Portable Magic – Finding the kid in me

Note: Could be long and slightly emotional.

I have been a serious person most of my life. I have no memory of me every letting go and just having pure fun. There were a lot of reasons for that, which is not going to be part of this post anyway. That would be slightly boring and well, depressing even. And since we did not have kids in our family (me and my youngest sibling are only 4 years apart …so we were sort of more like friends than siblings) I never knew how to be with kids (I used to try in School, but they never gave me the time of the day) or how to enjoy those small things that kids enjoy. Sounds a little pathetic now, but I hardly noticed it growing up.

One day my then boyfriend (now ex husband) took me to this movie ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ and the theater was mostly full of kids. I had hardly heard of it, but he said that it had good reviews. I was seated besides a family with 3 kids. When the movie started, I was awestruck. Something switched on (or off, I don’t know) inside me and I got transported to a different world. It was like Magic. Suddenly there I was jumping in my seat along with the kid next to me cheering  Harry when he was trying to score in Quidditch match. I couldn’t help contain my excitement I had through out the movie. I was suddenly super hyper active. I wanted to find out everything about this movie and when I knew it was from a book, nothing could have stopped me from reading it. Ever. And that is when I fell in love with the world of Witches and Wizardry. I got the paperback version of the books which had been available till then and completed them as soon as possible. For the other books that came up later, I either used to pre-order them or go and get them the first or second day of its arrival and promptly call up my manager and tell her that I am sick and would not be able to come to office and sit in my hostel room, close the door so that no maid can come and disturb me and complete the book. Yeah, I am crazy that way. Because I do that even now if that book holds me in its clutches. And yes, my favorite female character Hermione Granger forms the second part of my pseudonym. Honestly, I thought the Order of Phoneix was a little bloated up for sales reasons and the last one was a little too dramatic and that Voldermort’s death was a little too easy for the amount of his crimes. This book is very special to me because it made me feel like a kid again and sometimes very silly which was so uncharacteristic of me. My friends were in for a shock to see that side of me.

There was this night when I was reading the Half Blood Prince and when I completed reading Dumbledore’s death, I just couldn’t hold it in. I burst out crying and was crying non stop for almost more than half an hour. My room mate and close friend who was sleeping, got the shock of her life (I have never wailed over the two years I have stayed with her) and she panicked and was trying to get one word out of me as to why I was crying. When I explained her, among hiccups, about Dumbledore’s death, all she did was to snatch the book from me (it was a hardback copy unfortunately) and hit me on the head, thrust the book on my hand and went back to sleep. I was stupefied but the tears wouldn’t stop even then. It was like I lost my Grandfather that day (and I never even knew my real Grandfather’s from both sides, they were already dead even before my parents were married) I was constantly scouring MuggleNet site for any tit bit on Harry Potter, anything at all, doing the quiz and playing the games and talking to anyone who would hear me talk about it and my room mate had no choice. So I kept talking to her and she was totally exasperated with me and finally decided that the only way to make me shut me up was to read the book herself. I got her hooked and then everytime I see her reading I would ask her which part of the book she was in, should I tell her one important thing that will come up… I know now how much I would have annoyed her. I really feel sorry for her now, but then, all I needed was a kindred soul to talk about this wonderful world. Yeah, I was pathetic that way.

Want to know something more pathetic and stupid ? I was discussing about this at office with another colleague and she was like ‘Lord of the Rings is much better than Harry Potter’. I was enraged (yeah fumes from my ears and all). I told her that she was comparing apples and oranges. She was firm on her opinion. She told me that she will lend me her LOTR books and that I should read it and find it out myself. I refused and till now I haven’t read them. Because I didn’t want anything else skewing my view of Harry Potter world and I only viewed it as a test of my loyalty to HP. Yeah, I never said my sense of loyalty is anything was remotely sensible. But even after that argument, I knew I was being stupid to overreact, but still haven’t read LoTR. I have lost count of how many times I have read those HP books during some troubled times. And I was very sad when I lost those books along with a lot of other things in my life one day. But that series brought out a different person in me. I never knew fantasy and adventure could influence me like this series of books did. And till date that was the only fantasy book I have read (if you don’t count those romantic novels in fantasy genre…romance is sort of a fantasy isn’t? ). Hmmm.. I really miss that world. It meant a lot to me. My life changed during the course of the story. But it was there to comfort me in a very strange way. There are not many books that had an impact in my life like Harry Potter series did. But I am glad it came into my world.

Portable Magic – Trying out reality

I did not own any book till I switched to a city with a better pay and place where I could afford to buy books for myself, mostly paperbacks. But I still used to get it on loan (am doing that even now) from my friends. One of them had lot of Michael Crichton books (yeah, he was a fan of his). So apart from Jurassic Park , Congo, Andromeda Strain etc etc there was one more book of his (Michael Crichton) which I picked up (sort of completed all the books that this friend had with him). I did not know what genre it was, except that it was among the book list so I started on it. Almost after the 2nd or 3rd chapter, I knew that it was a non-fiction (I can be slow sometimes). That book was ‘Travels‘. It had very interesting incidents that the author had encountered in his life at various stages, including his travels and the things he saw there. It was funny even in most places. I am not sure if that really made an impact and made me start my own travelogue , but if I need to give anyone credit for my efforts, I would give it to Michael Crichton. I never thought that non-fiction can be fun too. I really enjoyed that book. And that is the only travel book I have read so far.

There is no particular reason for me for not liking non-fiction. I love stories. And stories always amaze me. Its like being transported to a world so different from your own, where there are lesser rules and things can be as dramatic or as realistic as you want them to be or rather as the story teller wants them to be.  I cannot pen a story to save my life, but I can listen to it for hours together. That is the reason I always split my studies and complete them. They are bland and weren’t taught in a very interesting way, with live examples, interesting analogies , nothing of that sort. So my attention span on them will be maximum of half an hour. But when I try to teach (and I did teach papers for my classmates in my Post graduation when the teachers weren’t available for some subjects) I make sure it is not dull and limited to my attention span time. The same goes for non-fiction too. So no wonder Travels made it to my favorite list. But again I gave up non-fiction for fiction, there were too many to read yet.

After a lot of years, there came another book called ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari‘ by Robin Sharma. This is the 2nd book I attempted and even though I don’t go for self help, philosophical books , it came at a time when I needed it. I did not take anything from that as far as I remember (and I donated that to my brother who , if he ever reads, reads non-fiction only) but it was definitely a help in a way where I needed some kind of inspiration. Those small things and quotes that it had , I took them at that time. And I decided that I will never go to non-fiction (does Khalil Gibran’s Prophet count in non-fiction ? because I love that one) unless and otherwise I have a very strong urge to read it. And I haven’t read any after that until recently. I will come to that in another post, because that requires a special mention. But never did I think I will be devoted to a book much like Ponniyin Selvan ever in my life. I thought that could never happen. How wrong was I ?

Portable Magic – Solving the mystery

After my post graduation just before I joined my job in a different city, I remember going through some books and found a novel in the group (how it came there, I don’t remember). I only remember seeing it in my Uncle’s place some long time ago. That book did not have its front page and it was a well used one. It was ‘The Seventh Secret by Irving Wallace’. I still remember that story, because at one point of time, whenever I felt bored I used to take this book and re-read it. And this story introduced me to the genre of Mystery Thriller. And if it is related to Hitler and Eva Braun and their escape and the possible incidents that can come out of it along with some hard core action, what is not there to like?  It was a good and very interesting book, kept me at the edge of my seat and biting my non-existent nails ( I don’t have the habit of growing nails, something I grew out of since I used to go for those typewriting classes in my school days). I hadn’t read many books by then, but this mystery, suspense and thriller genre got me so enthralled that later it became my favorite genre among books. I lost that book somewhere when I changed cities and companies and went to the working women’s hostels. But the fact that this story still remains with me is a wonder.

During my stint in a women’s hostel in the city of my first job, my neighbor was this woman, a social worker and one of the very strong human beings I have met in my life, and a total enigma to me.She had a separate room for herself (I was sharing with 3 other co-workers) and never allowed anyone in her room and kept very odd timings. But when she slowly warmed up to me, and saw me reading my Tamil novel (yes, the same Ponniyin Selvan again) she asked me if I wanted to try some English novels. I was so happy to hear that. And when she opened her room to me, I was stunned. The shelf was almost full of books , all fiction. I didn’t know what to pick and was going through each of them. She then suggested me ‘If Tomorrow comes by Sidney Sheldon’. She was a fan of Sidney Sheldon and had all his books. And she couldn’t have picked a better book of his from that list. Till day, that is one of my very favorite book of Sidney Sheldon and I have read almost all of his books which she had in her library before I left that city. And I own a copy of this book with me now. This book also was in the crime, mystery, thriller category and I decided that I will stick to this genre and read as much of them as possible. I don’t remember a lot of books I have read in this genre even though I can name some, my first preference of a genre if I have enough time to read (not those one day quick reads) will be Mystery and Thriller. But having said that I haven’t read any of Stephen King type horror cum mystery. That is something I am not sure I will be interested in. But would have to try that sometime.

And since then I used to pick up any book that was in that genre and that is how Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie also came into my list. And I haven’t read any non-fiction book till then (not counting my technical books). Who knew that those can be fun too.



Portable Magic – Introduction to the World of Fiction

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). IMG_7016During 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.