Read…so you never feel alone!!

April, 2022

Dear Friends

“Reading a book gives us the habit of solitary, reflection and enjoyment.” Said Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India. While this is true, the reflection can also spur some meaningful action and stir a few emotions.

I am tempted to travel back in time machine when my 2nd born was just 5 years old. Famously nick-named Koramangala Rowdy from his play-school days, one incident opened up the heartful softer side of him. In 2004 I had taken a sabbatical from my job to pursue an executive management programme from IIM, Bangalore. One night as I returned from IIMB after a long day at the course, I saw my son already asleep (or I thought so !). Felt terribly guilty for reaching home late. Remorsefully, I whispered into his ears “Chinnu, I am so sorry. I am not spending enough time with you. Just a few more weeks and the course is over”. Suddenly, he woke up, his eyes brightly lit and flashed a million-dollar smile at me. He then thrust his English reader into my hand. Hugging me tightly, he insisted that he read a story to me. Yes, you read it right. He read a story to me and not the other way round. I was dead tired and was in no mood to listen but how could I refuse a child offering to read from his book ? This is how he concluded his reading “Amma, don’t feel bad. Do you know the moral of this Juno the Monkey story ? Mother’s love has no equal. I know you also love me so much”. Well, I still remember that poignant moment, the heart-felt love that poured out of my 5 yr old like a volcano. This was the boy I thought was not friends with books !

Let me travel back even further into the time machine. When I was a child. I distinctly remember how my mother would read out from books and magazines. Every night we would get to hear bedtime stories from her, as we siblings would jostle for space next to her to feel her cosiness and affection. There were no separate bed rooms nor cots back then. It was simple beds rolled out on the floor with all of us sleeping next to each other in the same room. Ma would read out serial stories and comic strips from the Kannada magazines Sudha, Taranga, Mayura. Kathas and upa-kathas (sub-stories) from our epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, about Akbar & Birbal, about Tenali, about our freedom struggle, from Munshi Premchand’s Hindi novels, Kabir & Rahim’s dohas……oh, what a rich tapestry she would paint. It would be so engrossing that our owner’s only daughter would eavesdrop from her window and listen to her silently. Even now she says, “I envy your childhood. What a lovely, intelligent and caring mother you had.”

I am compelled to travel back to times that I wasn’t even born. Yes, to my grandmother’s younger days. My maternal grandmother was a 4th class drop-out, as most girls back in the days were – married off as a child and turned into a ‘reproduction-machine’ (pardon me for saying that but what else if someone had birthed 8 children with a few others dead in a span of 12 to 14 years !). Despite a gruelling time raising so many children, my mother used to say, Ajji was very fond of books and reading. She wasn’t schooled for long but she was very knowledgeable and had a flair for writing. With very meagre resources, unable to buy books she would quench her thirst for reading while sweeping the house. My mother used to recall how Ajji would carefully collect, piece together and even out wrinkled and torn newspapers and magazine covers, in which groceries and other stuff would be packed. Amidst the cleaning, she would be lost in reading from the fragmented pieces of paper. Perhaps she learnt to dissolve her drudgery by immersing herself into reading, which was her passion !

My husband also vouches for his vast knowledge about history, epics and mythology from his grandmother, who again a 4th class drop out was a voracious reader of books. The best part in those days was the reading-out-loud habit which would create a bonding while learning. In 1995, UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on 23 April, as the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. Well, lets continue to promote reading from books before they become objects of novelty and curiosity as in the picture collage 😊

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