiful nook in our house right next to the mini-library of our books, that had a large window overlooking our beautiful garden lovingly brought to life by my mother’s green thumb, it was a sight for sore eyes. There were multiple types of flowers ranging from roses to lilies to hydrangeas. There was a tiny love seat that could cozily accommodate one of us at a time, and it was in this corner that I went on many adventures throughout my life.
It was here that I first opened my very first Nancy Drew book, by Carolyn Keene. I went alongside her on many an adventure, solving mystery after mystery. Trying to figure out the villain before the book ended, looking for clues, bringing out the sleuth in me.
I also visited the magical land of Narnia, written by C. S. LEWIS, one of the most talented authors of the 40s through 50s. Oh how I loved visiting this magical land alongside Lucy Pevensie and her brothers and sister, how I trembled with fear but also joy at the mention of Aslan the almighty lion. This was the first place I read about a centaur, the half man half horse. I loathed the evil snow queen, and fell in love with the tiny talking rodents and other animals.
As I progressed from child to teenager, my reading expanded to the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. From the very first line to the final paragraph, I loved, hated, wept and rejoiced with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I accompanied them on all of their adventures and never left their side, even after Lord Voldemort was finally vanquished.
From there I moved on to Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley University both series of books written by Francine Pascal. I lived the highs and lows of high school and college. Dated every boyfriend, felt the chemistry rise and fall, rebelled with them and learned several valuable lessons. Longed to dress like them, act like them and become popular like them.
But this was soon diminished as I stumbled onto the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Suddenly I fell in love for the first time with this vampire starring in the series. I willed my life subconsciously to find this thrilling and dangerous villain who also turned out to be such a gentle husband and lover. I yearned for that type of forbidden love, legs up, head buried in the books, I experienced a cornucopia of emotions for the first time through the story. I was on team Edward the whole way through so when Jacob kissed Bella I experienced a deep fury ignite inside me, so much so that I had to take a break from reading to calm down.
As these feelings faded away I discovered one of the most interesting new series written by Dan Brown. Suddenly I was running through the streets of the Vatican discovering symbols that led to clues that uncovered a serial murderer. The symbols and meaning were so intriguing I couldn’t take my eyes off the book until I had finished it completely. The book is cleverly written with intricate details all logical and accurate. It blew my mind to read about how the Mormon connection worked around the world and how it linked to the Vatican.
From Dan Brown, I moved on to Jean Sasson, writer of autobiography type stories of actual events that have happened to some famous Saudi princesses. My heart broke to read about the many abusive relationships and treatment of certain people exposed in these books. For the atrocities that some people need to go through in some non-westernized countries.
As my teen years turned into adulthood, I discovered yet another masterpiece, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I delved into the life of a child murdered and buried but whose soul wasn’t ready to leave this world till her murderer was caught. I sat at the edge of my seat while she took me through tragedy, to acceptance of death and then to justice.
In the meantime, I lost my father, my mentor, my best friend, and my world, to a bout of nasty cancer. As I watched him deteriorate day by day, suffering with a lot of pain, my escape was this beautiful enchanted little nook taking me into other worlds and places, so I could forget reality for a little bit of time. I dove into reading even harder after his death until all that was left of my grief was a melancholy numbness and all these beautiful characters like Gatsby of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I forgot my pain by grasping on to Gatsby’s paid of unreciprocated and tainted love between Jay Gatsby and his one true love Daisy. I experienced the glitz and glamour of New York in the 1920’s.
Book after book, story after story, I kept reading and disappearing for days into other worlds, and I loved every single minute of it. Once I got married, I built myself a massive book cupboard out of mahogany to house the many books I took as dowry along with myself into my husband’s home. Now as I house three beautiful children, I am trying hard to instill the same passion for reading I have, into their lives. It’s a Herculean task now since technology has replaced almost everything we did manually including reading, but I still encourage them to take time off each day to spend in front of this book cupboard. I want them to have this escape plan for when life becomes unbearable, to be able to take a break without leaving, to transport themselves into another life, and to find out this beautiful hidden treasure right in front of their eyes.
I may have already read thousands of books, and I have no regrets. I have only one vision, to create an enchanted nook for my babies to enjoy the same way we did as children, to grow up knowing the importance of reading and enjoying it. I hope they get a chance to find themselves hidden somewhere in these magical lands, just as I did, especially when I needed it the most.
Even as I write these words, my cravings are not sated. Let me put my paper down now and dive into yet another adventure while the night is still young.