Category Archives: Book love

The teacher

slice of life fiction

The Teacher

Sangita’s eyes drooped. Who ever said sleep deserts the old, she thought to herself, as she struggled to keep her eyes open. There was a time she could stay awake well past midnight, waiting for her husband to get home from his shift at the steel foundry. But now, come 10 o clock and she was asleep already.

Nani ma you need to pay ATTENTION!” Pia’s plaintive cry snapped her eyes open. This little granddaughter of hers – what a delight she was and how determined, just like her mom… and like me too. She smiled to herself. Oh the wars she had fought with Pia’s mom! There was the great tattoo fight and the late night curfew battles…..

Nani ma you are dreaming again.” Ah Pia..

“Come on. Hold the pencil like this and copy that first letter once more. Remember I told you it stands for the sss sound in your name? And that dot on top – that’s for the nnn.”

“Just three letters Nani ma and then you can sign your name,” enthused Pia, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Then you can learn to read. You can read up new stories to tell me.”

Sangita looked indulgently at the eager face staring up at her. She adjusted her glasses. She had been trying but those squiggly letters refused to make sense.
“I am too old for this, darling,’ she said with a sigh.
“But you say one is never too old to learn new things. You don’t know what you’re missing. Come on, take the pencil and try again, please,” begged her granddaughter.

She couldn’t say no to the fervent entreaty in the those honey brown eyes. Struggling to put herself in Pia’s tiny shoes, to feel at least some of her enthusiasm, Sangita wrapped her bent old fingers awkwardly around the pencil and began to write.

It’s Day 5 of the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Tiny Shoes’.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

The Reader

Beat About The Book - fictionThe reader

Craft class was in progress. Forty girls sat on either side of a long table bent diligently over their embroidery frames. At the head of the table sat Ms Mathew, The Dragon. That’s what the students called her, for she breathed fire at the littlest opportunity.

Did I say 40? Well, I meant 39, for the 40th girl was not quite there. Sara sat right at the end of the table, with her head bent like the others, except she had no embroidery frame. On her lap rested an Enid Blyton and she was far far away in a land where a gorgeous tale was beginning to unfold.

DEAR BESSIE, FANNY, JO AND DICK,
We know that you don’t want any more adventures just yet, but you might like to know that there is a most exciting land at the top of the Faraway Tree just now.  It is the Land of Do-As-You-Please, even nicer than the Land of Take-What-You-Want. We are going there tonight.  If you want to come, come just before midnight and you can go with us.  We will wait for you till then.
Love from SILKY AND MOON-FACE

Midnight! This sounded dangerous… and exciting.

Oh go go go! urged Sara as she read on, her eyes shining brighter than those of the kids in the story. ‘The Land of Do-As-You-Please!! Wow! I’d eat honey pops and read all day‘, thought she turning over the page.

Of course the children decided to go – down the garden, through the lane, into the Enchanted Wood. Their torches shone in the moonless night. The forest was silent. Ominously so. Wisha wisha wisha whispered the mysterious trees.

An owl squealed and something ran across their feet.

The kids jumped and so did Sara, upsetting her neighbour, who pricked her finger, dropped her needlework and squealed louder that any owl ever could.

Tiny drops of blood were beginning to blot her young neighbour’s lemon yellow runner and before Sara could apologise she bawled, “OUCH Miss.. Sara pushed me and I hurt my hand, it’s bleeeeeding.”

O get on with it drama queen!‘ thought Sara, the apology dying on her lips, ‘It’s just a tiny prick for goodness sake!

She did try to look contrite but The Dragon was already bearing down upon them. Sara glanced at the book in her hand. Too late she realised she had no embroidery frame. Her heart sank right into her shoes. She would be caught red-handed.

**************

I need to put in a few apologies: One to Enid Blyton for taking liberties with her writing. And two to Bernhard Schlink, for borrowing the title of his book although there is nothing similar between the two tales except perhaps, a love for the written word.

It’s Day 4 of the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Caught Red Handed’.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

This is how I was kindled

 

Kindle

I was brought up as an old-school reader – the kind who uses bookmarks and book covers, the kind that goes to a bookshop, browses at leisure, makes his pick, then sits and samples it before finally putting it in his shopping basket and heading for the checkout counter. I love the good solid feel of books in my hand;  and while I may still be debating whether I like scent of an old book better or that of crackling fresh new pages straight off the press, one thing I’m sure of – I love books – the physical kind.

Then I was gifted a kindle – yeah that destroyer of all things ‘reading’ the way I knew it. It was a gift of love so I accepted it with an open mind and putting aside my prejudices I sternly told myself to give it a fair try.

I browsed through the tiny device. I marvelled a bit at how light it felt. I fiddled around with the brightness and the font size till I got it exactly the way I wanted. I found I could connect to Goodreads and Amazon, a miracle it seemed. I could look up meanings of words if the WiFi was switched on. What’s better (or worse?), the kindle editions were inexpensive, sometimes crazily so. And that’s how slowly, ever so slowly, I was sucked into the web of technology.

I’d read a book review, like it and within minutes I would be clicking onto Amazon, paying for it online and revelling in the henceforth unbelievable luxury of curling up with my read right away. Ah the thrill of impulse buying!

Yet, there are days when I miss my old friends – books as they used to be – the impatient rustle of pages as I whizzed through a Da Vinci Code or the languid turning of a Marquez as I marvelled at the beauty of its prose. And the smell..how I miss that musty aroma. Maybe they’ll learn to bottle it up one day and then I could spray it on my kindle and find solace.

The coming generations will probably not know of it at all and stop missing it completely. That thought makes me a little sad. But then The old order changeth yielding place to new. It will happen sooner rather than later.

************

Are you a Kindle user? If not, do you find it tempting – this idea of carrying a hundred books in one tiny device? Or are you a fan of books the old-fashioned way?

That distance between reading and talking

On a reading group on Facebook someone shared this quote here:

Books - Copy

If you’re a reader you’ll know it – that feeling of rediscovering a word when you hear it spoken out loud.

The thing with reading is that it remains largely a solitary endeavour. There aren’t enough book clubs or reading societies where you get to speak out about your favourite books or characters. And so you read the words and pronounce them a certain way in your head. You do it over and over again till you use them with the familiarity of old friendship. And then one day you hear them spoken out in a whole different manner and it comes as a bit of a shock – like a new person stepping out of a friend’s body. Some are hiding way so innocuously you don’t even notice them till they slip out of your mouth one day.

Sometimes it comes from beginning to read early – when you’re not conscious of each word you read. I never could get words like ‘Mademoiselle’, the French teacher in Enid Blyton’s St Clares and lacrosse, the game the girls played, quite right.

And sometimes it is pure laziness. I look at a word and know what it is and that’s enough. I’m too intrigued by the story to really bother pronouncing it even in my head. I mean, it doesn’t really matter, does it? For instance in the Harry Potter series I never pronounced McGonagall till I watched the film. Oh and did you know that the ‘t’ in Voldemort is silent? Well Rowling said so herself .  Films on books are quite a blessing. They do help us get it right.

There are scores of other tricky words – words from other languages (chalet) or names of places (Brighton, Houston, Nice). And there are more – Colonel and Lieutenant, Corps, genre, epitome and chutzpah and of course marijuana and mojito. Lord don’t even get me started on the food names – Tortillas, Jalapeños … that whole bunch.

The thing is – it doesn’t really matter till you open your mouth. In any case I prefer a well-read person to a well-spoken one. A combination would of course be just perfect.

So which are the words you’ve picked up from books and pronounced all wrong?

To love a bookworm

Beat About The Book - fiction

Shall we go watch a movie today?’ I ask my best buddy, my better half, my wife. “Please not today,” she says making puppy eyes at me, “I need to finish this book …”

Aaaargh.. not again!

“…. It’s about this bunch of people who make up a literary society called the Potato Peel Pie society.. isn’t that the quaintest name ever? It was during WWII….’ On she goes talking animatedly, words tumbling out faster than I can comprehend.

We don’t stand a chance – the movie and I. The old enemy had struck again. Her books!

As I pick up the TV remote listlessly past injustices come flashing back. I remember the time we went on a holiday high up in the mountains. I was dreaming of scouting the hills, of long walks and sweet conversations, of taking her soft hand in mine and strolling along the emerald slopes. “How lovely is the mountain breeze”, she had said rolling out her mat on the grass. Even as she pulled me down beside her she was wandering off into the grounds of Pemberly.

Then there was the time I wanted to explore Delhi’s Red Fort but she had much rather be at Hogwarts. “Do you know they have moving staircases and ghosts floating around and portraits that actually talk? Can anything match that?” Nope Shah Jahan certainly hadn’t thought of it. And so I picked at peanuts while she told me about pumpkin pie.

Then one day I got tickets to this amazing stand up comic show. “Have you heard of Blandings? she had said. That’s where we should be. The things that happen…. wheels within wheels”, she had said laughter bubbling up like a clear spring on a summer day.

I was beginning to realise the power of the enemy. I had to do something drastic, something awesome to draw her away.

Ah I’ll take her to Goa, thought I. Some romance – that’s what we need, I said to myself, drifting away into a dream of lazy days in the sun, candlelight dinners on the beach and castles in the sand. That’s what my dreams turned out to be – castles in the sand – for all she wanted to do was put out her darned towel again, lean against me and lose herself in the dusty farmsteads of Drogheda.

The last straw came on the day of my office party. She agreed to come along though she knew not a soul. I’d lost her in the crowd. Worried, I’d called her on her phone. “Where are you?” I had queried. “In the parking lot,” she answered sobbing. My head buzzed with a hundred panicked thoughts as I ran to her. The sight of her tear-stained face as she stood there book in hand, squeezed the breath out of me. “Why did he have to die?” she sobbed on my best party shirt. “Who? What? Who died?” “He shouldn’t have left Holly. Oh it’s the most beautiful story,” she was smiling through her tears. PS: I love you, said her book.

That was the day I knew I’d lost the battle. I had since then, contented myself with being her pillow while she read, wearing eye masks to bed and gifting her books and more books for I’d do anything to see that glorious smile break out on her face. And I loved to hear her talk about people and places, wars and romances, friendships and betrayals. I tried to strike a friendship with the enemy, the books but my defeat rankled still.

It was books!! Always her books… stealing her away from me.

And then…

….. the baby came along – hers and mine. ‘Now I’ll see!’ thought I rubbing my hands in glee. Aren’t new mums just the busiest? ‘There’ll be no time for books. It’ll be me, she, the baby and nobody else.’

One bright sunny morning, I entered the room with a bottle of milk and I found her with the baby in her lap, picture book in hand. She opened the book before my dismayed eyes….. and the baby kicked it away. A secret grin spread across my face, “Way to go little one,” I whispered. Unfazed, she reached out for the book, opened it again and again and yet again. She’s stubborn, this girl of mine but so’s the little one.

It’s in the genes, I think delightedly. My genes.

But what’s this! That bus on the book has caught his eye. ‘Da da da,’ he says tapping it with one chubby fist.

Drat, those genes! All hers!

I look on, helplessness changing to fascination as my gaze shifts from baby to mum. I watch her watching him, face shining as she points to the picture and softly hums ‘The wheels of the bus..’ .

I find my resentment melting away. Years and years of resentment washes fully and finally away, with that one sight. That’s the girl I fell in love with. Stubborn, passionate, delightful, enchanting, bookworm forever. I reach out for her and pull her in a hug – bottle, book, baby and all.