To love books is to never be alone.
I remember when my son was about four years old, and he came up to me with the eternal quandary of childhood…having nothing to do…and said the words all mothers dread hearing: “I am bored!”. No matter what suggestions i came up with, he had an answer ready for each of them. The puzzle his aunt had bought him for his fourth birthday was already solved and dealt with….his favourite car with the oversized wheels and loud toot-toot horn had nearly come apart, so often had he pushed it around the house, leaving unbelievably persistent scratches on the wooden floor….his Tigger the Tiger who used to enthral him not so long ago, leading to high-pitched squeals of delight was now very much beneath his dignity ( I even got the rolled-eyes, a precursor to what was going to be a regular habit years later as a sulky teenager)……he finally crossed his arms over his chest in a defiant gesture and repeated that despised phrase all over again: “I am bored, Mummy”…..
I waited patiently for divine intervention….for some guardian angel to whisper in my ear the magic word that would solve all my problems….And then, almost as if there was indeed someone out there coaxing me to figure it out, i turned ever so slightly and let my gaze rest on the glass-panelled book shelf which housed the most treasured friends of my childhood….one by one, they danced before my eyes, one going out of focus as another swept boldly into view…i saw them move in a rhythmic dance, each bringing with it it’s own sweet memory….”Jane Eyre”, read for the first time at a family holiday, curled up in bed with simply a dull bedside lamp lighting the pages as i devoured the adventures of Jane and Mr. Rochester…”.The Other Side of Midnight”, read in memory of my grand-dad, who used to tell me this story as he puffed his cigar and regaled me with the sad fate of Noelle Page….”Vendetta”, read on the eve of receiving my English Masters degree, having kept me awake into the wee hours of the morning as i read, gasping in disbelief, the unbelievable tale of a man wronged and buried alive….”Anna Karenina”, sweetly enjoyed the night before my engagement to the man i went on to marry…..
I stood in a trance watching my life, most of which was spent in the company of books, unfold before my eyes. And then, as if suddenly woken from a stupor, i reached out and pulled out a worn-looking, faded book about Noddy (kept lovingly safe since the time i had first read it as a child) and sat down, my annoyed son on my lap, and proceeded to tell him about a miracle called Enid. “Who is Enid?”, he asked me wide-eyed. I must have told quite an impressive tale, for he listened without interrupting as i waxed eloquent about this marvellous woman. Years later, he must have repeated the tale to his little sisters, for never again was i asked “Who is Enid?”.
That one little talk with my son led him, unwillingly at first and then with unleashed abandon, into the wonderfully comforting world of books. Enid Blyton was only the start for my kids…Once they had exhausted all the Secret Sevens, Famous Fives, Mallory Towers, they went on to read more, collecting their own little treasure trove of memories linked to individual books, just like i had years ago and continue to do till this day.
And now on any lazy Sunday, when the sun has hidden behind the clouds, and there is nothing much to do, i find myself sitting in the company of my children, each in the classic pose of any typical book lover all over the world, sprawled on the lounge with a well-worn book in hand….i steal a glance at them….and i see my own childhood mirrored in theirs….there is complete silence, as they each devour the story that is unfolding through the pages….i can see the look of anticipation in their eyes as they turn the page, a tiny smile around the lips hinting that like any true book lover, they can predict what is to follow on the next page…and then, they frown…momentarily thrown off-guard, as the author, like any author worth his or her salt, brings a twist to the tale…..
It had all started with a simple question: “Who is Enid?”.