I am what a lot of people refer to as ‘countryside gal’ or ‘local breed’. They aren’t wrong considering the fact that I didn’t get to see Lagos or Ibadan till I was 19 years of age. My teenage years were spent in the very rural parts of the South West Nigeria. Television and Video sets were scarce gadgets and if I could remember accurately, the people that had them were seen as the crème dela crème of my small town then.
My family proudly owned a 14 inches black and white Tv box that usually sputter to life at 9 pm every day for the NTA Network news. Not like now, that my little daughter can’t seem to have an exciting life without the presence of Ceebeebee, Disney Junior and Nicky Junior; then in my growing up years, I fantastically had a life without the interruptions of technology. Not that technology is bad, but I never grew up with one.
Now that I look back in retrospect, I realized that one of the greatest blessing that this technology free childhood gave me was my imagination and intense need to spend hours on reading. My dad had a big library that contained literally all the books you could imagine in this world (at least to eight year old mind); from philosophy books to novels to medical books. Since then I have tenaciously honed the skills of imagination, after all there isn’t much to do except to read and keep on reading. The allure that books presented to me was too much to ignore; to complicate the situation, my elder sister was a Mill and Boons and Pacesetters junkie.
Imagine an eight year old child spending hours hiding to read Penny Jordan’s paperbacks, although my taste soon changed to Jackie Collins. My sister introduced me to the world of fantasy where nothing is impossible; a world of knights and damsels in distresses, exciting countries and adventures. She used to discreetly hide the novels on the wardrobe so that I wouldn’t find it, but as they say “Curiosity kills the cat”; I was too hooked on the joy these books gave me to ever be cured of it. For me, it didn’t matter whether I was in a small town or not, all that made sense to me was the new world these books gave to me.
This new world was more fun, loving and adventurous, I used to feel myself disconnected for hours unending from my present world; whenever my parents disciplined me for being wrong , I will quickly switchto this fun utopia. Then I used to share a room with two of my sisters and two other cousins, it was surely cramped but what made it livable for me was my other world; a world that had so much space and I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be.
Even though I love my differently patterned siblings and my childhood, I preferred my new experience. The more I read, the more this new world became real to me; I remembered one time that I read ‘African Child’ by Camara Laye, it immediately transferred me to Guinea. I was able to see the streets of Conakry and how the day breaks there. With every book that I read, I became a resident of the location the book was set in, it just didn’t matter that I have never physically stepped beyond Osun State.
Before I ever knew about anything about visa procedures to any of these faraway countries, I have been there in my mind and spirit, (this one no be witch o). I have through the books lived for months on Texas ranches and gone to high school dances and proms with my boyfriends. I have had hot sizzling sex at the back of the car in the alley of New York streets and I have practiced Law and helped to release innocent people through the books of Jackie Collins and John Grisham.
Fast forward to 2011, I married and my hubby happens to travel a lot; and one of the things that I love about that man is his unique ability to sensationally bring to life all the images of these countries he visits. He will spend hour’s gisting me about how everything runs in these places. Yet, I have not gone past Ghana (went there for honeymoon), I can confidently tell you how the sunset in Romania to how beautiful the seas are in Isle of Man (United Kingdom) to how people in Contonou love to add tomatoes to their pap and how to fluently greet in Chinese.
Reading to me is not a past time but a kind way of living my life; these days I try so hard to initiate my daughter to this new world. It’s like a battle between reading and technology; so many gadgets for her to play with. I love my imaginative world and it will not be a bad idea to have my daughter in it.