Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Big sisterly advice

A very senior author who is a neighbour, wanted to read books by Ruskin Bond. My mother told her he’s one of my favourite authors, and now one of his books from my collection is on the way to the neighbour’s house.

Books have always been a way to say ‘I love you,’ in our house. We’ve given each other books for various occasions and even for no reason, as long as I remember. One of my most prized birthday gifts was from my elder sister and her husband. It was Rs 1,000 that blew up on books. Today that sum does not have much value. But when I was a teenager then, quite some time back, it was a lot of money.

So I had found myself in a bookshop buying a treasure trove of words. I brought the books home and covered them with plastic, as is my habit, to protect them.
I also write my name and full address on the first page of the book.

It was on one such occasion, when I had bought new books, that tai (my sister) told me it wasn’t enough just to write my name and address on the book. She told me I should write my name somewhere on the inside pages too. “Why?” I asked her, wondering what quirky advice she was going to give me then. “It’s because someone who has borrowed your book and doesn’t want to return it, will tear off the first page with your name and address. But no one tears a page from between a book,” she said. Strange advice I thought, but believed it immediately and followed it.

While choosing a book to lend my neighbour, I saw I had written my name on one of the pages inside.

It’s certainly not a fool proof method to prevent a book from being stolen. A thief will take it if she or he intends to, despite the owner’s name or address on the first page or inside! But like many crazy things my sister told me and I listened to, I took this too, seriously.

After all these years, seeing my name in the middle of the book, brought a smile to my face. Evidence once again, of my mad kid-sisterly obedience.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Japanese box

My father gave me this box. He purchased it from Tokyo airport on a stopover while on an official trip almost 30 years back.

The Japanese box was a delightful gift for a school girl. I spent a lot of time with it. Opening and shutting it, putting things in it and taking them out. 

Then it became guardian to some things from my childhood. Tucked in it, away from adult eyes, were a toy teacup, rubber stamps from Canada with a plastic container of glitter, the woggle from my Girl Guide scarf, and for some strange reason, a plastic camera roll container. For years, I also kept a letter from my father in it.

My father had accompanied former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, as part of the press on a Tokyo-Vancouver-Boston-New York-Washington tour. The letter dated October 12, 1987, was written on board the Prime Minister’s special flight. Nana (my father) describes how luxurious the air plane was and the royal treatment they received on board the Maharaja. How they were frequently served salted almonds and cashews, how journalists were being spoilt with Black Label whisky and 555 cigarette packets. He wrote that he felt as if they were disconnected from our country, then poor, and caught up in a severe drought.

Seeing the box and its contents once again reminded me of the day Nana returned from the trip. When he gave me the box, it contained the cat and tortoise stamps and glitter. For a long time my penfriends received letters with the stamped images. 

Nana narrated anecdotes from the trip for hours. He had even brought newspapers from the US to show us. The big story then was the rescue of a girl called Jessica, who had fallen into a well. This was long before Prince’s similar story in India. Recently I read about Jessica McClure online. She is married and has kids of her own. She may never even imagine how someone in India was once taken up with her rescue and had read about it then.

In incidents like these is my interest in journalism and writing rooted. Seeing the box brought this and much more to mind