I must have been in my 3rd or 4th standard when my father introduced me to reading by gifting me a book of poems. Not just any poems, but the works of the great Leo Tolstoy. It was a collection of his poems translated into Hindi. I still remember the first one from that collection – Kya Banun (What should I become). The poem extolled the available options – doctor, engineer, mechanic, builder, teacher etc.. Well, when I look back at the book, I did not become any of the choices presented by Mr. Tolstoy.
So what did I become? That is a story for another time.
The flow of books from him continued. I think the next was Ramayan. This was then followed by a series of Amar Chitra Katha comics, initially about freedom fighters – Bal Gangadhar Lokmanya Tilak, Suhas Chandra Bose, Subhash Chandra Bose. And then it was heroes of Mahabharat – three of Amar Chitra Kathas, bound into one. There were stories of Bheeshm Pitamah, Guru Dronacharya and Karn.
By now I was hooked on the stories of Bharat’s history. Yes, some people call out the Ramayan and Mahabharat as mythology, to me these are our great civilisation’s history. Not to miss the stories of freedom fighters.
Tell you what, I still have some of the Amar Chitra Kathas from the 1980s. Pure Gold! Taking a cue from my father, I presented my kiddie pies also with Amar Chitra Kathas.
Reading this sort of literature connected me profoundly with Bharat, my civilisation, my country, my home, my motherland! It prompted me to read more. I think my father’s task was done. The fire he wanted to light, was lit. The seed he sowed was by now a young tree.
Why am I sharing this with you all? I was at a bookshop and a parent asked me how to inculcate reading habits in young ones. Instead of offering a prescription I shared with them the story of how my father nudged me towards reading.