Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Tender Roots of a Bookful Life

Life has been too busy for a good book, or a blog or for anything  that matters truly in life..yet I opened up a news site this morning to see what experts had to say about Australia's thumping triumph over New Zealand...and I never even found that out. A side headline acknowledging the demise of "Uncle" Pai stirred memories within me so deep that I had even forgotten they existed.
I did not read the contents of a single news article, for I knew they would all have thrown vain handfuls of words eulogizing his contribution to Indian comics and yati yati yata. My earliest memories of any book belong not to any alphabet books, but to the Amar Chithra Kathas. I was barely four when my mother used to sit by me and read with me the tales of Ghatotkacha, Prahlad, the conquests of Durga and of Krishna, the enlightenment of Sidhartha and even the wondrous devotion of Ravana. I would join the words, and my mother would bring meaning to them transporting a whole new world to me...a world of imagination, of wisdom, and a thirst for knowledge. Not only did these books teach me to love to read, but also instilled in me a deep love for mythology, and a pride in our age old wisdom.
The days of Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Narayan and Wodehouse found their spaces as time went by, but those afternoon stories were buried deep  underneath. I had the memorable opportunity of standing 2 feet from this man who had made my childhood so meaningful when he was in Hyderabad conducting a quiz about 13 years ago. I was in the audience giving answers to obscure questions from Indian mythology. I remember the excitement and the disappointment of not having qualified myself. 
Admittedly, I was never an ardent reader of tinkle, even as a young girl the book seemed always overpriced for its content. A few Suppandi and Shikhari Shambu tales were fun but not particularly life changing. Alas, my brother and I owned around 100 such Amar Chithra Kathas thanks to my father, which are no longer even published. He took special care to bind these treasures into three volumes until I watched without protesting as my brother loaned them to people I knew were not careful by nature. I never saw those books again and the thought of these books being given away for their weight in paper still manages to cause an ache in my heart.

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