09/07/2012 by Siddiqui Fayesal
I was on my summer break. I was 14, in grade 9. I still swell up (if that is possible anymore:-P) in pride when I think about it. When every student in the class was neck deep with tutions and classes preparing for the ICSE examination I paid Rs. 500 (I think) to a small circulating library near my school called “5 Star”. I swell up even more thinking how I spent that summer!
Yeah, so what if it was made up of the first 3 Harry Potter books and Fear street and Goosebumps? One doesn’t expect a 14 year old to read a Bronte or a Faulkner, do they? But that’s not all that I read. It was during the same summer that I first read Alistair MacLean’s “The Golden Rendezvous“, my first real novel!
That was the beginning; Till date I’ve read around 15 MacLean’s. Crisp style, knockout characters, demure innocent heroines, old school and retro heroes and a kick ass storyline! He did it all with stupendous ease. MacLean had a few typical characteristics which could be noticed in almost all his works. One, more often than not there always was a lady called Mary. In Bear Island there were two! Mary Darling and Mary Dear 😮
Two, the hero almost always turned out to be a spy for the British army. Sometimes it was very unbelievable though one accepts it because it comes from MacLean. Like in Circus. I genuinely found the idea absurd. Three, the hero was always a gentleman, a retro male and with almost unbelievable propensity to take pain.
The reader must be really wondering why I love this MacLean guy so much even when I’m giving points of mediocrity myself.
You have to read it to love him. Like Erich Segal says, albeit in an unrelated topic, “To know him is to love him”. People should read him. Old time thriller with amazing action scenes and death defying antics!!!
War actions not enough I journeyed into civilian society and started with Agatha Christie’s They came to Baghdad.
I shrivel up in disgrace when I think of how I couldn’t finish it!
For some reason the book’s first dozen of pages was way too confusing for me to analyse. The dual tone in Capt. Crosby’s and the Banker, Dakin (I’m not sure of his name) was way above me! It took me 2 more attempts before I could wade through the first couple of chapters, swim across Victoria’s idiosyncrasy and accept Carmichael’s selfless and romantic angle. Funny as it may sound it is after so many years I find that there is a strong connect between A Tale of Two Cities and this book!
Agatha Christie’s great “The Murder on the Orient Express” came next. Hercule Poiret’s egg shaped head description was my first experience where something funny and, maybe, weird was associated with the Hero of a story. Unlike multiple murders as the main theme of a macabre thriller this one had a unique end.
Just a couple of days back I came across a Pearls Before Swine strip where Goat is telling an indifferent Rat, “If the whole concept of a democracy is based upon an informed populace, and no one in that populace reads anymore. What happens to the democracy?”
I just don’t understand people who hate reading! I’ve got very close friends who don’t think of it in very high terms! The worst part is that I just can’t get them to accept the fact that reading is good. Yes, sure I can shower them with truckloads of truism but I can’t expect them to listen to me if I just quote! I mean who am I kidding about “Mate, ‘Books are a man’s best friend'”! They usually retort with a “Dammit! And I thought it was a Dog!”
To me reading was an instinct. A clear voice within me telling me ko read. I didn’t bother to rationalise the voice. I’ve grown up seeing my dad read James Hadley Chase and my mum reading Ibne Safi! I never thought of questing my instinct with books. I see one. I read it! Just a simple equation of life. Thanks to something inside me that I took my time with each kind of genre but still my reading pattern might be called haphazard by some.
Started with thrillers and children fantasy, I played around a lot within and around that genre. Reading random authors of pulp or fantasy or sci-fi. I read RL Stine, Marc Olden, Michael Crichton, JK Rowling, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie…
The summer of 2001 was the tremor which gave rise to the avalanche of today. 10 years later I can safely say that I’ve read a little of the best writers. I’ve read Charles Dickens, Noam Chomsky, Emily Bronte, William Faulkner, William Shakespeare, Edward Said, RK Narayan, Munshi Premchand and many more.
I’m proud of myself and would probably pat myself on the back, if I could reach so far behind!