Yesterday was World Book Day and it was lovely to see so many children, including my own, celebrating books by dressing up as their favourite book characters. I am an avid reader and books have always been an essential part of my life. The article below, is amended from a piece I wrote for an on-line magazine many years ago.
The History Of My Love Affair With Books
Even as a child I was fascinated by the power of the written word. The ability of a writer to weave a magical story got me through many a bored afternoon in the dusty verandah of my grandparents’ ancestral home in Ludhiana, India. As my father was in the Merchant Navy, I went to boarding school at a young age. Consequently, vacations where I could not join my parents were spent at my maternal grandparents’ joint family home in Ludhiana. This was a huge house, headed up by my grandparents, with many wings and even more relatives and a dog named Johnny who was permanently seated under the big cooler. It was a happy childhood that was unique in many ways.
So I would come to Ludhiana, wake up the next day, the first official day of vacation, and there was nothing much to do. I would go out and sit in the main verandah and after making small talk with various family members, there was still nothing to do. I would eat my ‘parantha’, wander around the rooms, talk to ‘Pinky’ the cleaner and ‘Baldev’ the electrician and if I was really lucky I would see ‘Nota’ the nail cutter man in action cutting my Mamaji’s nails (as a child it amazed me that there was a man who made his living cutting nails). The few cousins who lived in the house were all boys and furthermore, went off for the day to school or college, leaving me waiting for lunch or death, which ever one came first. I would like to remind the younger reader that I grew up in the 80’s and in the 80’s there were no malls to go to in Ludhiana or anywhere else for that matter. Back then, the only entertainment in town was ‘Sutlej Club’, an esteemed establishment favoured by the Ludhiana gentry. If you were so lucky you may get taken there in the evenings, eat chicken, play tombola, reflect on the state of the universe (not really), talk to some really interesting people (not really) and then return to the ancestral home to eagerly await the dawning of the next action packed day – not really!!!
Given the above scenario, my best friends during my childhood vacations were books. After much pleading, my grandmother would take me to a bookshop in ‘Padhor House’ and buy me lots of books which she reminded me cost a fortune. They did, but I figured one could not put a price on sanity. Having stocked up, I would then proceed to read day in and day out.
Having said that, there was in fact one more mode of entertainment available in the Ludhiana of my youth. The cinema; the old-fashioned single screen cinema that ran the same movie five times a day, for at least a week at a time. My maternal family owned and operated a cinema and as such you could go there, sit in the family ‘box’, eat popcorn, drink thumbs up and watch the same movie a hundred times. Now as a child I can’t really say that I was fascinated with Hindi movies, but inadvertently Hindi movies were a big part of my childhood vacations. I say this honestly, even as a ten-year old child I distinctly remember thinking why are so many of these movies so boring?
The point is that even as a young girl the run of the mill story, of the run of the mill Hindi movie, insulted my intelligence. This wasn’t because I was so intelligent; it was because the storylines were extremely poor and devoid of any real entertainment value. The Hindi movies I saw all summer long were never able to capture my imagination as the books I read did. My books allowed for a magical suspension of disbelief, which in turn catapulted me into different worlds every day. Hindi movies of the 80’s (which I think may have been the darkest decade of Hindi cinema) could not even create a remote feeling of being entertained in a ten-year old. Instead, they trapped you in a limbo like state where the captives’ only other choice was utter boredom which may or may not be as painful as the current viewing.
I now realize that the foundations of my desire to be a Hindi movie script writer were laid during my childhood. Alongside my books, I would sit in the verandah and make up stories for Hindi movies. My young mind would imagine various scenarios and settings, plots and casts, and many a day would pass by with me writing scripts in my head.
Childhood meandered into adulthood but two thoughts that embedded themselves into my psyche at a young age have remained unchanged. The first one is that I would like to write scripts for Hindi movies. My subsequent return to India in 2010 allowed me to complete and register my first Hindi movie script but what I do with it now is the million dollar question!
The second childhood trauma that has never left me is the fear of boredom. I am absolutely petrified of being bored. The many a hot afternoon spent sitting in the verandah in Ludhiana contemplating whose life was more boring, mine or Johnny’s, has scarred me for life. I can physically not board a plane without ample reading material in my bag! No amount of assurances by my husband that I can watch movies or that he will stay up and talk to me (like that’s ever going to happen) will get me to step foot on an aircraft without sufficient books and magazines.
When my grandmother passed away, it was decided that the aforementioned ancestral family home in Ludhiana would be sold. Even I was taken aback at how saddened I was by this news. My children will never experience ‘sitting in the verandah with nothing to do’, which was an instrumental part of my childhood. That verandah, boring as it seemed in those days, gave me the gift of books and most importantly, the gift of imagination.
I love it when you end up purchasing clothes that seem to last season after season. I am a huge fan of argyle patterned sweaters and they are a staple you can come back to every winter, as I do to this pink jumper. This black woollen A-lined shaped skirt has stood the test of time and works perfectly with black leggings on those days when you just want to wear something other than trousers. I have paired this old outfit with velvet ankle boots that are a fun take on a black shoe and the small heel makes them perfect for wearing all day long. Have a great weekend and thank you so much for reading.
(Clothes and accessories: Jumper – Fred Perry, Skirt – Marks and Spencer, Velvet boots – London Rebel)