Picture courtesy Wiki
Over the fifty-two or is it fifty-three years of my existence I have been a rolling stone that gathered no moss, but I certainly have gathered a lot of books. Being born in a not so well to do family I did not have the luxury of owning books as a child, but was introduced to their wonders by my mother, an avid reader herself and a member of the hallowed Albert Edward library in Pune. From the age of nine I was introduced to fairy tales from various countries, then Enid Blyton, followed by Alistair Mclean and then the much maligned but secretly coveted by all, Harold Robbins. The first book I bought from my savings was ‘Where Eagles Dare’ by Alistair Mclean and after that I have bought so many that finally I had to donate books to a local library. Still I have kept some that I cannot give away and those range from Mills and Boon (I told my sisters I read those to learn the workings of the female mind….how naive one can be eh?) to ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’ (Have actually read it and it’s not there just to impress visitors) But the most cherished book that has been on my shelf longer than most is ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ by Baroness Orczy. It has been there since 1974, when I was a mere school boy.
Strangely, for someone who wanted to be an Engineer all his life, I loved history more than any subject. The setting of this book was perfect for my taste. Also it was a book where the woman’s character was given equal if not more importance. In fact the whole story is that of the conflict in her mind about the apparent loss of love of a doting husband. Maybe it was so because the author was a woman. Having read about the French Revolution in the school history books my knowledge of it was much sanitized. I thought of it as an idealistic uprising of the peasants against an unjust feudal system. Then I came across this book and I got to see the other face of the Revolution. Along with Charles Dickens’ ‘The Tale of Two Cities’, it taught me that there are always many facets to history and one must know most of them to have a balanced view. It also appealed to the romantic in me. The struggle between love and pride, where love finally wins. Last but not the least it was the character of Sir Percy Blakeney that appealed to me the most. The indolent dandy he portrayed to hide a sharp and brave brain fascinated me and I tried to model myself on those lines, so much so that even now I think the real me is hidden behind a mask. Of course I have not had the pleasure of saving people from the guillotine and this attitude did not help me in any way in my romantic adventures (Do I hear you say that it serves me right for trying to learn about women from M&B romances?)
The matter is giving away books is very painful. Most of my books I have donated to a library and few of them have taken by friends never to be returned. My favorite P.G. Wodehouse now adorns the shelf of a very dear friend Shaila so I won’t be giving this book to her. Pushkin and Chekov will have to go to the library. The Kamasutra has already been gifted to my son. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books will remain as memorabilia on my shelf, but ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ will go with me on my final journey. Maybe I will meet the Baroness there (assuming I will go to Heaven) and she will sign it for me.
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