I wish I could remember the first book I read all by myself as a child. When was it? How did I feel about it? What did I learn from it? The answers would have thrown much light into my childhood. But there are no answers. Like quite many adults, I too am an obsolete child still searching for a lot of things. What did I search for as a child? I wonder.
I remember that I read quite many books as a child especially since my father was a voracious reader who had a fairly large collection of books which he was very possessive about. It wasn’t easy for us children to access his library. He selected the books for us. He probably knew that literature is a textually transmitted disease which can contaminate childhood if not distort it. Hence he would rather have us read children’s magazines like Balarama which has survived to this day. Interestingly I still find Balarama worth a read; it contains fabulous treasures though compared to my childhood days the magazine has undergone much evolution making it slightly trivial. Magazines adapt themselves to the changes more easily than stubborn human beings like me.
I read a lot of fables and other children’s stories in those days. Animals and fairies are more meaningful to children than adult human beings. In fact, adults must be the strangest creatures for children. They were for me, at least. Even now they are. I think I never grew up. I can still smile like a child (not boasting but apologetic) and feel hurt with the same ease. I can still enjoy fairy tales and allegorical fables. A stick can still be a sword or a tree a castle.
Those were the miracles of childhood. Those were the joys of reading in those days. I’m happy much of that happiness has survived like Balarama. Unlike Balarama, however, I couldn’t adapt myself much to the changes. So I remain a kind of gargoyle on the edifice of time. It doesn’t matter really. Gargoyles too serve certain valid functions.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 163: #MyFirstBook