Category Archives: nostalgia

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?

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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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All for the Perfect Match #BookBytes 15

Hola folks and welcome to another edition of #BookBytes. I’ve been re-reading Gone With the Wind and what a nostalgic trip it is proving to be! I’ll probably need a whole series of posts to explain what I’m feeling as I go over the familiar words of Margaret Mitchell.

That’s where I picked my quote for this fortnight.

It gives an idea of what women endured during those times only to snare a man. They all did it, some gladly, others grudgingly.

In the passage here Scarlett is being forced to eat before she heads out for a barbecue so she wouldn’t have an appetite and could pick at her food delicately rather than exhibiting a healthy appetite, which was considered unladylike. It’s so bizarre, it’s comical.

“I wish to Heaven I was married,” she said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing. “I’m tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I’m tired of saying, ‘How wonderful you are!’ to fool men who haven’t got one-half the sense I’ve got, and I’m tired of pretending I don’t know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they’re doing it… I can’t eat another bite.” 

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

My heart goes out to this 16-year-old Scarlett , bursting with verve and vigour, who has to constantly restrain herself to appear delicate and docile in order to be desirable. It’s another matter altogether that a few pages later she’s glad she’s not married and can preen with her bunch of beaux rather than being relegated to the sidelines. But then teenagers are allowed to be fickle.

Mercifully we’ve come a long way since this, and women are getting comfortable in their own skin. They are looking for their real selves and taking pride in them for where’s the point of losing yourself in order to find a husband?

More importantly, it is men who need to learn to be comfortable around smart women, to understand, love and respect them. And they’re getting there, albeit slowly.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for September 17th.

Memories #BookBytes 11

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.” 

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

That’s the quote I’ve picked today. Isn’t it a beautiful thought?

The big moments of our lives remain etched in our memory for a long long time – winning a race at school, that first job, your wedding day, holding your baby for the very first time – those are the big ones, the ones we’re not likely to forget.

What I’d like to bottle, however, are the small, innocuous moments when life seems perfect for that one day or one hour, even though there’s nothing special about it.

I would pick out moments from my childhood – when we went on one of our precious few vacations to a hill-station and climbed a mountain peak then sang our way down with dried leaves crunching beneath our feet. I’d bottle up memories of freezing winter days when we’d come back from school and mom would hand us warm freshly ironed clothes to change into or a cold glass of lemonade on a hot May afternoon.

I’d bottle up this weekend when the kids and I snuggled together and watched Hunger Games while it rained outside, or when we sat out in the balcony studying together or even now as I sit writing this post on a cool cloudy day with sparrows chirping at my window.

A million happy moments disappear undocumented into the labyrinths of our memory, those are the ones I’d like to keep bottled up.

What are the memories that you’d like to bottle up?

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for July 16th.

Mom’s life #Write Bravely

pictures

The Municipality officers had been at work all day pumping the water out of her basement and it was only now that she could go down there. It was a mess, a sad sorry mess. She’d take days to clean this out. She sat down on a stool and pulled the cardboard carton towards her. It came away in a soggy mess. Letters, photographs, slam books  tumbled out.

She picked up a photograph: It was hers, as a teen with her sister, she on her tiptoes because somehow the sister, though, younger had managed to shoot up an inch more than her. Another one at the school Sports Day captured by her dad – she was about 8, a butterfly with blue and pink butter-paper wings. She reached out for another one – she and her best friend at the farewell social at school, barely 15, in their mom’s saris, dressed awkwardly but posing like pros, ‘The world is our runway’, she had captioned it. Those were the days…, she smiled.

Her reverie was broken by a cry of ‘Look what I found!’.

She glanced up reluctantly, unwilling to let go of the memories just yet, to see her six-year-old holding up something dripping wet covered with mud and bits of cardboard. One armed Barbies, half-legged astronauts, cotton oozing teddy bears and assorted crayons and colour pencils lay spilt around.

Her son was holding up something, ‘My favourite dart gun!’ he said wiping it lovingly on his shirt.

Oh Lord no – not that one thought she, putting down her photographs and rushing over to him. That gun had been the cause of a million fights, till one day she had hidden it away among the discarded toys and forgotten about it. And now here it was… again.

Predictably enough his twin jumped at it, ’It’s mine,’
‘No it’s mine, I found it.’
‘But Aunty got it for me.’
‘Yes but then you gave it to me.’
‘So I take it back now.’
‘You cannot take something back once you give it away.’
‘Yes I can,’

She glanced at her photographs then sighed and geared up once again for some serious refreeing. No time for mush in a mom’s life!

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Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the last day of the Challenge – Day 7. The prompt for the day was:
A dark and heavy storm suddenly takes over your neighbourhood, dropping 6 feet of water so quickly that the storm drains can’t handle it. The water flooded your street and your basement, ruining many of your things. As you rummage through your stuff, you are filled with memories. Think about your…


Write Tribe

Dear ______ ,

letter

All day today I have struggled to write this letter. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, neither is it about being able to find the words to say what I have to. The trouble this time round is rather strange – I don’t know who I should be writing this letter to. Who is it that made me want to write? Who is it that continues to inspire me?

Should it be my grade I English teacher who told my dad I needed to read storybooks because my English wasn’t up to the mark or my class VII English teacher who taught me to appreciate Shakespeare making me mug up speeches from Merchant of Venice till I could recite them verbatim (I can still reel off My Mind is Tossing on the ocean.. and The quality of mercy is not strained..)?

Should it be Enid Blyton who made me fall in love with talking toys, magical trees and mysterious islands or should it JK Rowling who reminded me that magic wasn’t only for children?

Should it be Georgette Heyer whose style I copied, without even being aware of it, in the first story I ever wrote (and tore up right away) or should it be PG Wodehouse who still appears unwittingly in some of my writing?

Should it be the editor of the daily who picked me for my very first job even though I had no experience or should it be the one who accepted my first story?

Should it be my twin muses who inspired me to begin a blog and then later, pestered me to come with a new story every night for years on end and then listened to them so spellbound that I began to believe a little bit in myself? Or should it be friends who laughed at all the right places when they read my writing?

Should it be my mom, dad and sister who read what I write, come up with ideas when I’m stuck, even vet some of my posts, or should it be my fantastic blogging family that keeps me going day after day with kind words of encouragement?

I shall never know and for that reason this letter shall never be written.

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Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 6 prompt:

Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but have been inspired…


Write Tribe

Linking up with Shantala’s #ChattyBlogs.

 

Books and Memories

reading childhood

Books and reading formed a huge part of my childhood and for that I shall always be grateful. I had no clue then, that my stolen moments with this favourite hobby would one day offer me a second chance at a career.

To our extreme good fortune our father was friends with the owner of Universal , the biggest bookshop of the city back then. So we would get brand new books on loan, to be read and returned. I lost myself in those large glossy pages or the super glamorous pop-up books. I had one of Goldilocks that I haven’t been able to get over even now. Reading them once always left me wanting more. I didn’t want to let them go. I wanted to keep them with me forever.

Perhaps that’s where the itch to buy and own books was born.

Between our school and home lay the poshest market of the city with our dream bookstore. Hobby Corner. Nope, this wasn’t the one that belonged to our father’s friend but another one that sold books and then bought them back, at a small discount.

So some days (and I hope the children never ever read this bit) we’d sneak off the school bus mid-way, my sister and I, and we’d go to this book shop and indulge ourselves. Those days we didn’t have helpers in the bus to keep an eye on us so it must have been easier. Even so, this was a rare treat because we hardly ever had any money – even the two or three rupees that we would have had to pay up. Besides, there was also the issue of getting back home without the bus (for which we had a pass) and that also meant money for private transport. We managed it on some very lucky days and our parents never knew.

Long summer holidays were painful because with no access to the school library we were left bookless. Lending libraries were a dream in our city back then. Once we heard of one close by and I jumped and joined it only to find it was one of those that only stocked books on subjects like ‘meditation’ and ‘finding the true meaning of life’. I have nothing against all of that, but it most definitely wasn’t what my young teen self was looking for dreaming as it was of Heathcliff and Rhet Butler and the like.

I never did develop a taste for non-fiction.

In hindsight, I remain grateful for each of those childhood memories. Books and reading became that much more precious. Each time the Amazon delivery person knocks at my door even today, I get a happy thrill. While I constantly bemoan the lack of space in the house, I never want to part with my books, nor put them away in cartons, as the Husband once suggested. *Shudder*.

What are your earliest reading memories?

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Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays.

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And also with  with Tina’s Mommynificent for the Booknificent Link-Up
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Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

library

‘No bookmark, no book,’ she would say in an impervious tone and that would wreck my entire week. That was Ms B our library teacher in school.

She’d stand there, one eyebrow raised in a silent dare – challenging me to challenge her. Torn between my fear of her and my love for reading – it was fear that always won. And I would have to make do with re-reading an old book or borrowing from friends.

Books were my sole entertainment back then. We were allowed three books each week – each of them a treasured treat. We had a wonderful library – not the few cupboards at the back of the class that double up as libraries these days. Rows of tables were flanked by glass cupboards full of rows upon rows of the most enticing books. Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys all sat there along with Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and scores of other authors. Within the pages of those books lay the most exciting times my young self had ever seen.

However between the most exciting times of my life and me stood Ms B, a bit like Cerberus. She had an acerbic tongue and a short temper and she wouldn’t let anyone pass unless they showed her a book-cover and a book-mark. And woe betide anyone who forgot to get their books on the assigned day! They were condemned to a book-less week. No allowances, no concessions.

Not just that, she took it upon herself to discipline us on almost anything that caught her eye. ‘Put your plaits back, who do you think you are, Rekha?’, ‘Don’t slouch’, ‘Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk’ or ‘Why must you always wear black?’ (we didn’t have a uniform in class 11 and 12). Those days teachers wielded pure dictatorship. Yet we emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.

Despite such ‘ill-treatment’, on Teacher’s Day today, the first one who comes to mind is Ms B. While she didn’t teach me any subject nor was she directly responsible for kindling a love for reading she did teach me some very valuable lessons.

She taught me to respect and love books. That’s a habit that has stayed obstinately on. It drives me crazy when I see anyone manhandling books, folding pages, scribbling in the margins (use a pencil for goodness sake if you just have to), turning down corners.. aaargh!

She taught me to widen my reading horizon. But for that raised eyebrow I would be stuck onto fairy tales forever. After she gave me one of those ‘looks’ I was forced to look at other genres and developed an eclectic taste. (I have to confess though, that I still pick up a fairy tale somedays).

She taught me essential library etiquette. I learnt to keep quiet – not a mean feat for a 12 year old. I learnt to shut out the world and lose myself in a book as also to not disturb a person engrossed in one.

She taught me discipline and punctuality – a useful lesson even outside the library.

So tell me who is that one teacher that comes to mind when you think of school?