Reading for fun or story books were never part of our growing up agenda. It was a luxury we couldn’t afford and we had our hands full with the books that we need to study for our classes. The education here is at times too taxing. When I completed my under graduation, before joining my post graduation there was enough time to spend. That is when I took to reading. I joined the local library and started getting books. But even before I did that I first took upon my mom’s advice to start on a historical fiction. My mom has a very huge collection of books (Tamil) of all genres. She used to collect the stories that come’s weekly in the magazines and bind them to make a book out of it. She used to say that she will use them when she is old and when she wanted to relax and enjoy her sort of retired time reading them. She is 62 ,yes, she is old, but she is yet to relax and have time of her own. She is more busy with her grand children. The book she suggested was Ponniyin Selvan ( பொன்னியின் செல்வன் ). She said that this is a book that I have to read no matter what, at least once in my life time and that she has read it innumerable times. This is one series that gets reprinted almost every 5 years owing to the popularity and she reads it every single time. I wondered what the big deal about it was. It was an historical fiction where you have Kings and Queens and all that stuff. So I picked up the first bound volume.
In Harry Potter, there is a thing called PortKey, that helps you transport to a specific location. This book did it for me. Instantly I was transported to the age of Chola Dynasty, which was very vast and spreading. Since this novel uses existing historical figures and existing places which I have seen a little, it was very easy to relate. But still very magical. I was instantly and for ever hooked. I used to have this book in my hand all the time not wasting a single waking moment. My mom later regretted suggesting this book to me 🙂 She would call me for some house hold work and there I would be, huddled near the bed with the book, lost to the world, travelling among the horsemen and playing in the pool with those princess and their friends, biting my nails on the sudden turn of events, seething with rage on the treason and sighing myself on all those non-cheesy romantic moments. Life was never the same after that. It had action, adventure, romance, love, espionage, treason – every single thing that a human encounters and spread across 5 volumes and not to mention some strong characters (yes, Kundhavai is from this book and she plays a very important role in the whole story) Ponniyin Selvan means ‘The son of Ponni’ and the river Cauvery was called Ponni at that time. The title suggests that it is about the then Prince Raja Raja Chola (a real King of Chola Dynasty). It spans across two generations. I am not going to go into the novel, that is not the intention of this post anyway. I don’t remember how long it took me to complete all the 5 volumes. But I decided then and there that I will own this book no matter what. When I started earning, I did buy this book (but lost the first part somewhere during the troubled times). During my stint in the working women’s hostel, I have read it so many times again. Once in an hostel, seeing the way I was buried in this book, my room mates, Telugu was the mother tongue of one and even though Tamil was the mother tongue of the other she was brought up in Dubai so she can speak but not read or write Tamil, asked me to relate the story to them as and when I read it. It was no simple feat. 5 volumes and so many complicated characters, situations. But I took it upon myself to enlighten them with this beautiful world. When they left the hostel, they gave me a good bye card with a special thanks for involving them in that story and making them a part of it, something they said they will never forget.
That was my first dip into the world of fiction and books. And soon after that I started taking up small books from the library for the benefit of my mother too so that we both can exchange and read them (we were allowed 3 books for a fortnight). That world got lost when I joined my post graduation and studies, projects, and job interviews became more important. But never did I believe that the break was temporary and that I will be introduced to a whole lot more later.