I remember the first time I held that book, a story which was not your everyday tale of struggles, but something which was a result of those everyday struggles.
The book I’m talking about is the abridged edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which I read 12 years ago in Class 5. That book was probably the first ever serious — as serious it can be for a 10-year-old — speculative fiction book I read.
Zooming three years ahead, my close friend introduced me to the biggest ever influence and the real starting point of my interest and this tryst, Goosebumps. Those books by R.L. Stine basically shaped most of my early teenage reading. But after entering high school, reading took a back seat and never came in the front, until I took up the preparation of CLAT. That was where I got back into the reading like a lover, but I had still not fully realised the value of the books and their love’s value.
The first serious long thing I wrote (co-wrote) had names, which were known more on the other side of the world. That story turned out to be as good as two 13 years old could write in the free time between classes. The setting of that story was also in a place I saw only on a screen, but it did have some of our elements.
Well, that is past, and that story is written, but that was an important step, an important phase in my writing journey, which now I look back on as a needed step.
Jumping back to the CLAT year, to increase my reading speed, my vocabulary, my writing, and my overall English, I was told to read more books, newspapers, magazines and whatever one likes. So, looking back, in 2018, the third part of Maze Runner movie was released so, my first two spec fic books were James Dashner’s dystopian prequel series of The Maze Runner and those reignited those old sparks which I thought were long cold, finally understanding the value of that one love, which they did not understand before, thanking that they are back in your life, that you are getting another chance.
Those two were just the beginning and then there were many other that followed, but the one thing which I noticed later, during my first year and more minutely, in lockdown, was that all the books, all the stories which I read, which I adored, I loved, I could not forget, were of authors of a world, much different from mine, the authors which felt the same things, who wrote the relatable stories, who introduced us to memorable characters, but never able to fully integrate and associate with those worldwide experiences. My experiences. But that does not make me hate them, that makes me hopeful and inspired to write those experiences, those stories for the world to read and that is what I did, I still do and will continue doing it.
But was it even possible for me to find stories that were ours?
Lockdown gave me that time to explore and I am glad that I did, and so my incursion into the Indian Speculative Fiction or SFF (science fiction fantasy) started, and I discovered such brilliant authors and stories that they just felt like a long-awaited hug.
But just because I got a new friend, does not mean that I forgot my old ones. The catchup that happened during the lockdown, after the lockdown, is still going on, a little slow, but it is still there.
I got so much time and the fact that not only I discovered long fiction but I got into short fiction, comics, and even screenplays and a few manga, also tagging along audio dramas and books, that during that time, any time, this tryst was the only thing—still is—that I waited for the most, looked forward to the most, and I have to say that never ever I thought that this reconnection would be like this, like meeting this old lover after so many years and then connecting with them slowly, learning about them again, all the new and old things and things that are still the same, but also different and that those different parts are just as adorable as those same parts.
I am glad that I got to find and love and spread these beautiful stories, these beautiful experiences, and write my own, that someday, someone, maybe, is going to appreciate them, adore them, love them, like I did, like I do.
Aayush Shrivastava is a student of Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.