Some memories are the kind dreams are made of.
Somewhere towards the end of the 1970s, my father subscribed and bought a series of encyclopedias (in bright red and blue hard binding…the red set were heavy A3 sized volumes, was comprehensive and touched on everything from animals to famous people with really beautiful photographs and illustrations). I remember deciding to go through the books till one chance encounter with the article that dealt with ‘shrunken heads’ with some pictures to go with it, put an end to all the enthusiasm.
Accompanying the amazing volumes was a cardboard life-size replica of a treasure chest…the free goodies that came with the encyclopedia. The chest was packed with books…the latest bestsellers in fiction, many many how-to books and a book or two on technology as well. I remember delving into the box with my father in open-mouthed wonder. I was to fall in love with books by and by.
Many of those books still remain with us, the whole set of encyclopedias still lie in my father’s living room…it holds the pride of place, and I doubt they make them like that any more.
Among the many how –to books was one on How to keep a cat and How to keep a dog. It had everything from all the breeds of both animals possible, different diets for pups or kittens, how to handle illness, how to groom, the works. And as I entered upon my adolescent years, there was this book called ‘Beauty Around the Clock’ that got me interested in looks, exercises, diet and weight-watching.
Then there was a book of remarkable Sci-fi short stories that I began to read when I was around 15 or so. It was while reading the third or fourth story in that book that I got so scared—a story about a man who is troubled by his half-dead wife who turns into a vampire, and how a passing salesman (or was it a clergyman) manages to rescue him after much difficulty— I promptly kept the book aside.
And not to mention, those ‘other’ books, which had to be probably hidden away from my brother and me for the longest time…adult fiction and adult humour. With time, guards were lowered and I got my first taste of the forbidden during my later teen years.
And we’ve managed to hold onto many of those books even after all these years. Meanwhile ‘Beauty around the Clock’ like a trusted steed goes with me wherever I go.