Prologue: There are some books, which refuse to fade from our memories, no matter how hard we may try. Most of such books are classics and it will not be surprising if they have been passed down thorough several generations. As the very first post of my guestblogs, I present Adi, who is a talented young gun having her blog called The Happy Lifeaholic.
Never Letting Go
Once upon a time Adi used to be an avid reader. I was the kid who read through math and physics classes. I walked into walls because I was so intent on whatever book had caught by imagination on that day. I wrote a book report on The Merchant of Venice (an abridged version) in Grade 3 while my classmates were still on fairy tales. I also managed to ruin my eyes at the tender age of 9, all because I would stay up past “lights out”, reading by the diffused beams of a streetlight filtering in through the curtains of my room. I loved books. Even the word “loved” sounds like an understatement!
But alongside all the abridged classics that I wolfed down as a kid, were books by an author who I grew to love over the years. Dame Enid Blyton wrote books like no other. She wrote stories of mysteries, and of school kids and of escapades and treasure hunts. She was an English writer (as if Dame didn’t give that away) and her books have been bestsellers since the 1930s. According to my trusty friend, Wikipedia, she’s since sold over 600 million copies of her books, and has had them translated into over 90 languages! Of those 600 million books, I probably own about 50.
Part of my humble collection:
These are only some of the books that I chose to bring back to Oman with me.
My relationship with Dame Blyton started long before I started reading any of her books – it started with a series of her books that was made into a television show that eventually got dubbed into a very obnoxious Hindi version that would make its round on Saturday morning television channels in India. That’s right, folks! I’m referring to the wooden wonder boy from Toyland – Noddy!
For years I didn’t realize that the series was but another one of Enid Blyton’s works, and trust me, I watched that show for yeeeeaaaars. At some point mom bought me all the books as well, so that’s 24 Enid Blyton books right there.
Enid Blyton is today, most remembered for series such as Famous Five and Secret Seven – both juvenile detective series, featuring (as the names suggest) five and seven kids, respectively, solving crimes and getting into all sorts of shenanigans. Those books were, and still are, widely read across India – and I remember those being some of the most borrowed books in our school and local libraries among kids from my age group, right alongside all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. The books really were a hoot – all the adventure kids could ever dream of, and E.B’s writing was always very simple to understand and yet, she had a way with words. She never really used flowery language, but she described everything perfectly. In fact, I blame her for my longtime obsession with wanting to become a detective. Once I was a little older, TV shows like NCIS etc did nothing to lessen that obsession.
My favorite E.B books, however, were her comparatively less famous ones – The Naughtiest Girl series, St. Claire’s and Mallory Towers series. All three are boarding school series, and now that I think about it, perhaps that is why they weren’t as popular. I remember that when my friends and I were young, sending a kid off to boarding school was the ultimate punishment – India’s take on the boogyman scare, if you will. I think it still is.
[2 books from the Mallory Towers Series]
Enid Blyton, however, corrupted my vision of boarding schools completely. Thanks to her, I grew up thinking of boarding schools as places where you made friends for life, woke up at midnight to throw secret dinner parties where you wolfed down ginger ale with the other gals in your dorm, and where you pranked your professors and went skinny-dipping in the lake at 2am. Hell, she made boarding school sound so exciting that I was probably the only kind I knew who actually used to beg her family to send her to boarding school! I literally used to dream of going to boarding school at a time when over-dramatic India movies and TV serials would show families breaking up over the decision of sending a child to boarding school. Oh the shame! And there I was, begging to go.
[A few books from the St. Claire’s series]
I remember almost joining a boarding school in 8th grade, when we’d just moved back from Oman – I was set on the place till they asked some personal questions in the interview that I didn’t think they needed to know, and eventually that made me cut the school out of my future plans. It was a blow, though, to know that I had been so close to living that childhood dream, attending an elite and expensive boarding school nestled in the Sahyadri Hills of Pune, hobnobbing with A and B list Bollywood kids.
[courtesy: Sahyadri School website]
Ah to think that I could have gone trekking, swimming and skinny dipping with views like this:
[courtesy: Sahyadri School website]
But that’s alright. I went right back to E.B’s books, and read and re-read them till I knew all the stories backwards. The girls in all those books were the sisters I never had while growing up. They were my imaginary friends and confidants rolled in one, and the time I invested in those books were both satisfying and exciting.
Of the 3 series, the ones I’ve re-read the most are from the Naughtiest Girl series – a title that I had proudly earned myself early in my school life. It was exciting to read the adventures of my literary partner-in-crime, and many a time, I borrowed a page out of her escapades to implement in my life. I literally used to get invited to birthday parties so that parents could “see who the naughtiest girl in school was.”
[My much loved Naughtiest Girl series]
Elizabeth was the sister I never had, and a lot of my childhood was spent delighting in her mis-adventures, and holding imaginary conversations with her. And yet, when I try and write about her per se, the words that spring to mind aren’t descriptive enough! But perhaps some things are better left to the imagination…
Did you have a favourite character or book when you were young?