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“Just one more page please.” I said trying to keep the lights on for five more minutes.  My husband, with a knowing smile, put the pillow on his face and went to sleep.  Every night, if he is not sleeping later than me or we are not hitting the bed together to catch a movie while the fruit of our bearing, the kiddo, sleeps blissfully, we have this standard conversation as I flip through the pages of the book that lies by my night stand. The bookmark keeps moving till it reaches the end, the books keep changing, but the ritual remains intact, of reading, of having some fodder for the dreams that make up my night.  A standard practice that I developed while struggling to adjust to the charms of college life, leaving behind the pig tailed girl from a tiny, sleepy town.

Enid Blyton books, The Hardy Boys, Tom Sawyer never made it to my list as I was well past the age when the reading bug bit me.  The little world I existed in consisted of Chacha Chowdhary, Motu-Patlu, Pinky, and the anatomy of human heart for a long time. The permutations and combinations were not far behind too.

It actually started with ‘Mills and Boon’, the side effects of professional college I say. The romance flew high, much higher than the course, the tardy professors.  Hostel buzzed with activity. Night lamps burned bright till the wee hours of the morning, not for studying but for gossiping and reading romantic stories.   Waking up in the mornings was never a fight. Even if it was, bunking a lecture would come handy.  But missing to spend the night with the bare chested, chiseled heroes and picture perfect heroines that would come alive, breathing from the pages of the M&Bs, was impossible.

But then, how long can you survive on chick-lit and (s)ex-plicit scenes?  For very long I admit, but then the heart started wanting more meaningful, the mind started wanting some titillation of its own.  Jane Austen, Stephen King, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Paulo Coelho, the list went on. A well-stocked British Library in the vicinity helped. It was a journey to explore, to know more, to understand the world that existed far and beyond.  Long journeys in Punjab State buses to home and back to the hostel meant ample time to finish a good book.  Self –exploration that I could spend hours and hours with a book, that solitude didn’t mean lonely, that there were several different perspectives to look at, several different notions to respect.

The world of words was overwhelming.  It was intimidating at times but made me introspect, every time. The office replaced the college, the home replaced the hostel, the husband replaced the friends in the crinkled bed, and then the kid replaced the husband, with the tide of time. The books, however, remained the only constant. Many of them saw me through my hippy college days, big bandages, shouting-from-rooftop happiness, hormonal outbursts, sleep deprivation, anger management and finally, some solace.  They existed, they guided, silently, effected my choices with the sheer knowledge they imparted of human feelings, of lives well-lived, of good advices, they opened up my mind in more ways than one.  Then they adorned my bookshelf waiting to be dusted, to be picked up again.

I have always felt that somehow they know. The feeling that I will come back to them, night after night.  I have always been. They have been my constant companions.  I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t discovered the magic of books. The magic that never ceases to exist, diminishes for a bit, but revives with every new title, every new word.  I haven’t had my fill; I am sure I never will. Perhaps, this is the beauty of it.

Pic courtesy: http://graduateloop.org