Valentine’s Week Gift: A gift I'd give myself #ChatterPrompts

Valentine's Day gift

In my early years of schooling, I lived with my grandparents. My father was posted in a quaint little hilly village famous for mining, which had no schools in the vicinity. His was a transferable job, and in those days he used to get calls for a transfer every few months, which made it difficult to have me in tow. It was during these years, that I grew addicted to stories.

Grandma would spin a new story for every occasion- while getting me ready for school, making me eat balls of rice and veggies, and making me sleep. And Grandpa would fill in during the rest of the times, after coming from the office. He would open his ‘gapa pudia’ (a pocketful of stories) while Grandma was busy kneading the dough, cooking or doing other household chores. I slowly and steadily grew familiar with Panchatantra, Jataka Tales, and the folktales of Odisha.

After about three years I shifted in with my parents, as my father was transferred to a town with a good convent school in it. My parents, on the contrary, have almost zero storytelling skills. They would strive hard to satisfy my thirst for a daily dose of stories but in vain. My father would get frustrated trying to churn tales out of nothing. The imagination and patience needed for storytelling was not his cup of tea. So, they introduced me to the monthly children’s magazines.

‘Chandamama’, ‘Gokulam’, and ‘Champak’ in English and Odia monthlies like ‘Minabazaar’, ‘Nandankanan’, and ‘Sanskar’ became my regular companions. I would wait eagerly for the next month to arrive so that I could go to the market and have my choice of magazine.

Through my growing up years, I was a very introverted and socially reluctant child. I had no friends in the neighbourhood. I didn’t like cycling alone. Terrace gardens didn’t please me enough. So I turned to fiction for company. And I started harbouring a liking for solitude quite early.

When a classmate quarreled, or a friend at school became upset with me for no fault of mine; when I didn’t do well in the exam and my father scolded me for it; when I couldn’t visit my cousins in summer as travelling in summer was uncomfortable; when I was sad because mother compared my performance with the class topper; when I didn’t do well in mental math, and when I was bored, these stories served me as a faithful companion. I treasured them. I nurtured my love for words and imaginary worlds- my constants through thick and thin.

My reading list only kept on growing. I remember it was in class 7th that I read my first novel ‘Molly Moon and Her Incredible Book Of Hypnotism’. I can’t explain the amazing feeling I had after reading it. I read three novels the very next month. I would borrow from the library for summer and winter vacations, borrow anthologies from a senior living next door, exchange books with friends, and visit the market once in a while to see the new arrivals.

Visits to book fairs began when we shifted to the capital city. I discovered the thing called internet had many websites that allowed downloading classics for free. I was overjoyed. I read many Young Adult novels during this time- the first year in college. I was introduced to book review programs through many blogging communities. I read and reviewed many genres. I loved it.

By now all my friends and relatives had officially got to know that I was a bookworm, so everyone gifted me books on my birthday. And I loved receiving them, adored the covers, the spines, the smell. Slowly my collection grew, and so did my love for words.

So, I give myself the gift of solitude. The permission to love words, to explore worlds, and grow with each book I read.

Written as a part of #ChatterPrompts


Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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