During our childhood, we had a very selective genre of books. However, Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha were hugely popular during our formative years.
My father would buy these from a newspaper mart or a “raddi” shop, where you could find books in good condition which has been read and given away. These books were sold at a cheaper rate. My father would purchase these books, stack them up, and give them to a printing press to be bound.
After these were bound, they became thick books that could be read in one go. They were also easy to maintain, and even today, the books are in excellent condition. Every time a bound book was delivered, my sister and I would eagerly pounce on it to read. We used to title it, “The Binded Story Book” (back then, little did we know the title was grammatically incorrect, and ‘bound’ would be a more appropriate word to use instead of ‘binded’). Inside the book, there would to be a blank page. In her neat handwriting, my sister would write the index. By looking at the index, one could easily determine which books were included in the bound version.
Then came the most crucial part: who would own the book? My sister, being the elder one, would always write “This Book belongs to (her name).” Gone! One more book claimed by her. It was as if she had been granted exclusive property rights. There used to be big fights over who will own the book with my parents siding with each one of us. The fights were worse than cat-fights, many blows were exchanged , and sometimes we would both retreat.
Even today, our libraries and storage cabinets are filled with these treasures. They are still in excellent condition, and, of course, our children are reading these books. Every time I open these books, a wave of sheer nostalgia hits me hard. I cherish each and every page of these books. I fondly gaze at the cover page with the title “The Binded Books”, the neatly written index, and the words “This book belongs to ……”
As we grew up, we read classic English novels by authors like Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Enid Blyton and many more. Summer vacations were those golden days when mornings were spent sweating and playing outdoor games. Afternoons were fleeting with books in hand, cozy soft beds, and our tummies filled with delicious food cooked by Mom, topped off with juicy, sweet Alphonso mangoes for dessert. Ah! Woh din bhi kya din they!!! I remember dozing off with these books falling on my face, then waking up and continuing to read, only to doze off once more. But I always achieved my target, finishing one book, sometimes even two, in just a couple of days. These books became our faithful companions, our friends during our childhood days. They would pile up next to our night pillows. Before drifting off to sleep, we would read them, making it a daily ritual. Our hands would ache from holding these heavy bound books, but we still loved reading for long hours. I still follow this ritual today. There were long reading hours during the night, and my sister and I would argue over who would switch off the lights. Finally we settled on a rule – the one who finished reading first would be the one to switch off the light. Our squabbles were unique.
Today, after a hectic day, when I am ready to retire for the night, I always pick up a bound book and re-read the stories that I have read countless times. I have even lost count of how many times I have read them. Then, I peacefully drift off into sound sleep.
I still have my biggest treasures from my childhood – my books. Thanks to my father, who acquired them, and thanks to my mother, who coaxed us to develop this beautiful hobby of reading. They kept these books in excellent condition until we got married and then handed them over to us so that our next generations could read them too. And eventually, these books will be passed down to many more generations to come. Our childhood was beautiful because of these ‘wordy’ companions. They are the most valuable asset we possess, a constant icon of our childhood. Truly a treasure for our life!!!