I am a ‘story-searcher’; if that’s even a term! My father brought me up on stories during each meal in my childhood. Stories of tigers and dogs and tiny human beings. Such were the impact of those stories that even though I do not remember much of my 0-5 years of age, I still do remember those stories distinctly and the rice, lentil and potato fries that went with those stories. This has resulted in me trying to talk to people and know their story. They fascinate me.
I am also an avid reader. My parents had tried to inculcate the habit of reading very early in my life. I hadn’t even started Kinder Garten and I had already read a book of bedtime stories that were beyond the level of reading of an Indian 3-year-old in 1988. I was hooked on to stories and my childhood years of Nursery to Class 3 was interspersed with daily doses of Champak, comics, and other such books. But in Class 4, I was issued my first library card from my school and then started my foray into the world of classics and novels.
The first book that I picked up was Silver Blaze by Arthur Conan Doyle, with the picture of a silver stallion on the cover. I was so mesmerized with the world of detection and deduction of Sherlock Holmes that I forgot everything else. I started issuing 2 books each day and finish reading them. I binge-read the entire Sherlock Holmes collection within a month and then moved on to lesser crime novels like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. But they were just too childish for me. When you start with the pinnacle of detective writing that Sherlock Holmes was and still is, any other book comes hardly close to satisfy you.
As I grew older and was in my pre-teens, my choice of books changed. I graduated from comics, Nancy Drew type novels to Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer novels. Now, 23 years after I first picked up Silver Blaze at the age of 8, I find I have lost interest in most books of my childhood. Most, but not Sherlock Holmes.
Today, I am reading the Silver Blaze for the probably the 500th time and I can imagine myself old and frail, sitting on a porch at the age of 80, with ‘The Complete Sherlock Holmes’ in my hand, reading those stories again. And I know that Sherlock Holmes was and will always be my first love. Even if he wasn’t a real person!