‘The godlessness in my writing comes from the Mahabharata’ says Shashi Tharoor

I HAVE ALWAYS read fiction widely and for pleasure, never treating reading as prescriptive or as a means to self-improvement. In Bookless in Baghdad, I wrote how growing up as a child of middle-class parents in urban India in the late 1950s and ’60s was to grow up with books. I was often ill as a child and the pleasure I took in books meant that being confined to bed was a burden easily borne. There were times when I read a book a day, sometimes more.

I suppose I was quite a precocious reader, supplementing a diet of Richmal Crompton’s William books, Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter and Capt WE Johns’ intrepid Biggles with Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and lots of Dickens. PG Wodehouse was the first great literary passion of my life. I was drawn to his good-humoured subversion of canonical English literature as much as to his hilarious plots. He also awoke in me a sense of the extraordinary potential of language as both a vehicle and a destination.

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