Buy, borrow or beg. But read the books.
I read this couplet years ago. Perhaps in some school library. And the thought just got embedded in my mind. What could be a better starter than an MB (Mills & Boon)?
I remember laying my hands on an MB whilst studying in class ninth in 1996. Considering the ‘backward’ rather retiring city I come from, being spotted with an MB was a big taboo (and sadly enough it still remains).
I still possess the copy of my first MB, borrowed from a school friend. Having read once, I came across the fact that MB was a chain of books carrying romantic stuff. In a way, it gave women liberty to perceive things that are beyond imagination in an Indian society.
And then started the hunt to read more MBs. With no pocket money, buying one was definitely not an option. So I asked some friends. Hunted for some in public library Bathinda. But got none. Four years passed and I entered college.
Here I came across a friend – daughter of an army officer – who was as big an MB fan as any other girl from a metro city. I borrowed some of MBs from her and we embarked upon a journey of beauty of words. Sometimes we read an MB sitting in the Chemistry class and others time in the green lawns of Government Rajindra College, Bathinda.
The sleek and small MB lay nestled in the quirky chemical equations and potions of the Chemistry books, while we giggle sitting on the last benches. It was more of bonding, than reading a book. MBs gave me an unforgettable friend.
And MB taught me….
For all the three years of my degree, I read MBs, Sideny Sheldon, Robin Cook and some Hindi works like Anandmath, Munshi Prem Chand’s Godan and Gurdial Singh’s creations. Most of them were read either right before exams or during boring Chemistry lectures.
During all these three years. MBs told me about deserts of Egypt, the beauty of Alaska, exotic sounding dishes, beaches of Hawaii and Miami, added words like genuflect to my vocabulary, I went scuba diving, I went rafting, sometimes African jungles and at times Florida delighted me. At other times, these bailed me out of struggle of life (for a few hours). And then there were the days when I competed with myself i.e. reading an MB over night.
The books again took back seat for a year, when I went to Ludhiana. Lost in the milling crowd of industrial city, I met a dear friend. She invited me for tea and on the shelves of her bedroom lo!… were stacked the tempting MBs. Again the borrow circle of MBs got underway. Within few months, I have read almost all the MBs she had and hunt for more started.
Temptation comes knocking
As if my prayers were heard. I met a friend from public relations, who had plenty of MBs filled in bags. So one day, while driving back home, I took the bags and enjoyed reading for another couple of months. Needless to say, the entire supply was circulated throughout the hostel I lived in. But as is said, happy times are short lived. The supply exhausted and MB era came to a small end.
Few years later, while sifting through websites on literature, I stumbled upon MB website. The publication was gearing up to launch its India edition and had put up a set of questionnaires gathering taste of Indian readers. I took the survey and so did a friend sitting somewhere in Delhi.
Last portion of survey demanded that addresses be mentioned so that a surprise pack be delivered at home. Afraid of my mother, I gave address of my friend, while she typed my address for the same column. Result: Both of us got a set of two MBs each at respective addresses along with loads of reprimand from mothers. We swore not to even look at MBs again. But, promises are meant to be broken.
Technology comes to rescue:
Till date, I have never bought an MB. Either I’ve borrowed, begged or (quiet ashamedly I admit) that I never returned borrowed ones. With advent of technology, my favorite MBs have gone online and the publication has been generous enough to start a free online reading slot.
Amidst the chaos of family and work, I do manage to steal a look at the website and read its online stories - albeit when I am free - and that is when all have dozed off. But I miss reading an MB balled up in a quilt, stealing glances from mother and pretending to study my lessons hard.