Reading – An Antidote

Reading cures everything. That’s what I think and strongly believe in. It can make you forget all pain, all sorrows and transport you to lands unheard of and some heard of. Ever since I have known, I was cured by reading. No matter how big or small the problem has been, books have seen me through everything.

No matter where I am, I carry a book with me. In my head, a book represents the world, all of it – more lands, more lakes, more beauty and more thoughts are filled in a book. The fact that the mind can go anyplace – far from what it faces everyday and come back to it is something which I cannot find in any other medium but reading.

Personal memories are connected to books. Sometimes happy and sometimes sad, but books have always stood by me. I remember when my father died in May 2001. I was all of nineteen years old. The sense of loss was overwhelming. The mind was numb and there was nothing I could do but read. Nine days before he passed on, I had ordered Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (the first edition) off I fell in love with the author and the book. I finished the book way before the incident and went back to it after. I have read it seventeen times now. Every time I find the void in the shape of my father, Sputnik Sweetheart heals me again and again, without demanding anything and may be that is why I recommend it – may be consciously or sub-consciously.

Heartbreaks always have found their way back to books. I remember the first heartbreak. I was sixteen. The book I started reading then was Wuthering Heights. Ironically enough, it was gifted to me by my father. The description of the melancholy moors; the ill-fated love story and the dark clouds were enough to get me started. Since then I have read this book every time the heart breaks.

There are books that have marked joyous occasions. My first adult book gifted to me by my aunt – Madame Bovary, when I was all of fourteen – of a woman and her affairs with men. I remember hiding it and reading it, in case Mom caught wind of it and took it away. Summer vacations were all about reading and playing games in the building compound. Nothing else mattered. The joy of vacations was that I could read late into the night and not be stopped. From devouring all Agatha Christies (my favourite one being And Then There Were None) to starting on the classics – the sensible coy girls of Austen’s imagination to Sherlock Holmes and Watson embarking on adventure after adventure.

When I was not comforted by any thought, it was books I turned to. Neruda and Plath worked their way through poetry. Tennessee Williams showed me what a play could do for the soul. Michael Ondaatje brought poetry to prose. Indian writers found their way when the mind was confused – when it wanted more. When I was done with the English writers (or so I thought at seventeen). Khushwant Singh came along with the darkness of Partition, leading me to question ideologies. Anita Desai brought with her the old-world charm and then Vikram Seth introduced me to big fat books that didn’t seem to end, but provided such joy and comfort.

Anna Karenina entered my life when I needed her the most and so did Saul Bellow and other American Greats. After reading Murakami, I began to explore world literature. Till then I only had Marquez for company and he worked just fine. I remember when I had no friends and it was these books that made everything possible – they were the best friends I could hope for and I got them without trying too hard to fit in.

Books were around when a quiet time was wanted (they continue to be around). When I knew I could be lost in one and not interact with anyone around me. When I knew that my family would understand, because they read. Books healed me in ways only I can imagine. They made me and continue to make me the person that I am. Thank you Books and reading. I owe you a lot.


4 thoughts on “Reading – An Antidote

  1. miffalicious

    Such a beautiful post, Vivek. Absolutely loved it. I can relate with how you mention authors and how different books are linked with different memories. I did a similar post on this as well, about books, and life, and reading as an experience. Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Thank you for this.

    Love, Miffalicious. []

  2. ~ (@wekneweachother)

    I remember I started reading when we migrated to New Zealand. I was in Year 12 and disillusioned. I’d left all my friends in India. I was an immigrant. I mean, you know Vivek, I can remember the countless number of times I felt like life was such a cruel joke because you are starting from scratch all over again but a friend from Pakistan (she was my classmate), who loved reading, introduced me to A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner. She also made me read God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.. Now I’d never heard of these acclaimed writers before as reading was never really a part of my life in India but something fundamentally changed in the months following arrival in this land of opportunities.. You’re so right, books are indeed best friends, I mean I found solace in words when the real world didn’t offer any at all and they saw me through thick and thin.. Since then I am married to books, allow me to be dramatic here..

    I don’t even know how I’d have come out of all that we as a family went through if the people in the books didn’t constantly provide me with alternative perspectives on life. Books are are I have. Books are all we have. You know I remember reading random books I’d get from library on weekends (you can get about 30 in one check out! Yes, no kidding!) and also during lunch breaks in school because I couldn’t make a single friend for months. So yes, in a nutshell, books did save me. They always come to me. I always go to them. If it were not for the compulsive urge to read and read again, I’d have eaten the books I love and have in my collection. OK maybe not but you get the idea. 🙂

    Thank you for writing this because it moved me so much I had to elaborate on my initial tweet to you.


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