My grandfather and especially my dad would tell me stories all the time. Stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Stories from their life and experience. Stories they heard from people. Stories from all the novels, magazines and other books they would read.
Like most kids I started reading comics and loved all their super powers. When I read a comic version of Ramayana I thought it would be nice to be like Vali, getting half of your opponent’s power in a fight.
I had fun and it also seemed to make me smarter before my friends and elders. This got me interested and led me to read more. As expected, I got better at school too.
I started reading the books that I saw my dad read during the day and share stories with me and my sister at night. I started reading kannada magazines (Taranga, Sudha and Mangala) and then Reader’s Digest. Reader’s Digest surely elevated my reading with all the humor and word exercises and also stories from people across the world. Along the way, I came across a weekly sports magazine Sportstar. While I enjoyed the stories on/of my favorite cricketers. I also discovered names like Mohammad Ali and Lance Armstrong. An account of Lance Armstrong over-coming cancer and winning seven Tour de france, which is considering to be the most endurance testing sport known to mankind, made me purchase my first real book, when I came to Bangalore for CET counselling, his Autobiography - It’s not about the bike
Since then I have developed almost a fetish for autobiographies. Some of my all time favorites are:
- Andre Agassi’s - Open
- Mahatma Gandhi’s - The Story Of My Experiments With Truth
- Viktor Frankl’s - Man’s search for meaning
- Paramahamsa Yogananda’s - Autobiography of a Yogi - Probably the best book I have read thus far.
- Helen Keller’s - The Story of my Life
- Adolf Hitler’s - Mein Kampf couldn’t bring myself to complete as I found it bit too cruel.
- Anne Frank’s - The Diary of a young girl
Growing up, the now ubiquitous internet was nowhere. We didn’t have power at our home, let alone a TV. So books were my only access to the outer world.
Autobiographies are two things: A window to the person’s soul, they tell what they think about themselves, and also how they want the world to remember them.
I am also grateful to all all my English teacher’s who epitomized the pinnacle of reading pleasure through names such as Oscar Wilde, William Blake, Wordsworth and of course the Bard.
We are the stories we tell ourselves.
~ Joan Didion
My dad has taught and inculcated a few good things in me for sure. The best and most impactful of those certainly is the habit of reading.