Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Silent Pastime


Schooling in India requires a minimum age of five years for the admission in the first standard. But at the age of two I had started taking interest in books. Reading was out of question because words were untamable for me at that age. I do remember myself working through the pages, constructing my own imaginary stories from the pictures inscribed upon them, and after some time tearing those pages off in frustration or desperation. Then my father found a way to keep me from frustration. He started reading stories to me. And then my mother from her busy kitchen world encouraged me to keep this practice going by requesting the visitors and guests to help me out by reading me stories. And my reading life started off with a pair of external eyes sucking the nourishment of words for my craving soul.

Before long, I learned how to read and write at school. One day in class the teacher asked what our hobbies were. Stamp collection, matchbox collection, reading, and gardening were the trendy ones. For me the question was confusing. I had never thought of what I did to pass my spare time. And so in order to escape from being the odd man, I said, stamp collection. Thanks to the teacher; she did not ask how many stamps I had collected, or from which ever countries I had stamps from. The fact was that I did not get much spare time from reading. I was that sort of a reader who inhabits the borderlands of addiction and habit. Reading was not just a habit or pastime, but a part of my being, the basic necessity for my existence.
 
I made some attempts to collect stamps, thinking this should be my pastime, until one day, when I discovered an old suitcase full of comic books. They were the result of my uncompromising quest for reading. I collected comic books, but as collecting comics was not a well acknowledged hobby in the academic world, I could never think of it as an acceptable hobby all through my childhood. But furtively and efficaciously, I was using the time when I was not reading for some thing better than and not as boring as stamp collection, collecting comic books; my silent pastime.   
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