A place, where I would eagerly volunteer is a rich library or book store, with lots of books on literature and just about any subject. There are two things about that place which I have grown to love. First, the silence. Second, books and the smell of books. The former is the lubricant for my thought processes while the later makes me think. I am a thinker. And I have learnt that books are bulldozers, they open new lands in our minds and breakdown the walls of ignorance which makes people narrow-minded.
At age 9, I had begun digging my way through my father’s shelf. I read Willie Jolie’s “It Takes Only a Minute to Change your Life”, Robert Schuller’s “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do”, Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, and every book with a diction simple enough for my young mind to grasp.
At school, I would lend every story book I came across- Eze Goes to school, Without a Silver Spoon, The Irokoman and the Woodcarver, Stories my Mother Told me, Sugar Girl, The Drummer Boy, The Fruit of Honesty is God’s Blessing, The passport of Mallam Iliya, An African Night’s Entertainment, The Incorruptible Judge, The Gods are not to Blame, Wedlock of the Gods, Chike and the River, etc. My mind was all so voracious!
I still remember the first time I fought at school. I remember it clearly.
“Limota! Limota!! Look at the book you borrowed from me. It’s torn!” I cried out before landing a slap on her back.
“Did I not tell you it’s my dad’s book? He’s going to spank me!” I said, as I punched away.
With only one swift turn, Limota who was far older than me, pounced on me and guess what? She dragged me to a nearby bush, got a cane and beat me to pulp.
That day, I returned home to my father’s wrath and had him read to me what he writes on the first page of each new book.
“ADDED TO OGWIJI’S LIB
ON 12TH NOV, 2004.
TREAT THIS BOOK WITH CARE & RESPECT!”
Then he would sign it accordingly.
“I will have to stop you from going near my shelf!” He yelled as he scolded me and warned me never to take his books to school anymore. But I was glad I didn’t get punished because dad usually added a little bit of his military training into the chastisement of every erring child.
I cannot count the number of times my teachers in secondary school asked me out of their classes because they caught me reading a story book under the desk in the middle of their lessons. I remember one of my chemistry teachers, we called him Mr. Giddy. He told us in one of our classes, “Your Ababio Chemistry Text is your new story book. Read it like your life depends on it!” It was one of the most difficult things to do but I had to put this Isaac (my love for the arts) on the altar of my dreams and watch as it go up in the flames of my ambitions.
However, the last few months, since graduating from university, I have been very consumed with the thought of making up for the years I ‘wasted’ trying to be a scientist. So each night, whether it is the wind that’s roaring outside or the evening breeze that’s whistling, I’m curled in my blanket, gnawing away on a book- e-books mostly- nothing stops me! As I flip through the pages of every book, I dream of the day when someone would hold my book of poems in their hands and say like I did after reading Noor Unnahar’s book of poems (Yesterday, I was the Moon), “…some poems are mirrors, you can see your face in them!”
My favorite pastime is reading. Reading tops the list any day, any time and writing is simply what I do to emit the fumes in my mind, in my soul. I like to think of our minds as engine rooms where the combustion takes place before we get the sparks we call ideas, and this process sure requires an exhaust. So my pen is essentially an exhaust vent and my blog www.eboquills.com is my fume collector and recycling center.
Ehi-kowochio Ogwiji – 11-08-2019
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