Once upon a time, my appa came back home with a box. Inside I found a treasure trove. For an accident child born six years after the nearest sibling, loneliness and confusion was a fact of life. Hence, opening the box and finding 60 story books, was indeed a great event.
He bought them for his six kids, but I daresay I was the only one who devoured every single one of them. And so I took vicarious journeys through the pen of the acclaimed authors of bygone years.
I first met the intrepid Jim Hawkins who hid in an apple barrel and overheard a crucial conversation. From Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) I learnt that love of gold can turn men into ugly beings.
Kidnapped (also by Stevenson) introduced me to the Jacobites, and in turn, my earliest intro to Scottish History.
Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was my first inkling of the momentous French Revolution. I learnt of the word “tumbril”. I met Sydney Carton who taught me the noble virtue of sacrifice.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck taught me that no matter how bad my life was, it didn’t compare to the poverty and hardship suffered by this farming family in China.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley gave me my first discomfort over the tampering of God’s creations. Reading it was how i know that Frankenstein referred to the doctor, not the monster.
Battle of Wits at Crimson Cliff was an excerpt from the philosophical great work Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where a witty turn of phrase could win or lose a battle. This was the beginning of my interest in Chinese history.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm taught me “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad”. I’m still not sure I want to revise my opinion.
Edgar Allan Poe awakened in me a taste for the dark and macabre. He introduced me to the polished Dupin, the first ever sleuth in the history of detective fiction.
Arthur Conan Doyle introduced me to the Hound of Baskervilles, the word “phosphorus”, a bird called bittern and of course the unforgettable gaslight sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.
William Wilkie Collins taught me to be vigilant when sleeping in strange rooms (A Terribly Strange Bed).
From Miguel De Cervantes I learnt that Don Quixote may have had his delusions, but the man of La Mancha taught me there is this virtue called chivalry.
The French master of short stories, Guy de Maupassant, taught me that keeping up with the Joneses could cause you dearly. (The Necklace).
Jules Verne introduced me to the concept of an undersea vessel, and opened up my imagination like nothing before. From him I learnt of the pearl divers of Sri Lanka (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), of the cruel practice of Sati in India, of opium dens in Hong Kong (Around the World in 80 Days), and the fact that under the frozen Icelandic landscape could exist a volcano and there existed runic script before (A Journey to the Centre of the Earth).
I also met some interesting characters; The White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Portia and Shylock (The Merchant of Venice), rooted for poor Cordelia in King Lear, poured scorn on Othello’s precipitate jealousy (Shakespeare)
I discovered the great Orinoco with Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), toured Lilliput and Brobdingnag with Gulliver (Jonathan Swift), and saw Dr Jekyll change into Mr Hyde (RL Stevenson).
That I remember all these details, bears testament to my love for books. I lived lives, I gained knowledge, I am capable of perspective. And today, I even make a living by writing. And it would not have been possible without appa. The life-changing love for letters was my father’s greatest gift to me.
So, even if you don’t read this, I must tell you appa, that you are the reason I turned out the way I am. Thank You.
Happy Father’s Day.