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Ayisha Siddique

Aware of Books

I do not remember any time in my life, when I was not aware of books. My earliest memory is of my uncle telling me a story about a wicked dragon, which steals a treasure, and the group of heroes, who go to confront him in battle. He used to tell me this story in sequels, a small amount every week, so by the time next week came up, I would be totally waiting in anticipation. It was when I started reading myself, that I realized that he had been retelling Tolkien's "The Hobbit". To this day "The Hobbit" is one of my favorite books, I read it to bring back memories of my child hood, when I’m depressed, or when I plain don’t have anything else to read.

My father is a Masters in English Literature, and because, or maybe in spite of that he loves reading, not just classics, but all sorts of books, science fiction, history, war novels, philosophy, you name it he's read it. I can very honestly say that my house resembles more a library than a home. There are books stacked every where, and periodically my mother throws a fit, and threatens to throw them all out, just so that she can have room to move about in.

Maybe, my sister and I inherited this live of reading from my father, or perhaps, our environment influenced us, but we were hooked onto books from a very early age. We would even take them to social gatherings, where we sure that we would get bored, and then just disappear into a quiet corner and spend the evening reading.

Now that I’m older, people meeting me after a long time come up to me and exclaim that we remember you, you were the little girl who always had a book in your hand. As I grew older, my love for reading also grew; my interests extending to every kind of book, except for schoolbooks. I remember my eighth grade final exam, I had not studied anything for it, and the day before the exam I was locked up in my room, reading.... a story book. Needless to say, I failed that paper... very badly. It was then that I realized that that the only field in which I could expect to do well was that of English literature. I was not cut out to be the logical and practical doctor or lawyer.

I am originally from Pakistan, and English literature majors over there do not a have very bright future waiting for them. They have two choices after they graduate, either to become a teacher for a secondary school, and then work their way up to a university professor, or do their masters again in a subject which is more "practical." When I joined the English literature department in the Karachi University, people whom I knew did not have very encouraging things to say about the field, which I was entering. According to them, there was no future in it, there was no way I would be able to get a good job after I graduated, so on and so forth, and I knew that they were right.

However, my reasoning was that I am doing something which I truly enjoy, AND, I’m getting a degree, for spending my time reading books like “Wuthering Heights”, “ The Wastelands” and “ A passage to India.” It was only after I graduated that I realized I would have to do what countless other graduates of English literature had done before me. Get a practical degree.

I applied to the Management Information Systems program at UIC, and much to my surprise I was accepted. I was euphoric for two days, and then I went and switched to the communication department.

It’s only now when I look back, that I realize the leading role which books have played throughout my life, they have totally restructured my life, and I wonder now, who I would have been if I hadn’t had this love of reading, would my life have been different, or the direction I have taken right now? One thing I do know for certain, I probably wouldn’t have failed my eighth grade final exam.

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