My love for fiction runs in my blood and I will keep returning to it whenever I need to find myself and my roots back
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ur childhood memories of summers were quite different than those of today’s kids. Our objects of affection were not video games but crayons, comic books and story books. I remember Dad had got those Russian illustrated story books and other fairy tale books which came by way merit prizes in school, which Mom used to read to us.
Later we used to pester our elder cousins to read us from Bengali detective series and novels. Sometimes horror stories which one our cousins (Bor da) was very good at enacting. Not to mention my Grandma’s stock of stories and fairytales which she narrated from her memory and no tiny detail changed when she repeated those.
My brother and I would have a rocking time. Our mom and dad used to buy us a lot of story books and we also used to borrow from friends (some embarrassingly enough we never returned).
The “Feluda” series written by the celebrated filmmaker Satyajit Ray was a big hit among us; it was the story of a private detective (and laughably we wanted to be private detectives when we grow up).
Once I stumbled across the “Queen of Crime” Agatha Christie’s series in my uncle’s study. And once I started reading I couldn’t stop…I became a fan of her writing instantly. My uncle let me borrow each of the titles he had and very soon Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple became live characters in my life.
Till my school days I read whatever I could get hold of especially those detective paperbacks. I moved to the University after that and had long free afternoons in hostel, while everybody used to sleep I befriended John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Khushwant Singh, and Mamoni Roisom Goswami to fill in my leisure. I developed a special fascination for John Grisham and I shared those novels with my uncle too whenever I went home, I was in a way paying him back for all those Agatha Christie pleasure days that he let me enjoy.
After leaving the University I read more fiction of which Khaled Hosseini had been really touching with his simple, striking writing style and then gradually I drifted away from fiction towards non-fiction. Biographies, autobiographies, Self-Help etc. took up the space.
Recently I went home and I was particularly bored when I decided to sift through the old drawers where I got the copy “The Hungry Tide” written by Amitav Ghosh. I started reading it reluctantly but got so engrossed that I had to carry it along as I started for my journey back to Delhi.
I was reading it on my flight when I dozed off. When I opened my eyes my fellow passenger asked me: “Are you a student of English literature?” while being still puzzled at his question I managed a smile and said “No”.
Then I realized why he had asked me the question. I said “well, I don’t read much fiction these days. I just happened to lay my hands on this one.”
Then I got an unusual reply from my fellow passenger: “Non-fiction helps us find the world while fiction helps us find it within ourselves.” I was just stunned and wanted to say “exactly” but all I could manage was a polite nod.
He was a Professor of Hindi literature. No wonder what he knew what he was talking about. But it flung open the windows of my mind. I could not agree more that since childhood I have been knowingly and unconsciously trying to find myself through fiction. My love for fiction runs in my blood to an extent and I will keep returning to it whenever I need to find myself back. That is the magic of fiction.