Friday, June 8, 2012

Under the Tamarind tree...

"A good book is like a good friend, it will never let you down," said my mother, who was a voracious reader herself. Years later, I can vouch for this. 
Looking back, I recall how all of us at home read a lot. Our house used to be littered with books; about thirty five years ago there weren't many distractions such as the social networks, hanging around at Malls, cafes, or the twenty four hours mindless television. And watching movies at cinema halls was taboo in our house. My father wouldn't even hear of it. 
It was the books that came to nurture and cosset me in the lonely hours of my childhood.War and Peace was the first book that I picked up to read. Despite pouring over it for hours, I could not decipher it. I gave up realising that I was being too ambitious for an 11-year-old. 
When I started reading Dracula, the elders at home tried to charm as well as warn me out of reading it. But on a cold winter night, I snuggled under the quilt with the forbidden book using a torch to hungrily devour the words. So wrapped up was I, that I did not realise that someone had entered my room and lifted the quilt. It was my mother: "You will ruin your eyes." Her voice was hoarse with sleepiness. She had caught a beam of light under the door of my bedroom and had stepped inside to catch me 'red-handed' 
Mother quietly took the torch and the book away, leaving me sleepless with a yearning for the forbidden book! However, Dracula appeared less diabolic in broad daylight, when I was handed the book, with a chiding to be more selective in my reading!.
Well, the fact was that nothing could keep me away from the glorious world of black and white created by the authors.. During summer afternoons, when the entire house would be taking their afternoon siesta, I would find a hidden spot under the dense Tamarind tree or escape to the terrace where the harsh summer sun sparkled like crushed glass on the tiles and I would find a shady corner near the water tank. And then, oblivious to the blowing hot winds I would give  in to the unbridled joy of reading whatever I could get hold of. My selections were indiscriminate- often bizarre-depending more on the quick availability than careful choosing of books. 
However, on one such blissful afternoon when I was 'discovered' with a book which dealt with the murky world of the Bombay's film industry-supposedly an 'adult' novel-my days of hiding were put to an end. And from then on my erratic selections and disordered passion was regimented and channelled into 'cultivated' ones like the classics, biographies of great people. Read books that improve your General Knowledge, I was told!
Those days, the only thing that made me study day and night for my exams, was the promise of books, a sackful of them, selected and specially ordered for me. The brown unopened sack kept in a corner used to propel me to put all my energy in getting good grades, failing which I would have never got to open that bagful of dreams.
And, many decades later, this is one passion which is still going strong. 
Words are love.
Words understand. Words transport. Silence that speak.  
The gift of songs. Poetry. 
The scent of  pale yellow pages. Irresistible, always. 

Books are the silent counsellor and beacon of light in the storms of life.

Painting courtesy : Artist, Vidan

© Nazia Mallick

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