Some memories are precious indeed ... and so many of mine are immersed in the pages of long beloved and much treasured books. It is well nigh impossible to pick only a few books from the many that I have fallen in love with. Yet, having decided to relive my first experiences with atleast a few books, here goes ...
A. A. Milne's 'Winnie-The-Pooh' was a childhood favourite. Of Pooh coming down the stairs upside-down with Christopher Robin every morning and wondering if there wasn't any other way down the stairs even while banging his head on each stair. By which time they would generally be downstairs already so it wouldn't matter any more and they would be ready to set off on a new adventure. Pooh's immense love for honey, Eeyore hunting for his lost tail, Piglet and Pooh's friendship and their fascination with Roo and Kanga, Owl's apparent wisdom, the entire Rabbit family and oooh, the Heffalump! Tra-la-la, tra la-la, Tra-la-la, tra la-la, Rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum, Tiddle-iddle, tiddle-iddle, Rum-tum-tum-tiddle-um. And best of all, aai telling me Winnie-the-Pooh stories over and over again when I was too young to read ... ensuring that I fell in love with the characters and imagined them in my own rich, fantasy-filled world every time I did read the stories myself.
Another book I remember being absolutely in love with was Gerald Durrell's 'Rosy is my Relative'. It was so engrossing that it became utterly impossible for me to keep the book down and I had to finish it in one go. It is mighty difficult to pick a favourite scene ... Adrain's surprise at being bequeathed a drink-loving, yet gentle-tempered elephant. The myriad characters he encounters on his journey to the sea-side to sell off Rosy. The ballroom escapade with Rosy pulling down the chandeliers and the pantomime disaster. The court room scenes with the lawyers and the jury and the judge all confused and yet plodding along... Adrain's love for Samantha, Rosy's love for drink and everybody else's love for utter bedlam made for one of the best reads in my life ever!
Durrell's 'My Family and Other Animals' and 'Birds, Beasts and Relatives' were enjoyable too, not just because of his unintentionally hilarious family but because of his descriptive style of writing. Strawberry-pink villas, forests full of olive trees, loud Greeks and their love for life, food and wine ... Corfu came alive in Durrell's books and his friends, mother, brothers and sister made his animal adventures even more exciting and lively. I am sure the puns in his titles were absolutely intended. He introduced me to phrases like 'deliciously sick' and 'forests that chirped and came alive' and I have been a Durrell fan ever since.
Enid Blyton's books ... Malory Towers, St. Clares, Five Find-outers, Famous Five, The Magic Faraway Tree, and umpteen other awesome books were the stuff that kept me sane during school holidays. A book a day was the norm and I am so thankful that there were good lending libraries in the area I grew up in ... and that my parents were ardent book lovers too, always believing that a book was of course the best gift ever! Blyton's stories have a charm, and though many have criticized her writings for their orthodox style and the implied anti-feminism or discrimination, I do not believe a child will ever be negatively affected by her stories unless an over-smart grown up tries to prejudice the young reader. Her tales are simple, imaginative and full of life. Harry Potter came along much later; magical stories for young adults have been around for far too long before J. K. Rowling wrote her books.
Classics such as Hitchhiker's Guide, Jane Eyre, Mill on the Floss, David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and so many others have all been on my book shelf at some time or the other. Later I found John Grisham, Arthur Hailey, Jeffery Archer, Ayn Rand and its been an ongoing journey of discovery. Every visit to a book store brings the realization that there is so much I have never read! Over the years, I have forgotten the names of some of the people who introduced me to each new genre. But they enriched my life and made sure that as long as I can read books, I shall never be lonely here. Novels, short-stories, autobiographies, travelogues, diaries ... so many forms of writing. Sometimes I wish that life could be a long long summer vacation and I could just curl up in a comfy chair and read, with no regard for the passing of time and the oh-so-important work and life that constantly await us.