My ‘Classical’ Love Affair

Posted on August 3, 2010. Filed under: Essay | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Summer vacations were going on. I must have been 9 or 10 years old. That one glorious year, we were living on the 5th floor in a building just beside a comparatively secluded part of Juhu beach. Everybody at home was asleep. Somehow I was awake. I still remember the day quite vividly. I was listlessly moving around from one room to another looking for something to do. For some unbeknownst reason, I opened one of the rusting Godrej cupboards and began rummaging through it. And there it was – a veritable treasure trove. No it was not a gateway to Narnia, but to another world that I discovered.  Abridged versions of English classics! They had been textbooks of my dad and aunt and had been stowed away for so many years.  At that instant, I was unaware that my love affair with classics had begun.

I took the Count of Monte Cristo and began reading. I read with horror as Dantes was wrongly accused of treason and carted off to Chateau D’If.  The book took me to France and Italy, amidst rocky seas and grim prison islands, to beautiful women and treacherous men. I devoured it all up in one sitting. Probably since it was a kiddie book it ended as a happy ending. Edmond escapes from the prison, gets his treasure and is reunited with Mercedez. I lived in this ignorance caused bliss. I did not read the revenge saga until I became an adult.

Of course, this post would be incomplete without the mention of Pride and Prejudice. There is something about Mr. Darcy.  All my friends who have read this book are still in love with him. Something about his haughty demeanor yet kind heart. Maybe psychologists and psychoanalysts may have something to say about women’s fixation for Mr. Darcy. A must read for all girls of all ages.

Many years have now passed after that summer. My fervor in books has lessened because of the pressures of making a living. I am less adventurous now, when I choose authors. But with most classics I have never gone wrong.

I dove into To Kill a Mocking bird with a clean frame of mind. I did not know its story, but I knew that it was a Pulitzer winning book. I was not disappointed. Every page I turned, I found myself being enthralled more and more.  The escapades of Scout and Jem, reminded me of my own misadventures with my sisters. The unfortunate events by which they ‘come of age’ filled me with sorrow, but at the end I felt optimistic about the inherent goodness of human beings.  I would definitely recommend it to someone who wants to begin reading, because it is a great story written in a lucid way. (I tried it on #win, but he has not yet read it to my dismay.)

Another delightful classic is Catch 22. I remember clutching my sides and laughing while I was reading it. But the next instant I would realize the grief that the comedy tries to veil, albeit thinly. An example is this guy who strives to make his life boring because being bored gives you an illusion of time having slowed down, and time slowing down makes your impending death seem farther (it is a story of disillusioned aircraft pilots, fighting a futile war). A long-ish book, but each and every page is a delight.

Another classic with a ‘catch’ is A Catcher in the Rye. I had a hard time reading it because of its strange prose style. Probably because of this staccato style, the effect on the reader is so great. I remember being disturbed for days on end after reading it.  This story of an angst ridden teenager struck a chord really close to my heart.  I would not want to read it again, but I am sure everyone will find a piece of themselves in that book.

So, what is on my reading list now? Ulysses, Lolita, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, A Brave New World, Howard’s End… If you have read any or all of these, do let me know your opinions. Happy reading!

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