Lara Dutta : Booked for life!

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By Hindustan Times

New Delhi, April 6 -- Books have made me the the person I am. They have always fascinated me. The smell of newly printed pages; slightly yellowing old books; meaningful words on the page; well-thumbed old books; the feel of a good book in your hands... Amazing!

I am the youngest of three girls, considerably younger than my elder two siblings. When they were in senior school, I was still learning the alphabet. Usually, I was left to my own devices to entertain myself. And that's when books became my sacred space. I remember spending hours perched on my favourite Gulmohor tree, engrossed in many an adventure buried between pages.

Having elder siblings meant having access to books that were quite beyond my years. I graduated from Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew soon enough and remember reading Colleen McCullough's Thorn Birds at 11! I was Maggie! Soon followed the Gone with the Wind and Maggie was replaced by Scarlett. At 13, I discovered Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and life was never the same again.

I was a voracious reader (still am) and read everything from Shakespeare and poetry to crime, science fiction and fantasy. Authors like Isaac Asimov and J.R.R. Tolkien became my firm friends. For the longest time I truly believed I was a Hobbit! I stared at my feet endlessly, willing them to show 'hobbit like' features! Books have transported me to worlds that I could only dream of. I have fought beside a soldier in the mud-filled trenches of Vietnam, ridden across snowy plains with Genghis Khan, been witness to devious plots that have toppled kingdoms, soared with a seagull and loved to distraction! I remember crying my eyes out at the end of Love Story at 14 and vowing never to read another romance novel! Or reading Khalil Gibran's The Prophet at 16 and deciding that I had found my philosophy in life. Books are my one weakness. Every available space in my bedroom is crammed with them. I use them piled by my bedside as a bedside table; they even occupy my towel rack! I've had cartons of books shipped home once after a holiday overseas. No store is more exciting than a quaint bookstore, which, within its cool darkness hides great treasures. Limited editions, old well read books with tiny personal notes in the margin, hard to find titles...

I love the whole process of buying a book. Chancing upon a much sought-after title, the weight of it in your hands, the feel of its pages, carrying it proudly to the cash register, paying for it, watching it being slid into a carry bag, swiping your rewards card, (very important for a reader like me)... And finally, carrying it home, knowing that a great new adventure waits to be read! I have one word for you this week...Read!