Monday Memories 12 – You And Me


Some things are forbidden and yet we indulge.  We want to create memories.  Memories are not always made of  what happened it reality. They are also make beliefs. Things we imagined , dreamed , yearned for and with such intensity that they began to  seem more real than reality. It happens with dreamers, story tellers , poets , lovers  and people who aren’t too full of themselves. You need space to let these memories to take birth and grow. You have to endure the pain, the discomfort, the ecstasy and the constant reminder that they are not fragile and ephemeral as reality. They are amaranthine . They are powers of darkness and when these imagined memories collide with the real ones they become vehicles of destruction. It is a hypnotic drone and blur which makes nights sleepless and turns the days into a perpetual black hole.

I am entangled in those memories of you. Both real and imagined.  When people withdraw or leave they leave a gaping hole. Different people fill it with different things unable to remember what initially existed before in its place. I filled and glamorized  it with memories of time we spent together, with pain and self-pity, with tears and hurts. I called it solace, peace, solitude but it was nothing of those. It was just noise. Cacophony.  And then one day the tears dried. Just like that but pain remained. The hole remained. Gaping at me more than ever before and to make things worse It had taken a shape of you.

I was unmistakably going through lots of pain when I met you. You assured me it will go away. I had apprehensions. I had heard these words before but despite my apprehensions I believed you.   I waited. Patiently.  Days, Weeks, Months, Years. The vanilla flavor has long gone but the taste is stuck in my palate,  I am trying to wean myself off you. It is a long painful process of disengaging cell by cell, pore by pore, nerve by nerve. Sometimes I pull a wrong nerve and the scream shoots inwardly at a deafening speed leaving me convulsing with pain.

When you hand over your splintered heart to an absolute stranger you take a big risk. You are prepared for what it holds. You know if it all fails the memories of it will shred you but you still go for the forbidden.

Indifference is opposite of love , not hate and there is nothing I can fill these silences with other than memories. Nostalgia holds a lot of importance in our lives. Memories can also make you muddle-headed at times like they did to me today. They can make your adrenaline rush and bring with it bouts of immaturity and catastrophes that leave you feeling even more miserable than before. It makes you impulsive and everything done on an impulse is not good. It can go so terribly wrong that it can startle you.

I was thinking I had lost you but nothing is really lost to us as long as we remember it and today as I think of you memories are bringing me the whiffs of smells of places  that I did not pay attention to, that I didn’t really think existed. It is bringing to me songs that take me back to a  moment in time like nothing else can even if its bony fingers, sharp nails and pointed elbows hurt me no end. It is worth all the pokes and jabs and scratches.  Whatever is left unsaid , undone can be added to a memory and turned into a dream to savor till it too becomes a memory. New things take its place and the cycle continues of dreams and memories and all that it is between that. In these flickering images i find the warmth you forgot to take with you when you left.

Love Hurts. You And Me 

(song shared from You Tube. )

Monday Memories 11 – The Chess Players


I love the game of Chess. There is a certain beauty to it. The flow in the movement of pieces, the emotional and intellectual attachment with each move , each piece on the chess board. The riveting and aesthetically stimulating strategies and a well planned positioning and combinations.  It is an art  just like painting and music.

My dad’s family had expert chess players. In fact the Kayastha families were known for educating their women and for their passion for art and literature and for having some of the best chess players. Mainly Urdu literature as Hindi or Hindustani was considered as just a spoken language.  My grandfather was known as a good chess player in the Mohalla ( an area in town or village) in Allahabad. My father was the only child but all is cousins played the game. Many of my aunts were players in their own right though women usually played the game indoors among themselves or with men in the family depending on their relationship with them.

I never went to my paternal grandparents’ home but dad used to tell stories about chess competitions in the Mohallas and how it was a matter of honor to represent certain families. The chess players were revered and hero worshiped by the beginners who were learning the art of chess playing.

In my grandfather’s home there used to be a paved veranda before the main door to the Baithak ( A room where guests were received. Mainly men occupied this area and it was also called mardana ( for men) Women stayed away from this area.) This veranda was usually cemented and on those cemented slabs there used to be two board games permanently painted. One was a chess board and the other was Chopad ( an ancient game of dice).  The stage would be set for the game and slowly a crowd would build up around the chess players.  The rule was to remain silent. If a seasoned player was at the board it would be more fun to watch. The game would go on for hours sometime and it wasn’t just the players who would be involved in planning the strategies of the game, everyone’s mind would be equally involved but no one would help the players. It was a matter of pride and honor.

I learned chess from my dad at the age of six. I remember how fascinating I found the game. In the beginning he would patiently sit with me and explain about all the chess pieces and their role in the game. The best part were the stories that went with the learning sessions. A good teacher is one who can keep the interest of the student going. My dad was exception that way.

I remember many evenings when I would finish my home work and rush to him with the tin box rattling with pawns,  knights, rooks, elephants, bishops, kings and queens ready for a battle. Sometimes he would oblige at others I used to be satisfied with a self game which was more of a self story telling session than a proper game actually. There was anther kind of fun in playing with my other self. Makes me laugh now as I think of how I used to play that double role. Dad would sit on a chair nearby reading some book and keenly observing my antics. Sometimes he would join and help one of “me” to win. 🙂

It took me some years to master the game to an extent that I could defeat him. It was one of the most memorable day of my life as a girl. To beat my dad in the game of chess was like winning an international title. I could see how proud he was of his little girl and it doubled the joy.  Monsoon was the perfect setting for a good relaxed game of chess. The rain , the cool soft breeze, the hot pakodas with spicy chutney, sometimes a glass of hot chocolate or coffee at later stages and a gleaming chess board between dad and me. Some memories are just too precious. Mom would obviously not like it and complain about loss of study time etc but then mom’s complain and that’s a fact. I do it too. :p

When I grew older dad was hardly at home so he made me member of  Botvinik Chess Academy at Russian Cultural Center. It was a whole new experience for me and I realized how different it was to play under professional coaches. Dad and I used to play two variations of the game – Indian and International but this was something very different. I learned the finer aspects of the game there but missed the warmth that two chess players shared. For me the game of chess was not just about winning or losing it was much more than that. It was a bond that the players formed over the chess board.

Once dad stopped playing I yearned to find friends who played chess but there were none at the places I stayed.

It was later that I found friends with whom one could have a stimulating game of chess. One of the friends was extremely good and close to me too. We had many chess sessions at home when my boys were small. They would hover around and play their own games while we would immerse ourselves in a complex game over rum and vodkas 😀  there is a certain joy in getting checkmated for love 😉

We carried this love of chess on all our trips to the mountains and each evening there would be a chess session much to the annoyance of others who considered it anti social and waste of time.

Two of the most treasured memories of  games of chess are from those trips. One in Dharamshala, where under the moonlight in a German Cafe I and a friend of mine played the game till the clouds darkened and the beautiful full moon tugging the corner of night disappeared behind the mountains. Much can happen over a game of chess especially when you are in such exotic romantic surroundings but I won’t go into that.. leaving it for the reader’s imagination 😉 psst… I have written a post about it somewhere. You can look for it under memoirs :p

I don’t know which one of us won that day but at the end it really did not matter. The memory of it is unforgettable. One of those rare moments in my life when I really knew what happiness meant.

Another incident is from Kinnaur. There were six of us including Kid 2 in that gorgeous Kinnar camp at the banks of Baspa river. After a sumptuous meal around the campfire we decided to open up the chess board to the disappointment of some but we were riding high on something or the other and determined to play at least one game if not more. It was around midnight and under a swaying yellow light which made our shadows dance on the tent walls two of the male friends began to play. The rest just rooted for them and there was so much laughter, teasing and a serious game in the midst of all the din.  The game went on and on till we lost the track of time. A few of the lot fell asleep where ever they could but the players still concentrated on the few pieces that were left on the game board. It was fascinating how silence quietly crept in and no one bothered about the leftover rum in the glasses, the cigarettes that slowly burned out and turned to ash. Suddenly the players were locked into a complex game with a few minor pieces on the board. I could hear the low rumble of the mountain river near by and the heavy breathing of   those who had passed out for the night. By now even my eyes were becoming heavy with sleep and it was an effort to pay proper attention to the game but the two guys were wide awake and totally engrossed in the game oblivious to everything around them. That is the beauty of  chess, it takes you to another level. I call it Nirvana.

I don’t know who won that match and when did it finish but I can bet it went on till the wee hours of the morning for when I walked into their tent in the morning the chess pieces were all collected in a heap on the chess board with a black pawn guarding over them and a white king trapped in a corner.  That told the rest of the story of the game. 🙂

I miss those days of togetherness and playing with good chess players. Playing chess on computer is no fun although I did it for many months against virtual players through an app on FB.

The chessmen wait, dust motes dance in the shaft of light that falls on the chess board each afternoon, I watch  and remember the good old days thinking how much life has changed since then.

Gary Kasparov was one of the greatest chess players ever. Here is my favorite quote by him  from his book How Life Imitates Chess –

 “There is no one that can share your responsibility. It it is your responsibility you must carry it on and you must be responsible for your actions. At the end of the day we all are being challenged, sooner or later, by our destiny. And it’s up to us to make all the difference in this life. If not you, who else?”

On Being A Mother And A Woman , In That Order


“If you don’t like where you are in life, there comes a point when you must give up the part of you that’s keeping you back.” –Dr. Sonya Friedman Best friends- mother and son Kid 2 embarked on a new adventure in his life today. It gives me immense pride to see my little cherub begin his college life. Till kids are in school we usually consider them as kiddos and then in a blink of an eye  they grow up.  Since last few years I saw the handsome lad mature into a responsible, thinking young man. Something that happened too quickly in the case of my first-born. The kid grew up too soon. That’s another story most of you know by now. It is hard to be a mother and harder  to be a woman at the same time. Why am I reversing the order? Because that is how I want you to look at it for now. I had thought I will never bring up this subject again but things don’t always go the way you want them to go.

Once a female child is born, she  immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious  journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life. Am I being too bitter and judgmental? Maybe, but this is how I see an average woman’s life especially in my country. So what happens when this infant begins to acquire a mind of her own, when her body begins to stir  and revolt under all those layers of responsibilities etc? What happens when she finds she has a voice? What happens when at some point of time in her life she throws away those cumbersome layers that draped her individuality and breaks free? She is condemned for life. She is called names. She is looked down upon and  society begins to foam at mouth and picks up weapons of filth to fling at her. Thinking for oneself is not acceptable. How can a woman think for herself? Who is she anyway? Some women disagree and step out of their “boundaries” their “line of control” irrespective of  the repercussions that would follow. Some “adjust” and ” compromise” for various reasons and stay confined within the four walls of their “home”.  Consumed by the fire that burns in them.

In a society where maternal love is revered it is difficult to digest the fact that a mother can walk out of  a bad marriage leaving her children behind. Men do it all the time but women are judged harshly. They are called “cold-blooded” “inadequate” “shameless”. How can a mother leave her children? It is sacrilegious. Taboo. “What kind of mother are you?” Someone asked when I said my boys stay with their father and I have been away from them since last two years. “You abandoned them?” Pat came another question and by this time I was beginning to feel guilty again for the umpteenth time since I crossed that threshold of the house I lived in with my kids, husband and in-laws.

“No, I did not abandon them. (The word is very upsetting ) I see them regularly, talk to them almost daily. They come and stay over at my place. We are closer than ever before.. I think so..” my voice began to fail me here. Leaving your marriage is the biggest challenge one faces in life. For twenty years I stayed in an unfulfilled marriage not knowing which way to go. I was economically dependent and had no confidence to break away and start all over again. The boys were small and needed me. I wanted to stay with them, watch them grow, give them all the love and support they needed from a parent, be their friend, be there when they needed me. I did that as best I could but then something snapped within one day. I had to take the hardest decision of my life. To stay in the marriage which had lost its meaning or walk away. Choice 2 meant leaving the boys behind. At that moment I did what I felt was right. I left. I broke the news to my sons (15&19 at that time) and hoped they would understand. I believed they did. convinced myself. They put up a brave front and stood side by side with me but the sound of their hearts crushing into trillions of pieces shot through me like a comet leaving me throbbing with unsaid hurt and a permanent feeling of  guilt. Still somehow I could not bring them to stay with me nor could I go to live with them. We had to part to discover each other. The fact that I did not ever feel guilty enough to reverse my decision made things worse. In the eyes of others it was “cruel” in plain and simple words. I often talked with my boys about it and knew how difficult it was for them to show support for my action when inside they were hurting. No child can be happy in such circumstances but I often wonder if they were growing up as happy kids in the kind of environment they were living in. What changed by my leaving? The house was same, people were same, it was same shit they were facing anyway and now without my support. It was worse or was it? Only they can tell.

I have heard people whisper “All that fight for dignity and respectful living is fine and dandy but how could she do this? I could never leave my babies at any cost.” Well, it is what it is. I left at a time I believed they would understand my action. I am sure they did or they would not have had anything to do with me. The fact that we are still together no matter where we are speaks volumes. Some day I would want to know honestly what went through their minds but till then i am not assuming. There are times when I ache for togetherness. It is a lonely battle one has to fight if one chooses to break the norms. I began to start afresh, learned to be financially independent, though still legally married and still dependent on my mom and brother as I stay in their home, I am finally able to choose what I want to do with my life , with myself. Sometimes it feels like a bigger trap , more space but still a sand box. It is fine till the time I play inside it, stepping out isn’t an option but for now I am good with it. At least I am breathing without ventilator.

It is unfortunate and very tragic how the course of events in one’s life can affect children. They do bounce back and begin to live a normal life but somewhere the heart longs for the times spent together. It is the same with parents. I won’t say its just the mothers who go through this, fathers too suffer. I told myself over and over that kids need love and support and don’t want someone to fight their battles that they do on their own. They chart their own paths. One just needs to be there to encourage and give them that opportunity to grow and expand their horizons. It doesn’t matter if that’s done living together or elsewhere. I have been there for my boys no matter what  and whenever they needed me but today somehow the deluge was too much to contain. Caught between rock and hard surface I sat here in my room getting updated on the progress of how things were shaping up as Kid 2 prepared to leave to other city to join the college. An important mile stone in his life. I wasn’t there in the last two important years of his school life and the fact that I could not give him a proper hug and wish him luck by physically being there broke me completely. Some emotions are private and I cried my heart out into the pillow. For the first time I longed for two strong arms around me. A shoulder to keep my head on and just pour it all out. We weren’t engineered for being lonely. It is tough at times especially when you are mushy and a sucker for love.

The sun is about to set in my city and soon the night will come bringing another rush of memories. Memories of all that I lost and found in my struggle to juggle various roles as a woman and somewhere I would stand and watch myself , the “me” that is now and wonder was it worth it ? I don’t know what the answer will be today but most of the day it is “YES”. Even with this burden of gratitude I am carrying of being “taken back in the fold of my maternal home”. Even with the knowledge that I owe my “independence – economical and otherwise” to someone without whom it would have been a different story all together. Even though it is a bumpy, uphill task to live day-to-day and struggle to keep my voice strong It is Worth every bit of it. I will miss our weekly meetings, fun and laughter, cooking especially for him, hanging out in favorite joints but we will be connected none the less. he didn’t meet as often as Kid 1 but his absence will be strongly felt.

This is the second time the brothers are being separated. Earlier it was when I had to send Kid 1 to he boarding school. Another hard decision I would have preferred not to take. I know they will miss each other more than anything. One day each one has to take their own path and go in different directions, the hearts say connected none the less. I know my boys will understand and not judge me harshly. I know they will treat the women in their lives and for that matter any woman anywhere with the respect they deserve. I know things will not stay the same.  I know that wherever we go we will never be far away. The love and friendship we share will strengthen with time and we will always be able to float above the so-called ” social norms and code of conduct”. I wish my boy all the very best in life and success in the path he chosen. I am there for him always in any way he wants. I have a lot to say to the elder one and some day we will sit down , just the two of us, and talk to each other as two friends should but till then I just want to say I am a very proud and happy mother. Thank you for being in my live and enriching it. You guys are the best friends I have .

Stay strong , Stay Focused. Love you. please excuse the typos and random flow of thoughts.   Republished on BellBajao Blog 

Monday Memories 10 – Storytellers


We are all storytellers. Sometimes we know it sometimes we don’t. Each story we tell becomes a catalyst for another, it becomes a vital tool of healing, of reconnecting with each other and with past. Telling stories completes us , it makes us whole. Sometimes holding a story within can be an agonizing experience, a story sometimes seeks release so a person can live. It is cathartic as well as therapeutic to share stories. Memories form a large chunk of story telling. Growing up listening to  “memory stories ” as I called them helped me connect to my parents’ legacy , the life and times they lived in. It brought alive people, events, places, smells and aromas transporting me to  another time another place. It was a very liberating experience. These “memory story” sessions are one of my cherished memories. My father was mostly out-of-town and I had  working mother so there weren’t many opportunities of spending quality family time.  Many times something would trigger a conversation about some old memory and dad or mom would narrate something that happened when they were kids or in college. My parents especially my father was very interactive and we would sit and talk for hours. Even the most mundane events would turn into an interesting story and we would laugh and ponder and chortled over the incidents that took place years ago. Ma seldom got time for long conversations when I was a girl but later we spent a lot of time walking down the memory lane.

As a girl, mom and I would go to my maternal grandmother’s home in Pune and every evening and after dinner  all the uncles and aunts and cousins would gather and talk about their time in Banaras (Rajghat Theosophical Society where mom and her siblings were born) and the conversations would turn to their childhood games, music, friends and neighbors and the bonding that everyone shared in those times. Everyone had time for each other. We children would either gather around , keep out heads on comfortable laps or just laze around on mattresses neatly arranged on the floor, and listen to the tales from their lives.

Sometimes we would get bored and have our own sessions of  memory sharing.  One kid (mostly the cry baby) would become the target of leg pulling and all those funny embarrassing moments from his/ her life would start pouring out in the midst of laughter and tears. For days we would tease the poor cousin. I was the lamb of sacrifice many times and was teased to death by older cousins.

I miss those times terribly. We were happy when we were young and then sadly we grew up.

I had those story telling sessions with my boys too. They had so much to share and I would listen to them and interact with them and maybe that is the reason we shed all inhibitions of being “mother sons” and became friends. These storytelling bonding times brought us closer. They instilled the trust and a feeling of security between us. A feeling of being there for each other.

I didn’t have my grandparents living close by and had none from dad’s side but my boys were lucky to have both sets of grandparents living nearby. Two completely different sets of people with vast cultural and social differences. They even belonged to different communities, different states and were a treasure-house of “memory stories ” . I think my boys had the best education at home. They learned what to shed and what to incorporate in their lives through the memories of their parents’ and grandparents’ life stories.

I believe sharing memories , good or bad , enriches our lives. These stories tell us of  human lives, hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows  across a vast spectrum of life. These memories help us to cope with loss, with our insecurities , with our past so we can live better today. They help us heal and know those we love better. They help us shape our own stories. These voices from the past help us understand so much about where we come from.

I always hunger for these “memory stories ” from people’s lives. Have some friends who have introduced me to people from their lives in such a way through their memories of them that I feel as if I have known them personally for years. They are the greatest storytellers. That is he impact of a good story-teller. To bring out a life incident in a story from that people can listen to or read and feel part of it is an art. My life is enriches by such people.

I love street stories too and the waiting room stories.  I have met interesting people on the streets –  street vendors, daily commuters, homeless people, locals waiting for public transport, workers on construction sites, rickshaw-pullers and cab drivers, people  in waiting rooms of doctor’s clinics, hospitals, railway stations, hotel lobbies, restaurants, beauty parlors, malls and many such places who have recounted events from their lives, their memories of places they have been to or their experiences and trust me this people are the best story tellers. You will be surprised that the elderly are treasure chest of stories and very eager story tellers. They have so much to share and no one to share with.   These people are the ‘human manuscripts’ that combine all the genre you can think of.

If you are a good story listener then you will never be alone, never be lonely and even if you hesitate someday you will be telling stories too. It goes hand in hand.

You just need to be receptive and a story will find its way to you or pull you to it.

I will tell you some Memory Stories in the next few posts and you can tell me your memory stories too.

Jason – A Short Story


Jason was first published in MICROW 8 (Luminous) Winter 2013

It was a special day for St. Luis Hospital. The conference room was filled with medical students, support group volunteers, media people, friends and well wishers of Drs. David & Jane Brown.

Jane’s eyes scanned the packed 80-seat room. Most of those present were familiar with Dr. Jane’s captivating presence and they listened to the story of her courage and pain in rapt attention trying to imagine how a child could illuminate the lives of millions. She stood at the makeshift podium under the spot light; everything else was flooded with soft darkness.

A year ago they’d lost Jason. He was two years old and terminally ill. As David listened to his wife speak about their dying child, their hopes and despair during the two years that Jason lived he recalled his child’s gradual decline and his wife’s courage.

“I knew it was just a matter of time as I leaned against the nursery door taking in the sights and smells of my baby’s room I felt a profound sense of emptiness. As I ran my fingers along those untouched things we had collected for our son I felt that I didn’t know myself.  I could hear Sara playing and blowing soap bubbles with her father in the garden. Sometimes I would find her perched on a stool near Jason’s bed talking to herself or watching her brother quietly. She seemed to understand that her time with Jason was almost over.  When Jason smiled it illuminated the entire room and brightened our lives but I needed more, I needed a sound from him before he was gone forever.”

“I went and stood near Jason’s bed and watched the light filtering through the blossoming branches of a cherry tree. As I watched his face lit up and his eyes moved as if following something.  My eyes followed his gaze and saw that a soap-bubble had floated in through the window. He was fascinated as it drifted around him glistening in the sunlight. Slowly Jason’s hand lifted towards the bubble and then he chortled. My eyes filled with tears of joy.”

Jane stopped speaking, took a book from the table and held it up.

“This is a story of the two years we spent together, ‘Jason – A Mother’s Account of Letting Go’.”

She clicked a button and a large photograph of Jason smiling, filled the screen behind her.

“This is the picture my husband David took of that one precious moment.”

David and Sara joined her on the podium. They hugged and for the next half an hour she read passages from the book, finally she said:

“I hope my book will help all those with a terminally ill child cope with their loss. David, Sara and I would like to thank everyone for their support; you offered it when we needed it most. “

There was a moment of total silence, then a ripple of applause grew louder and louder. Jane listened with tears shining in her eyes.

 

Luminous

 

(Digital Art by my son Aditya . The story was published under the theme Luminous with a 500 word limit)

Monday Memories 9 – A Childhood Reading List


We lived in a house full of books. The range was vast and some of the books were  rare editions which had gone out of print. Reading and story telling were part of our daily life as little children. I inherited a treasure of children’s literature from my elder brother and many new books were bought by my parents to encourage reading habits. I have faint memories of  my mother reading out stories from beautiful colorful picture books and then slowly graduating  to the magnificent tales from all kind of children’s books from across the world. Most of the books were shared and rotated among family friends who had children of readable age.

I think I began reading in Hindi first. People’s Publishing House in Connaught Place sold awesome soviet children’s literature in English as well as in Hindi. A whole generation grew up on these books. During the soviet era the two countries had strong ties and many of books were translated and printed to Hindi and English from Russian. After disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, book exchange went down dramatically. In ’91- ’92 I was able to still buy some editions of children’s literature for my son who was just an infant then. It was a bargain that paid off because soon the books went out of print.

I had thin paperbacks called ‘shyama kali par ujle par wali’ , “masha aur bhalu’ , ‘Tolstoy ki kahaniyan’ , ‘Roosi Lok Kathaye’ and many more which I would read again and again. The books had lovely illustration too mostly by Ivan Bilibin. Similarly the books in English were ‘Babushka and the three kings’, ‘The Frog Princess’, Masha and the Bear’, ‘The Lion and the Dog’, ‘ The Firebird- Russian Fairy Tales’  which I had in Hardcover with a gorgeous phoenix on its cover ( One of my favorite books that remained with me will I was in college), the thrilling tales of Baba Yaga were  the most read I guess. I even bought many of these books for my elder son and they are still with my children. A heritage passed on from one generation to another. I had collection of Russian Folk Tales (many were Slavic folktales) and easy to read abridged versions of stories by Tolstoy and Chekov. One of he books I loved to read as a kid was ‘Wash ’em clean’ a 1923 poem about a small boy who does not want to wash by Chukovsky. It had some characters lie the crocodile from Chukovsky’s other books.  It was hilarious and had such wonderful illustrations. Both my boys loved the book too. Alexander Pushkin was another of my favorite author and his book ‘The Tale of the Tsar Saltan, of his Son, the glorious and mighty prince Guidon Saltanovich, and of the fair Swan-princess’ had beautiful illustrations by Ivan Bilibin.

It is unfortunate that most of these books are either out of print or not available easily unless of course you wish to read them on your computer.

Apart from the favorites from PPH there were other treasures like ‘Little women’ ,  The Famous Five’ and ‘The secret seven’ series and the ‘Enid Blyton Mystery series,  series of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys all handed down by a family friend (which were originally my brother’s given to him for reading). By then I also began reading more soviet classic literature.

Books by A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, and James Herriot (All things bright and beautiful and All creatures great and small’), Lawrence Darrell  were read and read again.

Apart from these I had children’s magazines called ‘Lilliput’ which were part of my mom’s childhood book collection. Unfortunately many of the rare books  were given away to scrap dealers by my maternal uncle’s family without us even knowing about it. They included many classics and author signed copies too.

There were some exceptional books by British Author Arthur Mee, ‘The Children’s Encyclopedia’ and my favorite ‘ One Thousand Beautiful Things- chosen from The Life and Literature of the World’ . The book had wonderful poetry, prose and illustrations.  I remember distinctly a Peter Pan pop up book which was  a smashing hit with all of us.

I have forgotten the names of many more books now. They come to me like picture postcards from the past sometimes. I gave away many of the books to a library and some were passed on to my boys. I can name hundreds of others which I read and loved as a young girl.

I had a large collection of books and children’s magazines in Hindi too. Mostly paperbacks. When Kid1 began to read I got him books from SAHMAT  . Adi loved the simple narrative and his favorite was Bansuriwala by Safdar Hashmi.

I highly recommend these books for younger children. Regional literature for children is a good choice for reading. It connects the young minds to their culture and surroundings.  Buy such books and magazines for kids.

I have only two books now remaining from my childhood collection – Now we are six and In Poem Town- 1 ( The 7 remaining volumes  of this book were just given away as scraps by my uncle’s family 😦  )

In Poem Town is from my maternal grandfather's collection, handed down from mom to me.

In Poem Town is from my maternal grandfather’s collection, handed down from mom to me.

My boys are grown up now but I hope they will keep those lovely companions of their childhood days.

Do share what you read as a child and what books your children read.

Storytelling is a dying art. Please read stories to your children. Inculcate early reading habits.

Children’s books are portable magic , open the minds of your young ones  to this magical extravaganza.

Select them with care for “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C.J. Lewis