Thursday, 1 March 2012

On World book Day, love to my awesome twosome!

Reading shapes the mind, sharpens the intellect, broadens the horizons and fires the imagination of everyone who plunges into an ocean of words and typescript...
Whether we swim, paddle or float; skim the surface or go deep-sea diving is up to is, (to my mind) in every manner imaginable, an immensely rewarding experience!

As a busy mum plus night-shift worker, I get an occasional rare moment to snuggle my girls into bed and have a good read with them. On WORLD BOOK DAY, today, I reflect on the lovely books we've shared together over the years and how they've caught the bug, so to speak, from a mum who reads on her shift breaks at night, and eats her dinner with her 'current read' in front!!

Today, as Rani plays 'dress up' as a Book Character at School and Shivangi tries to write her own autobiography for her Year 3 Learning Log, I wondered what other books lie undiscovered out there, and what are the kinds of books kids this age enjoy!! Over the years since they were toddlers, we've done 'tell me a story' kind of stories; the sort of tales my grandma used to tell us at bedtime. We've shared pop-up books, second-generation books , such as When Daddy Was A Little Boy (by Alexander Ruskin, impeccably preserved by my sister, Keya didi) books by Enid Blyton, (Thirteen O'Clock tales borrowed from School), and library books by Julia Donaldson, (her Room on the Broom is a great love of ours) which they both were thrilled with!

Often on Saturdays, when "...Daddy's at work", we trot to the local library and request our favourites. Once there, I browse while they share books, jokes and giggle conspiratorially, trying to decide on the ones to take back. We pick up Harry Potter and arms-full of Julia Donaldson and its a heart-warming sight when the girls insist on putting 'their' selections in their own backpacks, carrying them home. We often manage a little tumble in the park on our route back...(all the better to tire them with, my dears..Ha!Ha!HA!!)

But, I digress...I'm try to get them something to read for the weekend and its a special feeling for me with my love of books. Having ritualised bath-time, making sure they are, finally, off to bed, we read something together; or rather, I read to them (I get them to lie down, close their eyes and imagine the story) - it helps them nod off and go drifting along to la la land!!

My Shivangi has SN which makes it hard for her to read right off the bat, but she's amazing with her memory and remembers stories word for word!!! I've read the Jungle Books and we've done the audio version for Shivangi too way back when she was four which she still loves. she's quite good at doing the different voices as Tabaqui, Akela or Baloo one moment and 'gruff and grisly' Sher-Khan the next...!

As a kid, I read (and loved) Kipling, Mark Twain and Enid Blyton...when on one hand, The Famous five made me wonder what Bacon and Ham were and on the other, Malory towers romanticised Boarding Schools for years to come! Jane Austen and Little Women (in my teenage years)..were always a biggie for me, as was Jo, one of its principal characters...

Amongst Indian and other South-east Asian writers, I like Arundhati Roy's God of small things, and Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Sunsets, and The Kite Runner..but if I have to name my all-time favourite Indian writer, it has to be Munshi Premchand, for his कफ़न, दो बैलों की कथा and ईदगाह I ...R.K Narayan with his Guide and Kalidasa, that Sanskrit poet who was masterful in his imagination...(I can still recollect my mother translating the fragile, quivering, passionately imaginative and beautiful prose for my father, from Sanskrit (the ancient text of our Hindu scriptures) that Kalidasa wrote in, to hindi or gujarati...)
The way she described the smile on Uma's (goddess Parvati, before she and Shiva were united) countenance as she beheld Lord Shiva in his samadhi or narrated the writer imploring a rain-bearing cloud to carry a message to his beloved has stayed with me....made me feel fortunate beyond description, to be her daughter....

Books always were a big part of my upbringing; memories.... of Dad reading Somerset Maugham, aloud, to mum when the rains poured down, as they nursed cups of hot, steaming chai...or my Sister, Keya didi reading एक था छोटा सिपाही to us at bedtime on a cold winter's night....abound in my psyche.
On childhood holidays in Ahmedabad, India, Pappaji's( our maternal grandfather) study would be lined with whole walls of bookshelves where, amongst the thickly bound Law Journals, one could always find The Complete Works Of Shakespeare with its spine of crimson leather etched in letters of Gold..
With the ceiling fan whirring overhead, the insides of the study cooled by heavy curtains, and the outside shaded by a long, wide verandah, I must have spent many afternoons reading those books, moving my fingers over the faintly yellowed pages... The books looked well kept, neatly stacked and dusted daily, and as I pulled one off the shelf, I asked myself if my Nanaji thought I and the others (some of us barely toddlers when he passed away) would someday read the words he wrote into the margins of books on Philosophy, poetry and World Religion.The ink, cobalt blue and bright to begin with is now almost dully faint, but the awe I feel for the man who read so widely, from the Old Testament to Homer's Odyssey is still alive.
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