How Agatha Christie killed my dreams, Libraries in Pakistan, and some silly stuff I did when I was a kid.

I had forgotten how much I loved Agatha Christie books, and just how bad I have always been at riddles, and mysteries. I had never even heard of the Mother of Mystery until I came to Pakistan. Sorry America, you’ve got a lot going for you, but you just don’t appreciate Christie like you should. I grew up in Texas, devouring any and every book I could get my hands on. My twelve-year-old self actually read my brother’s Driver’s Ed manual, because I was bored. Needless to say, I had a major case of the bookworm. Anywhos, I came to Pakistan in eighth grade, and driven mad by this country’s complete lack of public libraries that 1) are easily accessible to people without contacts in the government’s employ and 2) actually have books worth reading in them – remind me to write a post about this later – I did what any literature-loving hooligan would do. I accosted my parents. My rants were as follows:

1) The Frustrated/Aggreived Intellectual: What have you done? Do you know nobody reads in this country? Where have you brought me? What were  you thinking?

2) The Emotional & Politically Aware Pakistani Teenager: It’s all the government’s fault. Education is this country’s problem. They’re all fools, even in parliament – bleeding dry the honest tax payers and not even supplying decent roads and education projects.

3) The Spoiled Expatriate Used to Living on the Strength of the USD: It’s not my fault we moved here. You have only yourself to blame for that. I used to get my allowance in dollars. It’s only fair that I get the equivalent amount. I need to buy books! I’ve already read the ones I have a million times! (and then, when my already-generous parents refused to bankrupt themselves over my addiction:) I cannot believe you are being so unfair. People would kill to have a kid who likes reading instead of video games.

So my loving parents would take me to Ferozsons – the only bookstore I deigned to buy a book from. I simply could not read a used book. The concept was alien to me – I had lived a sheltered, upper middle class life, and I had NEVER walked into a used book store in the States (I was not particularly aware of them either). They were so ugly, so worn, so used – why would I want to read that when I could have a shiny, crisply bound book to call my very own? So Ferozson’s it was, and my parents took me there regularly, forfeiting their time and hard-earned money to me and my pomposity. And as I look back now, I wonder how they put up with it.

The shelves at Ferozsons were light maple wood. They had a polished sheen and the books were arranged attractively, by author, with colorful covers and they seemed to invite me, dancing in front of my eyes, daring me to explore their pages. It was heaven. And front seat in heaven – the first shelf upon entering the store – was stacked with rows of Agatha Christie mystery novels. Ms. Marple and Poirot had their own sections! They had black covers and an air of soft sophistication in the simple white type on the back.

I read through mystery after mystery, and though my American childhood had been spent fantasizing about being the next Nancy Drew, my Pakistani/British-influenced childhood made me crave the delicious food Poirot was always eating, the knitting needles Ms. Marple had. It was decided. Forget being a brain surgeon, I was going to be a detective!

Sadly, it was only after the first few books that I realized I could never guess the ending. I was always wrong about the criminal. I started feeling dejected, and gradually gave up the Christie novels. It had a lot to do with up-coming Cambridge examinations and just getting adjusted to life in the motherland, but they slipped out of sight, and out of mind. Only a few days ago, when forced to borrow one of her novels from a family friend, was my love of the mystery novel brought back into my mind. And though Agatha Christie once again dazzled me with her simplicity of style and beauty of drama with The Crooked House, she also reminded me that I can never be the next Nancy Drew. Once again, I was wrong. And when I flipped over that last page, I was thinking It’s Edith – got to be Edith! when really, it was just the little girl. Ugh.

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