How Did YOU First Discover Sherlock Holmes?

For every Sherlock Holmes fan, there’s this special moment or period of time – that time when they first got captivated by Sherlock Holmes.

For me, this happened when I was a young boy in Grade 7, in June 1999.

How I first encountered Sherlock Holmes

Wow. It’s been a long time. That’s more than 15 years ago!

Every summer my parents and I would travel from North India to our ancestral town in South India (Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh) for my summer vacations.

Now for many children of my age, these vacations might have meant – running around, playing with cousins, being naughty and all those things children do. I did all those things – yes – but what I really loved was reading books.

And did I tell you that my grandfather (paternal) was a bibliophile of the highest order?

He really loved books. In fact, his room was so full of books that there wouldn’t be space for anything else. There were bookshelves after bookshelves – book piles after book piles wherever you looked in his room.

Thanks to Megan for the ‘books’ part of this picture!

Every summer, I would be ready with my list:

“Can I have ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi’ grandpa?” 

“Can you give me ‘The Mill on the Floss’?

My grandfather would smile and give me the book – happy that I knew exactly which book I wanted to read.

And then came the summer of ’99. I got hold of two really bulky volumes that were titled:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Volumes I and II.

While the look is similar, the set I read had just 2 volumes. (Thanks for the pic, Flipkart!)

As soon as I got them, I was off to work devouring them.

I remember crouching on the bed in my maternal grandmother’s house and consuming the book. (That’s where I stayed during the holidays. I kept visiting paternal grandpa though. His house and my maternal grandma’s house are nearby.)

The two stories that I remember the most are The Hound of the Baskervillesand The Devil’s Foot

When I read these stories now, I feel thrilled – but at that time I just froze. They left me horror struck. One moment I was nervous and scared – I had stopped reading. The other moment, I wanted to continue reading to find out what happened next.

My maternal grandma’s house – where I read the books – is a really, really old and large house. At that time, it had pillars, a ‘not well lit’ courtyard right in the middle of the house, a large green patch with a well in it…

It even had many ‘dark‘ spots in the night – not so well lit areas where shadows could turn scary..;-)

I still remember the night I had finished reading The Devil’s Foot. Two people in the story just look at the window – see something scary moving – and die with an expression of terror.

From my room, I remember looking at those eerie pillars and the dark courtyard beyond – expecting some ‘devlish’ creature to pop up any moment. I was horror struck, yet excited.

It’s been more than 15 years since that day now. I have read The Devil’s Foot many times over. The excitement when I read a Holmes story is still there – though of course – it was more palpable when I was a kid. I guess you actually start believing whatever is written more when you’re a kid.

But yup – the joy of reading a Holmes story remains!

When I ask myself: What did I really like about the Sherlock Holmes stories – what do I really like about them even today – the answer that comes up is this:

“When I read a Holmes story, my mind actually believes it’s in the middle of an unsolvable, horribly unbelievable mystery.

This creates this fascinating ripple of ‘nervous excitement’ that’s…unforgettable.

And then, when Holmes solves it all with proper reasoning, I relax, I smile and come out of the maze saying ‘that was wonderful!”

Well, that’s my Sherlock Holmes story. It isn’t really crazy or anything – but yes, I’m really glad I said ‘Hello’ to Holmes when I was young.