Chai and a book with a dash of nostalgia #WordsMatter

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It’s a wet wet day but I’m not complaining. I like this respite from the sun. Besides, when it rains, the balcony beckons, the tea tastes better and a book looks ever more inviting. Giving in to temptation, I drag out a bean bag, grab a cup of tea and pick up a book from my nightstand resolutely pushing away thoughts of unmade beds and messy rooms. Just this once, just one hour I promise myself as I settle down for a read.

‘What are you reading?’ did you ask? Here take a look.

Yeah, I recently started re-reading Gone with the Wind as part of a buddy-read.

I pick it up now running a hand over the plastic cover that has turned translucent with age. I imagine myself covering it lovingly, possessively (and numbering it too). It has been a long time since this book came to me, and I mean a really really long time.

As I open it to the first page I find a simple inscription from my aunt.

My aunt marked it is as a gift for my birthday even though it was some six months later.

Reading those well-loved lines brings a smile and a deluge of happy memories. Despite the rain around me it transports me to long hot summer days, of noisy coolers that blasted air along with occasional drops of water and the delicious smell of khus khus, and noisier cousins who played, fought, chatted all day.

Each vacation my aunt would come visiting along with my cousins. Before she left she would get us a gift. Each time she would ask, ‘Do you want a dress or a book?’. Each time, without fail, I’d say, ‘a book’.  And off we’d go to browse and buy.

Books were precious treasures back then. We read a lot yet owned a few unlike now when parents start building a library even before their child is born.

Gone with the Wind was the most expensive book I’d ever wanted. Our budget used to be somewhere around Rs 50 but this came at 60. I well remember standing in the bookstore staring at it, knowing it was beyond reach, too embarrassed to tell my aunt just how badly I wanted it, yet unable to tear myself away from it. And so I stood there, desperately wanting to wish away those ten rupees standing between me and my happiness.

I am not even sure my aunt noticed my dilemma. All she said was, ‘You want it? Okay.’ And just like that, in a heartbeat, the book was mine. I cannot even begin to describe what that meant to me. Not only did I get to read the book but I also got to own it! I went through it at breakneck speed, sitting up late into the nights. I strutted about school for days magnanimously lending it to everyone who asked for it.

As I leaf through the yellowed pages now, I notice a few are coming loose from the binding, some evil silverfish have dug in fine holes too. And yet, each page is more precious than the freshest, crispest, whitest pages I will find in any new edition. So no, I won’t be ordering a new one. I’ll sit down with tape and put the pages together, I’ll leave it out in the sun to get rid of the silverfish and I’ll read it multiple times. I’ll preserve it for as long as I can because, more than a book, it’s a cherished memory.

Do you have a book that evokes a special memory for you? A person who was instrumental in igniting a love for stories?

*****

I am participating in the #wordsmatter bloghop. I received this tag from teacher and writer Jyotsna Prabhakar who blogs at  Jonaatbest. I’m passing on the tag to the very artistic, very humorous Rajlakshmi at Destiny’s Child. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop for some interesting reads.

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39 thoughts on “Chai and a book with a dash of nostalgia #WordsMatter

  1. Lata Sunil

    My Gone with the Wind copy is also one of my oldest ones which I carried over to my marital home. I could feel the thoughts of looking at that book and wishing to make it mine. Wish I had a bua like her.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      My books are also divided between my home here and at home with my parents. The books I did bring are extra precious. And yes, I’m also ever so grateful for my Bua. Not only did she gift me some of my very first ‘grown up’ books but also I dipped a lot into the collection she left behind when she got married.

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  2. Rachna

    I am imagining that little girl looking wistfully at that book. God bless your bua. My relatives never bought me books or for that matter anything that I can remember. But in our school, they had an annual tradition, every subject topper as well as class topper got a book per subject. I took home upto a dozen curated books each year and they were my most precious possessions. I got them around March and waited till the summer vacation to get started. I thought that was such a wonderful initiative. Plus, dad had a huge stash of books and I would regularly read from there. We also bought loads of books as all of us kids loved to read and we would save money from our pocket money for the books. Those were the days. 🙂

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      That’s wonderful Rachna. Our school had the same practice except I hardly won anything back then. My sister however did get home Enid Blytons as prizes.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      She sure is special. It’s wonderful when parents encourage one in a fruitful hobby like reading. It makes a world of difference.

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  3. Shalzmojo

    Oh what a lovely memory to hold onto with this book. I loved reading about it Tulika and can imagine your desperation in wanting to own this book. I used to be like this too whenever I was taken to a bookstore by my parents. Comics, story books, Enid Blyton’s – all were on top of my list and I had a hard time choosing as the costs would be beyond affordability.

    You were quite generous in lending it to peeps too; though come to think about it, I borrowed/lend more books when in school than as an adult. I guess its to do with being able to get them back as you see each other everyday and the discussions you could have with peeps who have read the book too. Now that is a forgotten era for me. I hardly meet people in real time who read. All are my online buddies 🙂

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Choosing a few from the whole lot at the shop was indeed an exercise in self-control. However, even as kids were never pushed our boundaries no matter how much we wanted something. That’s just how we were.
      I miss having friends too, to talk and discuss books which is why I was looking for a book club. The one I joined couldn’t sustain itself. That’s such a pity. I too make do with online buddies like you.

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  4. Kala Ravi

    Totally empathize with all you’ve written. Back then I used to be perpetually posted at an old books center on weekends. Rarely did we get new books, not even the school ones. It was all about well-maintained hand me downs. I can imagine your thrill at owning a brand new book, especially one you’d been eyeing for long. I remember doing a non-stop readathin for this book in class IX. Sigh, good ol’days.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Yeah new books were such a rare treat. We also used to frequent used book stores – there were ones who would sell us the books and then buy them back at a few rupees less. That was such a bargain for all of us.

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  5. Shalzzz

    You know what! It breaks my heart seeing this post. I had the exact same copy of Gone with the Wind It was my Mom’s, gifted to her by Dad after they were engaged. A friend of mine borrowed the book from me when I was in college and never returned it. Ah, I just don’t know what to do about it even after all these years.
    Thanks for participating in the blog hop. Hope you had fun 🙂

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Oh that’s such a pity. I would never forgive someone who borrowed a book from me and didn’t give it back. Yours was an absolute keepsake. What happened to that friend of yours? You should have hounded her.

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        1. Obsessivemom Post author

          That’s such a not-nice thing to do. Even if she had misplaced it the least she could have done was spoken to you and apologised.

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  6. Soumya Prasad

    I hear you, Tulika! I have a book from 1984 that I bought from an old library. A book from much before I was born! It was an Enid Blyton book and the pages are all yellow and frail now and yet I’d never give it or throw it away.

    Growing up, we seldom had money for books. Thankfully we had some decent libraries around that helped us. Buying a book back then was such a treasure. Saving up, walking endlessly across book stores and sticking to a budget. Now, we have all the money to buy as many books as we can online, but the feeling just doesn’t match up to it. I still look for old libraries or stores that sell old books. It’s not about the money, it is about the feel of the book!

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      Absolutely right Soumya. Because we had fewer books we took better care of them. I even remember where each of my books came from. They were so precious. You were lucky to have libraries close by. We just had our school library but we would borrow and exchange frequently.

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  7. Rajlakshmi

    awww these are such fond memories. It makes me feel bad that except for school textbooks I don’t have a treasured book like this. Aunts are like that, they know our choices so well. 🙂

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      You have so many hobbies Rajlakshmi I’m sure you have a bunch of other treasures. Yeah, aunts know us well and also, they love to pamper us.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I’m glad the post brought back memories. Monsoons are made for lazy reading days.

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  8. Sulekha

    Aunts do love encouraging their nieces and nephews to the world of books. My sister-in-law bought a book for my tiny daughter for Christmas and my daughter hasn’t stopped reading books ever since. When my grandson was born last year, my niece gifted him a baby book with cushioned pages made of soft cloth. The tradition continues. Loved reading your beautiful story and impressed at your generosity of lending your precious book to friends. Your posts always make me feel good, thank you.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      That’s a wonderful tradition. I’m hoping I can take this forward too with my nephews and nieces.
      As for lending books, I have an ulterior motive. Once I lend a book I get to talk about it with my friends, right? That’s an added pleasure. Even now if I have a feeling I’ll like a book and would want to share it I make it a point to order a hard copy rather than the kindle version.

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  9. Tarang

    Such a lovely post! You create nice imagery. I have this book and although I am not a fan of classics, it’s one of my favourites. And it’s probably the longest book I’ve ever read. Then I bought Scarlett, the sequel. 🙂

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  10. Obsessivemom Post author

    Thank you Tarang. I was just reliving a memory – not much creativity involved there :-). I read Scarlett too but it just didn’t measure up.

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  11. Unishta

    Ah this book and the movie. I loved them both. As you said I read them in school and perhaps as a grandmother I might find it peurile. Especially the obsession with getting married. But frankly nothing has really changed has it? A woman is still defined by her position in society and a rich woman is always a rich woman…..

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      That’s true. The nitty gritties might have changed but the obsession with marriage still remains in a large part of our country. To be honest I’m quite enjoying the book, despite having a completely different perspective now.

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  12. Keerthi Vydyula

    I remember the first book I read as a girl, which was gifted to me by my cousin. The memory of sitting at my favourite spot by the window at my school library and reading the book during the extra curricular activity hour is still fresh in my thoughts.

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  13. Esha

    How amazing going through your treasured memories, Tulika! That book sure makes it so very special. I’m glad to know you too have a special place in your heart for this book, you know, because it was one of my favourites too while growing up. In fact, this very morning, while looking up some documents, I chanced upon an old diary of mine where I had written about how I felt after reading Gone With The Wind. I must have been in Grade 11 then and I still recall the old tattered copy that was doing the rounds in our hostel those days. I felt thrilled to bits when the book had reached me from one of our seniors and I only had like three days to finish it, so I actually bunked classes and read the book, can you believe it? 🙂 Back in the days, when we had no cellphones and social media, it was books that ruled our lives most of the time.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      That’s true Esha. A lot of people from our generation turned readers because we had such few distractions. I rushed through this one too. And I felt ever so grown up to be able to read it. It was one of the lengthiest books I’d read then.

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  14. Shilpa Garg

    Sitting with this priceless treasure of a book with tea, rains and fond memories for company… simply wow! Love that your bua bought books for you. We never got books as gifts back then. And now, I can’t think of giving any gift to anyone other than books.

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      I love it how things have changed. Books do make the best gifts. We truly were lucky. In fact my Bua was the one who started us off on a our book-collection. She gave me many many classics including Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Jane Eyre.. and I have quite a few of them still.

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  15. Anagha Yatin

    That was a sunny warm peek into your life. Count your blessings to have a Bua like that!
    My Bua was the Headmistress/ Principal of my school and Junior College and she was our English and Marathi teacher too. No wonder then we were made to make many a trip to school library as well as the Town Library!

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    1. Obsessivemom Post author

      OMG it’s not very nice to have a relative as a teacher. My had my dad as my professor for one of my subjects in the University and it was so hard to study with him. But if it takes you to the library, it couldn’t be all bad.

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  16. Sunita Saldhana

    My very own first book was the Blue Story Book by Enid Blyton. My mom gifted it to me on my 4th birthday. I remember sitting down to read it and didn’t move till I had finished all the stories but one. That story did not make any sense. So I asked mom about it and she asked me to read it aloud to her. It appeared I read the word cousin as cushion and that is why the story did not make sense to me. Once I corrected my mistake, however, I was back in the land of bliss!

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