Enid Blyton made me lie. At least that’s what I used to think. That was the age when, forget about knowing what it is, I didn’t even know how to spell technology. Even books were not freely available as it is today. We had to wait eagerly for that one day a month, when books would be issued from the school library. Enid Blyton was the only choice available to kids our age.
Growing up with four younger siblings, I was pretty sure that some royal family somewhere had lost their child who appeared mysteriously at my parents’ doorstep. And the sweet souls that they were, adopted me and were bringing me up as their first born. Waiting for my ‘real’ parents to come in search, one particular book fell into my hands. The name is long forgotten, it must have been one of the ‘Adventurous Four’ series where this young prince gets lost, the kids rescue him, the king flies down in a plane of gold or something of that sort, and lo and behold, my alternate identity was born.
Few of my classmates were neighbours as well, so could not make too many stories about the house that we lived in. The magical grandparents stepped in very conveniently. They stayed in a huge castle in the mountains and flew down in a helicopter to meet us from time to time. I visited them during holidays and wore frilly frocks made of pearls and shoes of diamonds. The look of disbelief on several classmates’ faces was never a deterrent to the mountainous imagination of a seven year old. The tales continued unabated, until my sister joined the same school the next year. I still remember the boy and the gleeful look on his face as he came running, “your sister said you don’t have any helicopter, you were lying, you were lying.” My memory disconnects there conveniently, the dreams still continued though.
We changed school the year after that, and that was about the time when I graduated to Blyton’s school stories – the famed St.Claire’s and Malory Towers series. While Robert Fulgum learned all he really needed to know from his kindergarten, I would say all that I wanted to learn about life, I learned from Enid Blyton. For all the political incorrectness that is attributed to her now, she sure has made a lasting imprint on me and I’m sure on a few generations of kids like me as well. Her books taught us how honesty pays, how sneaking on your friends is not cool at all and how being rude or not showing respect to your elders is just not acceptable. She also told me that it is perfectly fine to break some rules now and then, but owning up when you are caught is something that comes along with it. The strongest message that she has left in my mind is from ‘The Naughtiest Girl’ series, that it takes a really strong soul to admit that you have made a mistake and change accordingly.
St.Igantius of Loyola who founded the Jesuit order is supposed to have said, “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man.” I have often marveled at this statement and the extent of truth behind this statement. More often than not, your childhood shapes you to a large extent. Your thoughts and how you react to situations might change as you grow, the values that you learn in your childhood remains ingrained. These need not necessarily come down from the parents alone, it could be someone in the family, a teacher or the books that you read. I am reminded of a real life story that I read recently, ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeanette Walls. Born to brilliant yet irresponsible beyond imagination kind of parents, three out of the four Walls kids grow up to be responsible and balanced individuals. They grew up among scores of books on all subjects that their parents used to devour and the impact of those books is visible throughout their lives.
Books, stories and authors are subjects that I can go on for hours and hours together. The impact that the written word can have on you is tremendous, especially when you are of an impressionable age. Years later, I look back and realize that what my favorite author did was to help me dream, embellish it with colorful details and encourage me to have dreams of my own, some wild, and a few realistic ones too. I have read many a book, of genres numerous, but nothing has left as lasting an impression as those longed for ones that our library miss used to dole out like a benevolent Christmas Father.
So, as a new year unfolds, here is my wish for my little ones and kids everywhere – may the stories that you read spawn dreams that fly with you through life, may you break some rules and some hearts too, may you have some adventures and a few misadventures as well, may a sense of wonder pervade your whole being and most of all, may your book find you!
Bindu Manoj dabbles in numbers for a living, dreaming of words all the while. A mother of two, wife to one, sister to four and friend to many, she hoards books by the score. An arm chair traveler who does some real life off roading now and then, she prefers the moves and shakes of jeeps and trucks to the cushy comfort of normal vehicles. Her wandering soul muses at http://ruminateatleisure.wordpress.com/ and she reminiscence her reads at http://wanderlustathome.wordpress.com/