First Prize award-winning entry of the contest –
If you ask me what gift can make me the happiest, I would always say books. The smell of a book or the feeling evoked from touching it is sanctimonious for me. That is why if someone asks me to choose between a paperback or e-book, I will always choose the former.
Books have been an integral part of my growing up years. My father, now a retired Mathematics Professor has always been fond of Bengali literature. My mother would read out stories from the children’s books and my fascination for the written word began. Once I discovered the love of reading on my own, I sucked into a world of my own.
I must have been in class 5 when I was introduced to Satyajit Ray. During summer vacation that year, one of his Detective novels ‘Sonar Kella’ adapted to a movie kept playing on TV. I was enthralled by it. I remember studying hard for the final term exams that year because Baba had promised a double treat of books by Ray if I ranked in the top three.
Thus began my journey with the razor-sharp and intelligent sleuth Feluda aka Pradosh C Mitter. Assisted by his cousin brother Tapesh Ranjan aka Topshe and friend Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu, they traveled from the banks of the Ganges in Benaras to the Thames in London.
Each year, I would eagerly be waiting for the book fair held during winters. I would pick up all the new Feluda books, Ray’s other books, and some more detective thrillers. These books were then kept in Ma’s custody until my second term exams were over. I can never forget the way I would rush back home to claim my most cherished possession after the last exam.
Throughout my growing years, winter afternoons had occupied a special place in my heart. I remember sitting on a carpet spread over the veranda floor, sipping coffee and reading books. Ma would give me company some days and so those afternoons were spent narrating a story from any of my favorite books to her.
As I grew up, I started reading novels in various other genres of fiction and non-fiction. But what remained constant is my love for Feluda, Satyajit Ray, and Detective novels.
In 1999, I moved out of my hometown for higher studies. I spent sixteen years in different corners of the country acquiring degrees and rising higher in the corporate world. Most of the time my hostel room or my flat resembled a mini library. Even today my apartment has more cabinets filled with books than any other items.
Two authors who have a permanent place in my bedroom and life are Satyajit Ray and Agatha Christie because I inherited the love for reading and writing thrillers from them. When I started writing my debut novella ‘Deal of Death’ this May, I paid my tribute to my favorite author by naming my protagonist Raya Ray.
My toddler, who turns three this month enjoys reading books. I am trying to pass on to him the love of reading that I inherited from my parents. Every time that I sit with him to read a book, it brings back memories of Ma reading out stories to me. Seven years back I lost her to pancreatitis and life has been filled with turbulence ever since. For me, Ray and his books will always be more than just stories. They are memory-keepers of the nostalgic moments spent with Ma that have been etched in my heart forever.