Shwetha H S

Conversationalists and Me

“Do you watch Game of Thrones?”

“No.”

“What do you with your free time then?”

“I read books.”

“Then you must have read the book version of Game of Thrones?”

“No.”

Perplexed conversationalist asks, “But why?”

I put down my book and say, “I am waiting for George R R Martin to die so that he stops writing any more books in the series. Then, I will start reading them all back-to-back in peace.”

Conversationalist, now petrified, leaves me to my book.

This conversation has happened over and over, but each time with a different person, because it is difficult to have a conversation with me since I don’t watch TV series, I don’t read anything mainstream and I haven’t watched any movies lately. People need to understand that I am reading a book doesn’t mean I am in want of a company. I am already in a good company; it is just a matter of perspective.

People ask me how I came to love books so much. I would thank my mom for that and all those conversationalists would blame her. I think it started with her getting the library cards to get access to the books in the mobile library bus used to come to our locality every Wednesday, way back when I was in second or third grade. Back in my school days, State Central Library of Karnataka used to run mobile library services too, that had blue coloured buses carry books to each locality and serve their purpose. My mother was a voracious reader herself (though now she has fallen prey to soap operas) and the maximum number of library cards per person i.e. three cards and one book per card, were not enough for her. So, she got three cards in my name too. She used my three cards too to get books for her while I was busy with my school assignments. But my summer holidays were a curse to her. It so happened that I accompanied her to the mobile library. Unfortunately for my mother, I found Richie Rich comics. I grabbed one and waved it at my mother. She, being a good woman, didn’t know that I would one day ask for my cards back. And that day came too soon, like next week. I started with comics like Orson’s Farm, Archie and Friends, Richie Rich and Garfield, and slowly moved to Famous Five series, Princess Diaries series, Malory Towers series and Nancy Drew series. Yes, series. Series that people had started writing and finished, and probably dead already not to write anymore. There was no wait to read the next book. They all were there. My mom was back to her three books, thanks to me. Week after week, I went to get new books, practically old ones, from the mobile library, even if my mom didn’t come along. Then, the summer holidays ended. By the time I finished reading all the series and stand alone books that I could understand in the mobile library, four years had passed. Eventually we moved to a different locality and there were no mobile libraries visiting us. Unable to tolerate my nagging, my father got me a set of “Easy to Read English Classics” that contained Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer, The Invisible Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Volume 1 of My Experiments With Truth and five more books, all for Rs.100! One of my cousins lost my first copy of Robinson Crusoe and I still hate him for that. I once found a copy of The Hound of Baskervilles in my school library, but stupid people would lend it only for a day. I was lazy to get it reissued every day, so didn’t bother.

Years passed. My brother grew up and I refused to. One day, say about 10 years ago, we were at the airport when he got up from where our family was seated and roamed around talking over the cell phone to his then girlfriend and now wife. I dogged him wherever he went. He, by mistake went into a bookstore and I gratefully followed. Unable to dodge me anymore, he bought me the first volume of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s it! It was like I was hit in the head again. Once I finished reading it, of course not then and there because it took me few weeks, I spent next few months looking for volume two. Back then, Amazon and Flipkart were not in scene yet, and I had to look inside brick and mortar shops. I finally found a copy of the volume two in Bangalore Book Fair which was, and still is, an annual event. I was ecstatic! I don’t remember how many times I have read those two volumes; I simply have lost the count. And then came along Pride and Prejudice. The love of my life. By then I had read too many classics, I even survived Wuthering Heights. But Pride and Prejudice…there is something about it, not only just Fitzwilliam Darcy. The way Jane Austen writes, they way she tells you something about life through each character without you knowing that you are completely agreeing with her, well she is the woman and I admire and worship her. I have obviously read many more after reading Jane Austen’s works, but she will always remain on the pedestal. Of course, conversationalists don’t even recognise Pride and Prejudice, even after it being made into a movie so many times for heaven’s sake! I understand the plight of the conversationalists, but I can’t help it.

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