I paced through rows of towering columns, intimidated by both their height and their occupants. The dwellers, miniscule figures that they were compared to the hollows they were house in, sat spine to spine, some rigid, others more easygoing and flexible. Each one was branded on its backbone, it's identity forever etched onto it with its lifeblood. Uneasy with the quiet of the chamber, I ran my finger along each tenant as I passed, if only to feel the presence of another. All dark in color, they presented a daunting force of intimidating solidarity. It seemed they were all against me, elders in their own right, full of the impossible, buried truths that I could not be privy to. I was ready to return back to familiar grounds, but something caught my eye, glinting in the peripheral of my vision. Circling back, my eyes fixed on the mystery. It was one of the occupants. Bright and shining, it was an unusual sight. Nestled between its two sinister and severe neighbors, it's beautiful and vivid exterior drew me in like a magnet. Unable to contain my curiosity, I slowly inched it out of its home. Hesitantly running my hand over it, I examined the colorful exterior. It whispered to me, telling me of adventures and discovery and companionship. I was trapped in the pages of the book.
I was always told "Don't judge a book by its cover." But had I not discarded that little proverb, I would never have become a (willing) prisoner of imagination and wonder. I succumbed to that moment of vanity, and became all the richer for it. I found my companions for the next few years, friends who eased the transition from one culture to another. Friends who were with me every step of the way as I reached out and made contact with the new world I was in.
Moving from Pakistan, a calm and conservative country to the US, a country defined by its dazzling individualism and excess, was a huge culture shock for me. I had trouble adjusting to the people and the language. I was unable to find common ground between the two ways of life, simply because I could not understand part of the whole. That book, (which I later found out was Dianna Wynne Jones' Charmed Life) innocently waiting for the next passerby to fall prey to its visual allure, helped me to understand the code that this new world was based on. The pages, yellowed out of age, pulled me into its bosom, and helped me make the journey to the next place.
From the time I arrived in America at that tender impressionable age of seven to now, books have been my constant companions. They have provided an escape from reality, taught me to value the spontaneity of life, and molded my mind into a wide expanse of experience, ready for the next escapade.