My father loved to read- we would look on , mystified, as he exploded into loud laughter while reading a P.G.Wodehouse. My mother was not a big reader, (she was fond of magazines) and would get quite tired of all of us having our noses inside a book whenever we had some free time. She never stopped wondering how many times I had read 'Little Women', and she had even locked it up once to keep it out of my way. That was a book which seemed so real and so true- sibling rivalry was depicted well, as well as the wisdom of the matriarch. The entire series became an inextricable part of my life. So many books, read and long forgotten, yet permeating one's being with adventure, philosophy, guidance, romance, humour, passion.......... Agatha Christie's murder mysteries were a delight. Wodehouse had me chuckling away, as did the William series.
Bed 'arrest' during pregnancy became bearable only because of books. Hours of waiting for doctors during loved ones' illnesses were accompanied by these portable good friends. Hospital stays, one's own and those of family, are associated with the books read each time. Indian writing in English has had its own fascination, and now, when I visit my library, I automatically seek out 'desi' authors first. They depict an immediate reality, one that strikes home.
When I was young, we did not own very many books. My father had a dictionary, an encyclopaedia, some Readers' Digest condensed books, and their fabulous Great World Atlas. His maternal uncle was very pleased that my sister and I loved books(we often raided his book shelves), so each time we did well in our school exams he would take us across to his neighbouring book store and let both of us choose a book each. We did have a school library, and were members of the Delhi Public Library, which had a mobile library van that came to our lane every Monday afternoon, a veritable treasure trove at our door step. College had a fabulous library, and we had access to the American Library and the British Council Library as well. Each stage of life was accompanied by changes in the kind of books one read, but books have always been part of it. (The SRE loves books too, and buys more than he ever has the time to read, so he hops and skips through them in a most disconcerting fashion, but it keeps him happy!)
It is difficult to name just a few books that influenced me greatly. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is probably my all time favourite. But there are so many many more, layered in my subconscious, all adding up to a unique set of influences. Salinger introduced me to Eastern philosophy along with the Glass family. Richard Bach's 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' was a paean to the unique individual within each one of us . M.Scott Peck's 'The Road Less Travelled' helped make sense of life. Eknath Easwaran's books on meditation and spirituality have been a great font of wisdom. Dean Ornish's 'Love and Survival' underlines the truth that without love, life itself is meaningless. Joan Didion's 'The Year of Magical Thinking' helped me deal with my brother's demise. Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' depicted a reality and a heritage that was part of me. There are so many many more- Sheila Dhar with her incredible warmth and humour and musical erudition, and her total inclusiveness for everything in her life. Ira Pande's 'Diddi', for it's humour and compassion. Much earlier, Nevil Shute's stories of courage, endurance, and the triumph of the human spirit in books like 'Pied Piper', 'A Town Like Alice', and 'Requiem for a a Wren'. Recently, the strongly moral and utterly charming books by Alexander McCall Smith- both those set in Botswana and in Scotland. The list doesn't end......
I hope that I keep 'meeting' more and more wonderful and influential books for the rest of my life, and that, by God's grace, I will be able to read till the end of my life.
From May 3-28, together we are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.
Want to help? For every answer we receive in the comments to the following question, one book will be donated:
What book has had the greatest impact on your life?
That's right: All you need to do is leave a comment, and BookRenter will donate a book to a child in need -- up to 1,000 books.
Want to help even more? You can blog about our campaign, then add the specific URL of your post to Mr. Linky and we'll add another book to the tally.
Because books really do a make a difference.
There are still a couple of days till the 28th- please do leave a comment, and blog too!