Creative nonfiction Life

For the Love of Stories

love of stories

Neither of my parents is a voracious reader. In our house, there were exactly eight adult paperbacks, yellowed with age, that belonged to my dad when he’d read for pleasure at some point in his life. He preferred poring through medical texts with tiny font. My mum read magazines. They both read the newspaper. But I never once saw them curled up on the couch or lying in bed reading a book for the pure pleasure of it.

To most people, this must sound astonishing. How does one become a bookworm without supposed role models? Aren’t parents meant to read to their kids, buy books for their kids, share the joys of reading with them to build that love for reading?

For me, the love of stories was instilled by my maternal grandfather. Being the first grandchild, I spent a lot of time with Thatha and my grandmother as a toddler and during my kindergarten years. During this time, he would tell me stories – almost always about Hindu mythology – while we prepped dinner or ate mangoes, and almost always, before bed. He told me about Rama’s exile to Lanka, about the Pandavas fighting the Kauravas, about Lord Krishna’s antics and how Ganesha came to have an elephant head. There were stories about other gods and goddesses that I no longer remember.

It wasn’t just mythology though. While Thatha didn’t have a huge library of paperbacks, he did have a cupboard of comics. At first, I flicked through the pages of Phantom and Mandrake the Magician trying to decipher the story based on the pictures. Later, during the summer holidays in primary school, I would devour the comics themselves. And his storytelling continued.

Luckily for me, my parents encouraged my love of stories. They bought me books from a young age and the first book I remember asking for after a visit to a bookstore was Enid Blyton’s Stories for you. There was no stopping me after that and my parents would buy me books as a reward for doing well at school or for my birthdays. I borrowed books from the school library and earned the nickname ‘Bookworm’ from one of the high-school teachers who always found me with my nose buried in a book on the school bus. I read everywhere I could – the school bus, at the dinner table, in the car, when I should have been studying, when my parents visited their friends, at restaurants, and of course, at home. Except for maybe at the dinner table and while I should have been studying, my parents never stopped me from reading. From about the age of ten, my maternal uncle indulged my love of stories by gifting me books on every birthday. He would ask me for a list and would almost always buy me half a dozen books. I never allowed my mum to get rid of any of them.

We didn’t have free libraries {other than the ones at school} growing up in Oman or India. Even though there were a couple of years when I joined a library and got lost in the world of Nancy Drews, Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, I relied on the school library or else, the generosity of my parents and uncle. Thanks to my grandfather though, I found I loved creating stories as well. I’d spend nights making up stories for my younger sister before bed. She, to her credit, indulged me. Today, I can’t remember any of those stories. But I do know I had a captive audience.

I moved out of home in 2005 and didn’t bring any of my books with me. Thatha died in 2007. My parents continue to not be voracious readers. But they haven’t thrown out my childhood books, now yellowed with age. As for me, once I finished university and found a job, I started to buy books and make my own collection. And of course, I continue to write. Sadly, they are both something Thatha will never see. But I’m certain he’d be proud of it.

***Linking up with Leanne for the Lovin Life Linky***

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  • Laurie
    4 February 2021 at 9:15 am

    Good for your parents, uncle, and your grandfather. Even though your parents didn’t always lead by example, they realized how important reading was for you at a young age and encouraged it by buying you books. I think storytelling is a wonderful way to connect and get a point across. Thank you for telling us the story of how you became a reader.
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  • Joanne+Tracey
    4 February 2021 at 11:24 am

    My mother has always been a voracious reader – but her parents weren’t. My father read just the back page of the newspaper. I’m the eldest of 4 and always loved reading – I’d escape into it – although none of my siblings are readers. I married someone who didn’t get my love of books and only now will read if we’re on holidays and I booked somewhere without a TV (which I do deliberately). Our daughter has never enjoyed it – even though I read to her nightly and did all the things you’re supposed to do. It’s only now (at nearly 23) that she’s actually reading and enjoying it. Her taste is different to mine – which I’m happy about – but we can now talk about books. Great post Sanch.

  • Min @ Write of the Middle
    4 February 2021 at 12:50 pm

    Ahhh what a lovely story Sanch! I don’t remember what got me started reading but I know I always have loved it. I remember the first books at school “Dick, Dora, Nip & Fluff”. I loved Enid Blyton books and the most exciting part of school was Book Club and choosing which book/s to order and when they arrived it was the best!

  • Ju-Lyn Tan
    4 February 2021 at 6:47 pm

    Went back to read your older post about your grandfather – a touching tribute to him and your memories with him. As is today’s post – as much a tribute to him as well as your love story with books.

    My first book was also an Enid Blyton: Mr Pink Whistle’s Party. Not quite sure why I picked that one amongst all the books that were on the shelf. But it started a love affair with Enid Blyton.
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  • Christine
    5 February 2021 at 1:34 pm

    How pleased your grandfather would be to see something he seeded within you come to fruition.
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  • Leanne+@+Deep+Fried+Fruit
    11 February 2021 at 7:20 am

    I’m sure Thatha would be very proud. I grew up reading. As an only child there really wasn’t much else for me to do to. My parents read a little, and they nurtured my love of reading by buying me all the books I asked for. I was afraid my kids hadn’t caught the bug, but my daughter has now started reading for pleasure at the age of 21. My son I doubt will ever catch the bug due to his dyslexia. Reading is just too hard.
    Great post! So lovely. Thanks for sharing.
    L xoxo #LovinLife
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