There is something about stories we read as a child that have access to the rawest of nerves. Couple of days ago, I went to my favorite bookstore. While walking through the aisles, somehow I ended up in the children’s section. There in the middle of a book store, I started reminiscing about the time when I was getting into reading. As a kid, I used to read a lot of Hindi and Bengali books. I want to share these books with you. Most of them are written in regional language but the English translation of the same are easily available online. All these books are very close to my heart and shaped my identity as a reader that I am today.
- Panchatantra: One of my all time favorite childhood book is Panchatantra. I used to re-read this book a lot while growing up. As a child, I was fascinated by the stories of talking animals and birds who imparted life lessons. These fables are part of India’s oral story telling culture. The inter-woven stories written in the form of prose & poetry are really popular among Indian kids. Written originally in Sanskrit in 3rd century BC, these stories have been translated into many languages since then. It is considered one of the most translated Indian books of all time.
- Indian Fairy Tales: If there is one phrase that dominated my childhood years, then it is ‘once upon a time’ or as we say in Bengali ‘ekoda ek somoy’. I loved fairy tales as a kid. There is a small innocent part inside me which still believes in fairy tales. Stories about princes & princesses, evil kings & queens, magical objects, fairy godmother enchant every kid on this planet and I was no exception. I loved the concept of good vs. evil. It made me realize that the world is full of good and awful things and in the end it is up to us what we select. My early memories of reading include curling up in a sofa and vanishing into another world of magic and mystery.
- Mythological tales: Mythological tales are integral part of any kid’s upbringing in India. No matter which religion we belong to, our mothers and grandmothers always tells us tales of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Quran, Bible etc. My mum used to tell me stories from these epic sagas on lazy afternoons. These are the first stories I remember reading as a child. I had many such short story books which contained fables of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc. These books developed my appetite for Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Celtic mythology. I still enjoy reading books from this genre.
- Feluda Stories: Being a Bengali girl how can I forget about Feluda; every Bengali girl’s first crush. While the whole world is enamored by Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, we Bengalis have our much loved desi detective Feluda, created by Satyajit Ray. I love my usual dose of western detectives but Feluda is home to me. He is one of the very first fictional Indian detectives who rather than hiding behind pseudo intellectual identity of truth-finder or adventurer, openly claimed private investigation as his profession. While most of the other sleuths are either reclusive or have eccentric habits, he enjoys good company and appreciates finer things in life. His polite behavior, agreeable disposition and humorous take on life sets him apart from the other detectives.
- Indian Comics: This list will be incomplete without talking about my love for Indian comic books. As a 90’s kid, comic books were my lifeline during summer vacations. While other kids used to play video games, I used to devour these books. I was completely in love with outrageously exaggerated tales, cheesy dialogues and melodramatic plot twists. I have read all kinds of Indian comic books and children magazines. From Hindi comics (Chacha Chowdhry, Billu, Pinki, Nagraj, Doga, Super Commando Dhruv etc.) to English ones (Suppandi, Shikari Shabhu, Tantri the Mantri etc.) to Bengali ones (Nante-Fonte, Handa Bhonda, Bantul the Great etc.). Yes, I know that I am a complete Indian comic book nerd and I am not ashamed of it.
So these are the books I loved as a kid. Hope you liked this list. Let me know in the comments section what are some of your favorite books from childhood? If you have any suggestions feel free to share them.
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Until the next post, bye!